Category Archives: Sport

Next time I’m coming back as a footballer!

Michael OwenSo this morning Michael Owen has announced his intention to retire at the end of the season at the grand old age of 33.

Owen burst on to the scene as a teenager at Liverpool and made England’s 1998 World Cup squad aged just 18. He announced himself on the world stage with a memorable solo goal against Argentina in that tournament and scored a hat-trick as England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in September 2001.

He has scored 220 goals in his club career, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup (three times) and UEFA Cup. Owen was named European Footballer of the Year in 2001 – the first Englishman to achieve the accolade since my own particular favourite, Kevin Keegan, in 1979.

“Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career,” Owen has written in a statement on his website.

But it’s not quite pipe and slippers time yet for Michael.  He has indicated that he would like to become involved with Chester FC in some capacity when he retires, as it was his local team growing up and the team his father used to play for.   As a professional footballer he can take benefits from his pension at his protected pension age of 35 and continue to play for, or be employed in a non-playing capacity with, any Football League club as long as he, for example, do not own or control the club.

So spare a thought for us mere mortals who will be working until we’re old and decrepit in a job we most probably despise before being eligible to retire.  All you’ve had to do is run around the park with the lads for 90 minutes on a Saturday with the odd mid-week game and a few hours training each day for less than half the years we have to work.  Am I jealous?  You bet your sweet **** I am!!!

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Dry your eyes mate!

I do hope Sir Alex Ferguson has recovered this morning from Manchester United’s exit last night from the Champions League – too “distraught” to face the media apparently, the purple-nosed one declared himself to be “in no fit state to talk”.

They were beaten by Real Madrid in the second leg, having been reduced to 10 men after the controversial sending off of Nani in the 56th minute and there has been the usual outcry from United fans about the unfairness of the sending off as it changed the game entirely.  Up to that point they were undoubtedly the better side and it looked likely that they would definitely proceed to the next round.

In  any game of football, however, a player is asking for trouble by connecting with an opponent’s midriff.  Nani’s boot was definitely raised with painful consequences, accidental or not.  That said, there was still palpable shock when the red card was brandished.

Nani's high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa that earned him a red card.

Mourinho’s decision to bring on Luka Modric straight away was a masterstroke and it was then Ronaldo, until that point largely subdued, reminded Old Trafford why he is such a formidable destroyer of defences.  Both players scored within three minutes of one another and, however impudent it was for Mourinho to shake Ferguson’s hand and set off for the dugout with the final exchanges of stoppage time still to be played, the truth is the game had already been won.

At the final whistle, with one manager unable to bring himself to talk and another contemplating another pulsating Old Trafford victory for his collection, what we are left with is the whining of the United fans who feel they were robbed of the chance of further glory in this competition and a Turkish referee who will have probably needed a police escort leaving the stadium, before a swift flight back to Istanbul this morning.

But at the end of the day, it is just a football match – no-one died.  So I leave you with the chorus to this well-known song by The Streets, [adapted to suit the gender change!]:

Dry your eyes mate
I know it’s hard to take but [his] mind has been made up
There’s plenty more fish in the sea
Dry your eyes mate
I know you want to make [him] see how much this pain hurts
But you’ve got to walk away now.

Ferguson crying

Who are ya?

Mo FarahThere is a US television presenter this week who needs to go back to the drawing board and make sure she does her research before making a complete idiot of herself in front of millions of viewers.

Mo Farah, one of the most recognisable faces to have come out of the London2012 Olympics, had just won the New Orleans half marathon in a record time of 61 minutes.   Imagine his surprise to be asked by the anchor, LaTonya Norton, firstly “Haven’t you run before?” and then “This isn’t your first time?”   Surely this is on a par with asking whether the Pope is a Catholic?

Viewers were left cringing throughout the interview on local television station WDSU – she quite clearly had no idea who he was – something perhaps a quick Google search might have sorted out for her?   I thought that was what the numbers on their vests were for, to help news crews identify the individual runners.  This seems to work for most other sports.

It is unsurprising therefore that someone has taken the opportunity to update the list of anchors on WDSU’s Wikipedia page to read ‘LaTonya ‘Doesn’t know who Mo Farah is’ Norton’.

