Come On-Be A Sport-Linda Whitney, London Evening Standard, 2/07/09

It was a particularly dispiriting article that I'm sure had the opposite intention. Linda Whitney had set out to show how sport is growing as an industry and consequently so are the number and range of jobs involved in sport.

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Ecclestone, F1 and Hitler, Observer, 12/07/09, Catherine Bennett

Let me start off by saying I know nothing about F1 racing and its supposed attraction to millions of people world wide.

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Sport As The New Religion

The world is coming together. Not in some utopian sense that I imagined in my communist youth. Nor is it coming together willingly, enthusiastically or in any sense, in a planned way. But coming together it surely is albeit kicking and screaming like a child being forced to go to school for the first time. Still clinging on to the old myths and institutions of nation, religion and race, yet day by day at exponential rate, the world is becoming one entity. Hooray! The process may take another hundred years to solidify and maybe a few more centuries to fully mature but what are a few hundred years compared to the millennia that have already passed in the human story.

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Kelly is a true Brit.,Daily Mail, 21/06/09,Patrick Collins.

 

After decades of the incessant drip drip drip of Daily Mail little england bile, it was a wonderful surprise to cast my eye across Patrick Collins headline, Ignore this vile abuse, Kelly is a true Brit. And when I got round to reading the article it was every bit as cheering as the headline itself. The vile abuse that Collins refers to derived from a one Andrew Brons, a leading light in the British National Party, who we learn, chalked up nearly 10% of the vote in the Yorkshire and Humber Region, thus earning this arch racist Europhobe a lucrative seat as an MEP. We also learn from Collins that Brons is a former member of the openly neo Nazi National Socialist Movement. Remember that lot. We went to war against them sixty years ago under the supposed rationale of stopping Britain becoming part of the Nazi fascist empire. A little ironic then that just sixty years on, nearly a million British voters put their little cross next to a party that rather thinks that Hitler and his thugs were basically OK.

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Britain's Tennis Superbrats

 

This dispiriting article detailing the bullying culture on the junior tennis circuit would make an excellent appendix to Joe Humphries, Foul Play ( see book reviews ). Just to give you a flavour of the piece Pearson laments, We are at the Lawn Tennis Association junior tennis tour, where cheating and rows have become so commonplace that the former British No 1, Annabel Croft, has withdrawn her 15 year- old daughter from the tour and the former world No 5, Jo Durie, has said she wouldn't be surprised if someone was knifed at a tournament.

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Black and Blue: Paul Canoville, 2008, Headline Publishing

There are so many powerfully tragic angles to pursue in Paul Canoville's autobiographical, Black and Blue, it is hard to know where to start. The racism he experienced and eventually overcame as a professional footballer at Chelsea, the career ending injury he received at Reading, his drug addiction to crack-cocaine that he now hopefully has under control, the fight against cancer which is at least in remission, or the inner torment concerning the parental love that he always craved but never received and the eleven children he fathered with ten different women as a distorted form of compensation for the missing affection. Each of these are compelling stories in themselves. It's a rollercoaster of a journey with some truly uplifting chapters as Canoville reaches middle age, and if Paul can contain the cancer and the drugs there will hopefully be some more illuminating chapters to follow. The matter of fact way his story unfolds makes for compulsive reading and it would surely make an excellent addition to the school curriculum reading list either as literature, sociology or citizenship.

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Tony Blair's Sporting intervention:The Gimmick goes International


Review; The Blair Sport ProjectObserver Sport Monthly June 2009

From the man who gave us an illegal war in Iraq under the patently false pretext of ridding that country of weapons of mass destruction and resulting in an estimated half a million Iraqi deaths, comes 'Beyond Sport', one of those slick Tony Blair initiatives for, 'promoting sport as a tool for social development and conflict resolution.' The audacious hypocrisy of the man! With his neo-con mates in the Bush regime he turned the brutal but secular Iraq into an international base for Islamic fundamentalists and in true Anglo Saxon form, sought to rule the resources of the country by turning Shia against Sunni, community against community, Iraqi against Iraqi. Now he wants us to believe that he is a peace maker intent on healing the world's troubles. For my part I don't believe him but let's see what his game is.

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Has football now lost touch with reality?


James Olley, Evening Standard, 12/06/09

Three cheers for the London Evening Standard. I never thought I'd find myself writing that, but finally a mainstream newspaper has dared to say what most sane people already surely think. £80 million for one footballer when vast sectors of the world's population are hovering on the edge of subsistence is surely a football obscenity too far. James Olley explains,

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Professional Football: Will the Bubble Burst?


