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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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A mother’s love

We could learn a lot from Ozala the Gorilla at Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire.   Her latest baby was born on 2nd January as a result of a successful primate breeding programme but so far keepers have been unable to determine the sex of the newborn since the 16-stone Mum won’t let anyone near her precious infant.

This is the 4th baby for 18-year old Ozala, and it may well be that she is over-protective since her 1st offspring, Matadi, born in 2003, was taken away from her and is now being cared for at Paignton Zoo in Devon.  Her 2nd, a female called Ndoki  sadly died aged 3 months in 2007  and her 3rd, a male called Okanda was born in April last year.   Okanda survived after some initial health problems and is now being cared for in Stuttgart Zoo in Germany.

I do hope she is allowed to keep this new addition.  It seems extremely cruel to me that she should be parted from her babies when she so clearly has extremely strong maternal instincts.   I accept that Gorillas are a critically endangered species, but come on!  How could you separate these two?

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Laziness descends to another level!

I remember being appalled on a recent shopping trip to Waitrose to find pots of ready peeled garlic on sale in the vegetable aisle .  Now I’m all for saving time and making my life easy but really, just how difficult is it to peel a clove of garlic?

The madness continues however.  I’ve read this week about a supermarket chain which has been forced to apologise after they stacked their shelves at stores in Austria with peeled bananas – pre-packaged and wrapped in foil.  German-owned Billa, which calls on its own customers to use more common sense when it comes to the environment, was slammed by customers who took to Facebook and Twitter to condemn the move.

Shoppers first became aware of the wasteful product after the store itself allegedly posted pictures of the product online.

You have to ask yourself what is going to be next?  Are we really that consumed with our lives that eating, one of the most basic and simple pleasures in life, has become such a chore that we can’t do anything for ourselves any more.  Exactly how far away from just taking a pill to satisfy our hunger cravings are we?

I for one will definitely NOT be going down that route!  Quite apart from enjoying the whole process of preparing and cooking food, there is nothing more satisfying than others enjoying your handiwork.  So you can keep your ready-made meals and pre-prepared products – I’m not buying!!!

It always happens in 3’s

Today bought 3 shock results/news items in the world of sport.

Firstly we discovered that David Beckham had been left out of the GB Olympic Squad by Stuart Pearce who, in his infinite wisdom decided he had a strong enough midfield and so picked Manchester City defender Micah Richards ahead of him.  (Yes, the same Micah Richards who refused to be on stand-by for the England Squad for Euro2012).  When he only had the choice of three over 23 year olds, it seems bonkers to me that Beckham wasn’t chosen – he was part of the Olympic flame handover ceremony in May, bringing it to Britain for the torch relay.   He also played a major role as a sporting ambassador when London won the 2012 bid, and has made no secret of his desire to captain Team GB.

So then we came to this evening’s entertainment!   Starting with  the Euro2012 semi-final between Italy and Germany.  With the Germans the strong favourites I don’t think any of the neutrals watching could believe the happenings on the pitch!  The Germans were rubbish and the Italians were magnificent.  Two sensational goals from the super-loopy Mario Balotelli catapulted them into the final against Spain on Sunday.  There was a wee flurry in extra time where the Germans were awarded a penalty and despite a brilliant strike from Ozil to make it 2-1, it was too little, too late and Italy were the victors.

That just left enough time for me to switch over to BBC2 to see the world No.2, Rafael Nadal, get beaten in the 5th set in the 2nd round of Wimbledon to Lukas Rosol, a player who is ranked 100th in the world! 

This charming Czech player modestly said in his post-match interview:

“I know Nadal is only human. Nadal played a good match but I think I was a little bit better.”

The last few games that I was able to watch definitely proved this – he was exciting to watch and I was rather sorry I’d elected to watch the football instead of this tennis match but they were both equally unexpected results which is always refreshing for the armchair sports fan!

