I guess Flowers of Manchester is the most important song about the Munich air crash, but I have a lot of time for Morrissey's contribution.
Here it is.
Attending the Manchester United v Zorya Luhansk match last night, I could perhaps be forgiven for a little fiddle with my phone.
Unable to get online I looked at the available wifi options. Of about eight or nine, from the phones of fellow fans to those of different departments at Old Trafford, was one entitled 'Surveillance Van 2".
I guess the presence of such entities is all part of protecting the crowd at large events in the era of jihadist violence, but it served as a rather stark reminder of the lives we now lead.
Ibrahimovic took his goal well.
I am always fascinated when politics appears in places it does not normally intrude.
Earlier this week The Times had an interview with the former Southampton and England footballer James Beattie, last seen as a somewhat unsuccessful manager at Accrington Stanley. He talks about the sacrifices his father, a lorry driver, made for the Beattie family before he was stricken with cancer:
"All he could think of was to try to get to 65 for the pension. But he passed away two days before his 65th birthday. Mum never got the pension. Scandalous. He's been paying contributions all his life and then it disappeared. I try to remember him as a person before the cancer: the dad taking me here, there and everywhere for swimming".
Quoted in Henry Winter "When Rooney and I started, England was full of cliques", The Times, 25 May 2016.
Last night I was able to find an online stream of the WBA Heavyweight title fight from Grozny, where the champion Ruslan Chagaev, an Uzbek now based in Germany, fought Australian Lucas Browne.
To my knowledge, it was the first world class sporting event to be held in Chechnya, certainly in its period as an independent state within Russia. Given where Chechnya was twenty five years ago, that is some achievement. In terms of the fight itself, few gave Browne a prayer. Although Chagaev is clearly past his best at 37, he has always been a class act, and was in his second period as world champion. His only two defeats, to Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin. Browne, a former martial artist, was unbeaten, but had never fought anyone in Chagaev's class. Good quality heavyweight sparring is hard to find in Australia, and Browne has actually spent chunks of his career fighting minor opponents at the bottom end of boxing bills here in the UK.
A curious backdrop to the fight was the towering presence of Chechnya's strongman leader, the pugnacious Ramzan Kadyrov. The former head of a pro-Russian militia who has held power in Grozny since 2007, Kadyrov rather looks like he should be in the ring himself (he is pictured above, pre-fight, with Browne). Indeed during the 2014 terrorist attacks on his territory, Kadyrov raced to the scene himself, armed, in order to help put down any insurgency. It is hard to imagine David Cameron or Jeremy Corbyn doing that.
Whilst Kadyrov has broadly ensured Putin's need for stability in the troublesome Muslim south, it has come at a high price. Karima Bennoune's excellent "Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here" has a detailed section on Chechnya - the status of women, and political freedom's generally, have worsened under Kardyrov. Indeed his main trick seems to be repeating that practised by a series of Arab dictators - giving ground to Islamist actors in terms of civil law and broader society, but rigidly excluding their armed factions from political influence.
In terms of the fight itself, Chagaev did the classier work, and should really have stopped Browne in the sixth and eight rounds. Ramzan Kadyrov positioned himself at the ring apron, occasionally slapping the ring floor with excitement, and yelling Chagaev forward. If the most famous stories of politicians and boxing focus on the Rumble in the Jungle and Mobutu Sese Soko, Kadyrov seems to have got considerably closer to the action than his African counterpart. And then, it all went wrong. Browne put Chagaev on the seat of his pants. The chance of a lifetime beckoned, and he threw furious haymakers as a dazed Chagaev got himself stuck on the ropes. The referee, correctly in my view, stopped the flight. Mrs Chagaev, who had now moved almost as close to the ring as Ramzan Kadyrov, struggled to decide whether to keep her hair covered with both hands, or to slap the cameraman who was clearly invading her personal space. Kadyrov made his anger at the referee's decision clear, whilst a thousand Chechens booed.
But it was over. The decision was accepted, and one of boxing's greatest upsets had ensued. That at least will ensure that Grozny earns its footnote in boxing history. Whilst the WBA and other authorities probably need to pass a ruling against allowing politicians untrammeled access to the ring area (Kadyrov's presence could easily have intimidated the officials) all was fair on this occasion, in love and war. Chagaev almost certainly heads back to Germany and retirement, and for Browne some huge pay days await. But not, I suspect, in Chechnya.
Having been left all dressed up with nowhere to go last week when the Corby Cube's showing of Death of a Gentleman was cancelled, I am delighted to report that the excellent Errol Flynn playhouse in Northampton stepped in to offer me a complimentary ticket for their showing. This review comes courtesy of their generosity.