Four interrelated stories concerning the financial state of English football suggest that English professional football may be heading the same way as the British banking sector. Are we talking millions? No, we are talking billions. David Conn of the Guardian estimates the English Premier League has accumulated over £3 billion worth of debts. Chelsea, Manchester United are in the worst shape but Liverpool are on the ropes as well. Every single club is carrying debt and with the wages bill set to escalate even further the debt can only get worse. The irony is that Man United and Liverpool are making a profit but are ending up as loss making concerns because of the interest they must pay on their debt. ( The Guardian, 3/06/09 )

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KEANE The Autobiography, Penguin, 2003

Keane's Autobiography is a great read. Whether that is down to the journalistic skill of the ghost writer, Eamon Dunphy, or simply that Keane has a great story to tell, is not clear. Either way I felt somewhat mesmerised by his footballing life and I can only hope there is a volume two to come. Keane's story oozes with painful contradictory pulses; between the desire for fame and the desire for privacy, between the cravings to play beautiful football and the need quite often to deliver brute force, between the temptation to play the playboy and the desire for a quiet family life, and of course, between the demands of team discipline and the urges of individual spontaneity.

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Barcelona FC


A very useful piece by David Conn, explores the structural differences, real and imagined, between Manchester United Football Club and Barcelona. As the two giants of world football strut out onto the world stage to slug out the UEFA Champions League Final, the apparent difference will be plain for the whole world to see. The Catalan club will be proudly wearing the Unicef name emblazed on the front of its shirts, a symbol of moral standing, while United will have the AIG logo, the ultimate symbol of reckless financial speculation, a company now existing only thanks to a massive US Government bailout.

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Tribal chanting


If ever there was a sporting intractable, a conundrum outside of the realm of rational thinking, it is the question of football terrace chanting. The chants are sometimes warm and amusing but more often, outright insulting. By definition they have to be. That much is clear. Who could imagine terrace chanting without that nasty sting in the tail?

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Blair starts the race to find grass roots sporting hero


Another Legacy Gimmick Once again they have got us jumping through hoops. This time it is to find, the most imaginative (grassroots sports) projects across London and show them to the world. Tony Blair, we learn, called for the community heroes behind London's amazing grassroots sports projects to come forward to be celebrated. Olympic Legacy awards are, we are told, to be doled out in order to highlight the, vital role of community sport. Now would this be the same community sport that has been chronically under-funded by the Blair/Brown government for the past 12 years? Would he be referring to the community sports projects that often survive only through the paternalistic goodwill of some local charity? Might he be thinking of those thousands of sports projects that received a one off payment from the Awards-For-All Lottery funded scheme and then left to flounder for the rest of their days in financial penury? Once again we are back to one off gimmicks that flatter only to deceive. What London and indeed the entire United Kingdom desperately needs is a coordinated, long term, comprehensive grassroots funding scheme that provides financial stability so that the army of grassroots volunteers can get on with what they do best; coaching youngsters into sport rather than getting bogged down endlessly juggling the accounts.

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More Than Just A Game: Football v Apartheid, Chuck Korr and Marvin Close, Collins, 2008


The promotion on the front cover boasts, The most important football story ever told. Not only was I mesmerised by this story from the very start, but by the story's end I seriously began to wonder if this book was a genuine contender for the title. The story is amazing enough in itself. The South African prisoners on Robben Island, a place made famous by Nelson Mandela's thirty year imprisonment, organise firstly a football league and later an entire prison Olympics in the face of the most severe brutality meted out by the Apartheid prison authorities.

 

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The Chelsea Syndrome


I can recall clear enough, even though I was just ten at the time, the day my sister and her boyfriend returned home from a football match armed with a gigantic glossy poster of Chelsea Football Club. You know the type. The whole squad including the coaches, the reserves, the backroom staff and the management neatly arranged in three rows with the front row kneeling, the middle row somehow rising above them and the back row standing tall and proud. 

I'm sure that football clubs still produce those standard set piece posters, no doubt at ridiculously inflated prices for their globally marketed fan base. Anyway, it was a present for me, though I never thought to enquire on whose initiative the present materialised, the boyfriend or the sister. I don't ever recall my sister engaging in anything remotely resembling sisterly love so I guess it was down to the boyfriend. Either way, I loved that poster and even now, some forty four years later, I can name at least a half dozen of its star studded cast. Peter Bonnetti, Peter Osgood, Chopper Harris and his brother, Alan Hudson and the bloke with the amazing throw, Ian Hutchinson. There was a Dempsey and a Bobby Tambling I recall, but it all starts to fade after that. As for the manager, it was probably Tommy Docherty, though he may well of come on the Chelsea scene some years later.

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Foul play: Joe Humphries


It was like a gift from the gods. The thorny question of giving unquestioning allegiance to a corporate monster called Chelsea FC was weighing increasingly heavy on the mind. As each season passed the whole corrupting football affair was becoming less and less tenable. So when I stumbled on the book that put it all in some kind of perspective you can imagine my heartfelt joy. I was no longer alone in my torment. At least one other human soul had come to the conclusion that something was seriously rotten at the heart of our new global religion. If there were two of us, perhaps there were more.

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