Oh well, that’s enough excitement for one day – only the Final on Sunday and the 2nd week of Wimbledon to look forward to before the Olympics – how will I cope???

Should this be happening in the 21st Century?

I have just read the most awful story on the BBC News Website!

Headed up “The ‘baby box’ returns to Europe” it goes on to describe how these boxes, which were common in medieval times, where people can leave an unwanted baby, have been making a comeback in recent years!

Supporters say that a heated box, monitored by nurses, is better for babies than abandonment on the street – but the UN says it violates the rights of the child.

“Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that every child has ‘the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents’ – when a child is abandoned, this right is violated” (source University of Nottingham)

The idea has taken off in various locations across Europe and the statistics currently available from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are:

Boxes by country:

  • Germany – 99
  • Poland – 45
  • Czech Republic – 44
  • Hungary – 26
  • Slovakia – 16
  • Lithuania – 8
  • Italy – 8 (approx.)
  • Belgium – 1
  • Netherlands – 1 (planned)
  • Switzerland – 1
  • Vatican – 1
  • Canada – 1
  • Malaysia – 1
  • Also exist in Japan and the US

The law in some countries encourages their spread in popularity – in Hungary, for example, it was changed so that leaving a baby in the official baby box was deemed to be a legal act amounting to consent to adoption, while dumping a child anywhere else remains a crime.

Further details discovered about a box in Berlin was that once placed in the box, the baby is apparently supported by the full facilities of a maternity unit. As soon as a baby is in the hatch, an alarm rings and medical staff come, even as the mother walks away unseen. The baby is cared for in the hospital and then fostered before going into the legal system for adoption. In the early period, mothers can return and retrieve their child, but later they can’t – adoption is final.

It’s difficult to find out the full figures of how many relent – the critics of the system say that in Germany it is well-appointed, with the best facilities, but in some of the poorer countries to the east, baby boxes are less well organised.

But at one baby box in Hamburg, for example, there have been 42 babies left in the last 10 years. Seventeen of those mothers have then contacted the organisers, and 14 have taken back their child.

The argument for these boxes has to be that they have to be better than providing no facilities at all and babies being abandoned and perhaps left to die, exposed to the elements.

The argument against is that it sends out the wrong message to pregnant women that they are right to continue hiding their pregnancies, giving birth in uncontrolled circumstances and then abandoning their babies.

There is no clear right or wrong in this – it is an argument between well-meaning people. The one voice never heard is that of the mother who walks the path with the baby she bore secretly hours earlier, to return without the bundle. Her tears and how she feels can barely be imagined.

Temper your expectations!

Tonight we watched from behind our sofas as Wayne Rooney marked his England return with the goal that secured a place for England in Euro 2012’s last eight – but it was a rough passage eased by helpings of good fortune and controversy against Ukraine.

Ukraine, however, will complain long and hard about a contentious second-half incident when Marko Devic’s shot clearly crossed the line before it was scrambled away by John Terry, only for the officials to remain unmoved.  The incident immediately revived the debate about goal-line technology, with a final decision on whether it is introduced expected to be taken in Zurich on 5 July.

England will of course regard it as a measure of justice for Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany in Bloemfontein at the 2010 World Cup – but it was also an illustration of how they rode their luck for long periods in front of a predictably partisan home crowd in Kiev tonight.

The Ukrainians immediately demanded a goal and their claims were vindicated as replays showed the ball crossed the line before Terry’s intervention.

Before the game manager Roy Hodgson had said England could dream a little – ahead of the confrontation with Italy in Kiev, they can now afford to dream a little more.

But lets not get too carried away!  We get so above ourselves in these tournaments and the nation as a whole always seems to think that the England team can win the whole thing!  This is quite clearly unlikely to happen while are unable to achieve No.1 status in the FIFA World Rankings.  We are currently No. 6 in the world and No. 4 in Europe, meaning the very best we should perhaps be hoping for in this competition is 4th place and anything better than this is a bonus?

Sorry – you might not like that, but it’s true!

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