Death of a Gentleman opens, deliberately, in as cliched a manner as possible, with the sound of bird song and the sight of cricket on the village green. The opening words stress, correctly, that cricket is about values, and those being interviewed throughout the film articulate the association of the game with integrity and a moral code for living. In English we deploy terms such as 'that's not cricket' for a reason - that they betray our unease or anger at behaviour that is improper or unprincipled. I disagree with the film makers that cricket is a unique sport in this respect - I think you will find the same approach within several martial arts, certainly in Muay Thai and Judo - but in the context of the cricket playing nations, to play cricket means to associate with core values.
Although a total of seven people appear to have been behind Death of a Gentleman, the two we see on camera are cricket journalists Sam Collins (English) and Jarrod Kimber (Australian). They quickly explain both their love of the game and its size - whilst a long way behind football in terms of global adherence, cricket is the second biggest sport in the world. If that surprises you, just remember that cricket is the summer sport in the British Isles, the national sport in Pakistan and Bangladesh and the national sport in the second most populous country in the world - India.
The film's narrative begins in 2011, with the realisation that test cricket, described by Ian Chappell as the peak of the game, is questioned and imperiled as never before. These concerns are not necessarily new - Death of a Gentleman does not engage with the long term concerns that one day cricket is or will undermine longer forms of the game, a debate within English cricket that is at least forty years old. Instead its focus is on the latest variation, 20/20, and in particular the Indian Premier League, portrayed here as being as much about Bollywood as sport.
For all the glitz, razzmatazz and dancing girls of the IPL, cricketers still enter the game wishing to play test cricket at the highest level. The story of Ed Cowan, an Australian opener, given his cap at the MCG in 2011, is cleverly used to demonstrate the emotive appeal of ambition. No schoolboy grows up in Australia dreaming of playing for a franchise in Chennai - they still want to earn a baggy green cap, a point emphasised by the obvious pride shown by Ed Cowan's father in several short interview clips.
This is very much a film of interviews holding together a central narrative, and for me a core component of that narrative is provided by Gideon Haigh, who asks a fundamental question of cricket in the era of 20/20 - does cricket make money in order to exist, or does it exist to make money. In this, we return to the association between cricket and values, and as the film develops it becomes increasingly obvious that in the era of 20/20 cricket exists to make money. The bigger question perhaps is where that money goes, as seven test playing nations are virtually bankrupt, whilst three - Australia, England and India, make money. How can this be?
Any film needs a villain, and as Simon Heffer illustrates in his review of Death of a Gentleman, here we have Giles Clarke, formerly Chairman and now President of the English Cricket Board (ECB). Awarded the CBE for services to cricket in 2012, Clarke is one of those men who always seems to be pictured with his nose slightly raised in the air, like a deer nervously sniffing for the presence of any predator. In terms of power though, cricket is dominated not from its historical base at Lords and the MCC, but from India. It is the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which controls the International Cricket Council, and Indian money which matters. An all too brief interview with the former Indian all-rounder Ravi Shastri in effect declares 'we are the masters now'.
If power can corrupt, absolute power can corrupt absolutely. The 2012 report by Lord Woolf into governance in cricket established a sport characterised by a lack of any financial transparency, a potentially deadly failing given the predominance of gambling in the Indian sub-continent and the power of bookmakers. In this part of the world, some two billion pounds can be bet on major matches. However for English cricket it is not match-fixing that brought its most shameful hour, but the ECB's association with Sir Allen Stanford, an American financier who had bought up large parts of Antigua, and introduced 'winner takes all' 20/20. Collins and Kimber resist the temptation to dwell on some of the less salubrious aspects of Stanford's fifteen minutes of fame, and instead use the issue to attack Giles Clarke's jugular. Here Clarke is at his most belligerent, combining detachment and aggression in his response, insisting that he does not talk about Stanford but equally that it is all history. But not of course for those ripped off by the now plain Allen Stanford, serving a 110 year jail sentence for fraud.
The demise of Stanford meant that in financial terms, the IPL developed a monopoly. Here the film's second bad guy emerges in the ponderous persona of Indian concrete magnate N Srinivasan, the President of the BCCI. The sections of the film devoted to the internal politics of cricket in India are perhaps the least appealing to English viewers, but they matter, as the ultimate ICC agreement, to keep TV revenues primarily among the three biggest earning nations - Australia, England and India, shapes all else in the game. The 2019 Cricket World Cup will accordingly be limited to just 10 teams, rather than the previous 14. Given the development of the game in recent years in countries as diverse as Ireland and Afghanistan, this is nonsense. International development, the centre of any sports health, is retarding, something Gideon Haigh correctly castigates as bizarre. Although a majority of ICC members wish to see cricket as an Olympic sport (which would release government funding for the game in China, and other nations) the ICC will not countenance this.