Mo Farah postboxSo Ms Norton, let me put you in the picture.  Farah secured  his place in history in London last summer, becoming the first British man to win Olympic gold in the 10,000m, and one of only five people to  also win gold in the 5,000m.   Britain’s  most successful distance runner of all time, he was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s  Honours List.

He has had two post boxes painted gold as a permanent tribute to his achievements, one  in Isleworth, where he grew up, and the other in neighbouring Teddington, in  south west London, where the athlete spent time training.   A nice touch with the one in Teddington is that it is right across the road from a Fara charity shop which has had its signwriting changed to Mo Fara as a further tribute to a local hero’s success!

Who are you, LaTonya Norton?????

Sorry … couldn’t resist!

PistoriusLike many people, I am very unsure about whether the truth will ever be known regarding the death of Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius’ part in it.  There are more than likely months of accusations and denials to come before we find out what the Court in Pretoria will decree and what Mr Pistroius’ likely penalty [if any] will be.

The system there is quite different from our own.   Jury trials were scrapped more than 40 years ago because all-white juries were seen as unlikely to give black defendants a fair trial, a single judge is considered less susceptible to public opinion or media comments, and so the South African media is more free to report details about the Oscar Pistorius case than the media in many other countries where such reporting would be seen as prejudicial.

Needless to say, however, I was amused at reports today that on day 2 of his bail hearing the prosecution argued that Pistorius may flee if he is granted bail.    As a double amputee, why not just confiscate his prosthetic legs … he won’t get far without them ….. but leave him with them and the Bladerunner will probably disappear in a cloud of dust!

Give us a smile … you’ve won!

This morning Andy Murray is $1.9m better off after [finally] winning a Grand Slam and in doing so has ended Britain’s 76-year wait for a male Grand Slam singles champion with an epic victory over Novak Djokovic in the US Open final.   Murray, 25, emulated Fred Perry’s 1936 achievement, winning 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 in four hours 54 minutes in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, New York.  Beating the world number two and defending champion makes him the first British man to win an Olympic gold and the US Open in the same year.

It was incredible that Murray served out the championship 76 years to the day – on the same court – that Perry won the first of eight major singles crowns but I should imagine the 4 hours and 54 minutes that it took were the longest of his life!

Murray had plenty of noteworthy fans in the stands cheering him on, including a pair of Scots who crashed his news conference after his semi-final: actor Sean Connery and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.   Also spotted in the crowd were Patrick Stewart and Kevin Spacey.

For the last few points everyone was on their feet, desperately hoping that they were just about to witness something special and for once they weren’t disappointed.  As Andy sank to his knees, the relief on his face was palpable and I swear there was just the smallest hint of a smile on his face.  He did say in his post match interview that he was “smiling on the inside” but as usual it didn’t quite make it to his mouth!

A fabulous end to a great summer of sport for the UK and a belief that maybe, just maybe, we’re getting better at this sport malarkey!

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“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…,”

There are many courageous stories from the Paralympics, but the one that has captured my interest today is that of swimmer Achmat Hassiem, who uses special motivation to go fast: he imagines being chased by the great white shark that bit off his right leg.

The South African was attacked by a shark off the coast of Cape Town six years ago after he lured the great white away from his younger brother.  Before then Hassiem had competed in various sports, including swimming, but wasn’t sure what to do after losing his leg.

It was South African Paralympic swimming champion Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records. 

The 30-year-old Hassiem came to the London Paralympics determined to do better than his ninth-place finish at the Beijing Paralympics four years ago.  On Saturday, he won bronze in the men’s 100-meter butterfly. 

‘My little secret is obviously that I just try and imagine I’m in the ocean and I’ve got a 4 ½-meter great white shark at my feet,’ Hassiem said. ‘It’s definitely good motivation to swim fast.‘  With more than a little irony he added ‘I took to the pool like a shark in the ocean,’ .

Speaking after receiving his medal he said: ‘I believe I lost my leg for a good reason,’ he said.  ‘Losing a leg is nothing compared to losing my brother, so I’m just trying to make the best of it.’

And making the best of it he certainly is!  This, and of course the hundreds of other incredible stories we’ve heard during these Games, are an inspiration to us all.  Well done!