With Srinivasan installed as head of the ICC, despite accusations of his family being associated with match fixing in India, the future prospects for Test cricket, as opposed to the faster, looser and more profitable brand of 20/20 appear grim. When Collins and Kimber manage to get themselves into an ICC press conference in (appropriately) Dubai, a picture of CLR James briefly appears as part of the ICC backdrop on the wall. A Trinidadian born Marxist who spent much of his life in the US and England, James wrote one of the most important cricket books, Beyond A Boundary. One wonders what James would make of an IPL fixture between Sunrisers Hyderabad and and the Chennai Superkings. We probably have a pretty good idea though of what he would make of men like Giles Clarke or N Srinivasan - those who live to make money, rather than making money to live, and to uphold the values of the game.
If Death of a Gentleman ends on a positive note it is by returning to Ed Cowan, and the values of those playing the sport for that sense of individual, team or national pride. Nothing about that tendency remaining however, guarantees its survival. Collins and Kimber ask us to visit the website Change Cricket, and to resist the games drift. The interviews in the film though with IPL players such as Kevin Pietersen (the first post-national, post-modern cricketer?) and Chris Gayle remind us that when it comes down to a choice between domestic and test cricket, or the IPL, the big bucks of the IPL will always turn heads. We should not necessarily be pessimistic, but we do need to be realistic. Cricket is not in good health, and the Death of a Gentleman illustrates that all too well.
There are screenings of the film scheduled across the country for the remainder of September and going into October. Some cricket venues, most noticeably Lords, have declined to show the movie, for fear of upsetting the ECB. That makes it all the more important to get out there and see it, before hopefully it becomes available on DVD.
I had set aside some time today to write a review and comment on the cricket film, Death of a Gentleman, which I was due to see yesterday at the Corby Cube.
Events intervened - shortly before I was due to leave home, the Corby Cube phoned to tell me they had not received the film (!) had been unable to download a copy in time, and they were very sorry but I could have my money back. It was all very professionally done, but did rather leave an empty void.
For the uninitiated, Death of a Gentleman tells the story of how three countries - Australia, England and India - have shifted the axis of cricket's governance to reward themselves, at the expense of the other cricketing nations, and the games grassroots. But I can't say much more than that, as I never got to see the film. Simon Heffer, who did get to see it, still seems to be recovering from the apoplexy it invoked in him - his review should inspire others to action.
A couple of points to follow up on the article I wrote last month concerning the pressure the Football Association and the police were placing on football supporters ahead of the Republic of Ireland versus England friendly.
Firstly Larry O'Hara did consequently place online his 1997 article on the 1995 Dublin 'riot', which originally appeared in the Anarchist magazine Animal. Read it on the Notes from the Borderland website here.
Secondly I did think it good manners to ask Piara Powar if he wanted to reply, as my article was critical of his stance towards England fans in his role for Football Against Racism in Europe and FIFA's task force against racism and discrimination. Piara did not reply to my tweet to him. Whether he attended the match as a representative of FIFA is unclear, not least because on 27 May a series of dawn raids were carried out on FIFA executives as part of the corruption probe led by the FBI. Getting an expenses chit signed in those circumstances may have been challenging.
Thirdly the match itself was characterised by some unusual coverage by ITV, with little or nothing in the way of sound coming across from the English contingent in the stadium. Whilst broadcasters are now dab hands at ensuring fans indecent singing is not overheard by delicate viewers, on this occasion there seemed very little chance to hear anything from the raucous away support. Clearly no chances were being taken that the odd song against the IRA may slip through. Sadly it meant we also missed an excellent song alleging that Sepp Blatter had corruptly paid the Irish FA for the re-building of the Arriva Stadium!
Finally, as anyone who watched the game will know, there was nothing to report. I spent most of it reading the Sunday Times. Still, at least the FA ended up happy.
England play the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on 7th June in a friendly international.
For reasons that have never been fully explained, the last time England played in Ireland the match was abandoned with some disorder occurring in the English end. It is has certainly never been clear to me why the Irish police were unable to restore order, or what was so terrifying about England's away support that the game could not be completed. As the researcher Larry O'Hara wrote at the time, claims that the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 had incited a riot were fanciful - no one has ever been able to pinpoint any C18 members in the ground on that occasion.