Gold!

At last we’ve achieved a couple of gold medals at London2012!

On day 5 we were treated to an amazing win by rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in the female pairs.  The world silver medallists led from the start, clocking seven minutes 27.13 seconds to become the first British female rowers to win an Olympic title.

The duo, who joined forces only two years ago, looked calm on the start line at an overcast Eton Dorney, and got their race off perfectly with a heavy acceleration out of the blocks.  By 500m, they were almost a length clear, looking settled and focused.  As they entered the final 250m, the packed grandstands either side of the lake began to cheer, with fans getting to their feet as they cruised across the finishing line a length clear of Australia.

Then a few hours later there was one for the boys!  Our Tour de France champion, Bradley Wiggins (yes him with the sideburns!), became Britain’s most decorated Olympian with victory in the London 2012 time trial.

He now has 7 Olympic medals to his name -four golds, a silver and two bronzes – one more than rowing great Sir Steve Redgrave.  Millions of people took to the streets around Hampton Court to cheer him on and he didn’t disappoint.  What a 10 days this has been for him and as he said when interviewed at the end of the event: “I don’t think my sporting career will ever top this now,” said Wiggins. “That’s it. It will never, never get better than that. Incredible.”

To round off the day, the GB football team managed a scrappy 1-0 win against Uruguay, making them top of Group A and taking them into the quarter finals against South Korea on Saturday.  If they win that game they are assured of a bronze medal at the very least but on the downside, they are likely to meet Brazil in the semis so let’s not get too excited just yet!

Mind you, after a truly inspirational performance by the GB women’s football team the night before when they beat a strong Brazil side 1-0 in front of a 70,000 strong partisan crowd at Wembley, there’s more than just a little pride at stake!!!

What planet is he on?

Like a lot of people I was somewhat surprised to see on the first day of London2012 that there were lots of empty seats at events including swimming, rowing, tennis and basketball, despite most folk not being able to buy tickets when they came on sale.

To add insult to injury, London 2012 chairman, Lord Coe has insisted today that Olympic venues are “stuffed to the gunnels” with sports fans.  

Is he (or does he think we are) blind?

While millions of people turned out on the streets to cheer on the cyclists (for free!), the empty seats were apparently in the accredited “Olympic family” areas – reserved for groups including officials, sports federations, athletes, journalists and sponsors.   I for one don’t think this is any kind of excuse!

Perhaps, however, he was just thinking of the beach volleyball taking place in Horse Guards Parade?  For some reason this venue was filled to capacity ….. can’t think why?!?

 

Good job Danny Boy!

Having just sat through almost 4 hours of TV coverage of the opening ceremony of London2012, I can’t help wondering what the rest of the world made of Danny Boyle’s ceremony.  His concept was to give us “a celebration of the creativity, exuberance and, above all, the generosity of the British people”.  Undeniably clever, for the viewing public it was certainly a spectacle but a lot of it would have been lost on you if you weren’t British!

What we were all waiting for though was to find out the identity of who was to light the symbolic flame which had been shrouded in secrecy ahead of the ceremony.  Fittingly it was a group of seven young athletes, chosen by British Olympic champions, who each lit a single tiny flame on the ground, igniting 204 petals, one for each competing nation or territory.  Long stems then rose towards each other to form a cauldron, signifying unity.  This for me was the highlight of the whole night – incredible!

   

   

There was so much happening that this post would become something akin to War & Peace if I tried to cover it all, so as I’ve given you my highlight of the occasion I should probably mention my lowlight …..

Sorry all you Beatles fans out there but Paul McCartney was DREADFUL!!!  His performance out of tune and completely shambolic at the start.  He did get a bit better as he warmed up but I think that it is probably time he gives up and goes home – it’s not like he needs the money!

Projecting the right image

Just to prove that I am not completely negative about the London2012 Olympics, I wanted to share with you these spectacular images that Olympic bosses beamed onto the Houses of Parliament in a truly dazzling display last night.

Enormous images including world’s fastest man Usain Bolt, a giant Union Jack flag, and the Olympic rings were among those beamed on to one of London’s most iconic buildings as final Games preparations took place.  Enjoy!

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