It says much about the times we are living in that an enormous effort has begun by the football authorities to dissuade England fans from singing 'No Surrender to the IRA' at the Dublin match. This includes the astonishing claim that "England could be banned from the next World Cup under a new Fifa initiative if their fans continue to chant anti-IRA slogans at matches". At least some of this seems to come from Piara Powar (who readers of some vintage will remember from the Newham Monitoring Project) a member of Football Against Racism in Europe and FIFA's task force against racism and discrimination. One might wonder how FIFA has the moral status to deliberate on anything - what is it doing about the discrimination faced by those building its stadiums for Qatar 2022? And that is without even beginning to discuss the corruption accusations that have dogged it for many years.
If people want to sing songs against a terrorist group, that whatever people's views on the Northern Ireland question, did some bad things, I can't really get too excited about it. Each to his own. Piara Powar however, has got his dander up, telling the Telegraph last Wednesday that he may be asked to attend the game to monitor fans chanting:
"No Surrender To The IRA" comes from a point which is extreme nationalism. It's about conflict between two states. That then would be reported. We would be making our reports as often as our experts feel there is a case to answer"
It is hard to think of a more textbook example of how football supporters become disillusioned, not just with those running the game, but the political activists who come into it to supposedly to do good. Piara Powar may consider anti-IRA songs to be about 'extreme nationalism' - others do not. Why is his view, or those of his 'experts' worth more than anybody else's? Getting into the detail of his position it does not impress. Bizarrely his quote seems to portray the IRA as in some way representing one of two states - presumably Ireland. Try telling that to the government in Dublin, whose measures against the IRA were for decades often harsher than anything decreed from London or Belfast. Far from representing the whole of Ireland, the IRA could be just as accurately described as representing a minority of a minority - the Catholic population in Northern Ireland.
This week we have already seen Home Secretary Theresa May bandying around the word extremism, and the need to establish tougher legislation to address it, whilst unable to define what it actually means in practice. Now we are expected to be concerned about 'extreme nationalism' in the form of songs against a terrorist group. Does that mean people can be jailed for supporting Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State, yet football fans could be sanctioned for singing songs against them? Or is it just the IRA - a terrorist group with rusting guns - that we are concerned about?
This matters, because such declarations, be it from those governing the country or those running football has repercussions for the liberty of our citizens. Earlier this year Glasgow Rangers fan Scott Lamont was jailed for four months for singing 'The Billy Boys' whilst on his way to an Auld Firm game. An Auld Firm match where thousands will have sung the Billy Boys, and thousands of Celtic fans will have declared support for Irish Republicanism, and sang songs in praise of, you guessed it, the IRA.
Can anyone, perhaps Piara Powar or Theresa May, publish a list of songs football supporters are allowed to sing, and those they are not?
Amongst the acres of gushing news print about Liverpool FC and their supporters this week, as the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster was marked, there was also a very familar story.
A group of Manchester City fans were 'shocked' and 'shaken' after their minibus was attacked by Liverpool fans throwing bricks and stones before yesterday's Premiership match. Shaken I can understand (amongst those on the bus was a 70 year old woman) but if anyone on that minibus had attended a game at Anfield in the 1970s or 1980s, they surely cannot have been shocked. Such actions were the norm. Colin Ward's classic book on football hooliganism 'Steaming In' probably sets out the best written account of the experiences of visiting fans to Merseyside in those years. It was a grim fight for survival - in an era where all the media wanted to write about was the sporting nature of the Kop, Scouse humour, the wisdom of the boot room and the stylish play of the team on the pitch.
The crimes of Kelvin Mackenzie and The Sun after Hillsborough, and the principled campaigning by Liverpudlians since, has had the positive effect of reversing a great historical wrong. But it also means that for most sports journalists Liverpool's fans again occupy a space next to Mother Theresa, Princess Diana and Douglas Bader. But reality has a horrible way of intruding into even the most naive of mindsets.
The same violence will almost certainly happen when Chelsea play at Anfield on April 27th in the likely Premiership decider. Whether it is addressed in the national media, or by the authorities, is another matter entirely.
There are few sights sadder for any sports fan than a decaying football stadium. Earlier this week I took some pictures of Kettering Town's derelict Rockingham Road ground, which has been empty since 2011.
Kettering Town currently play their home games at the ground of rivals Corby Town. They are bottom of the EvoStick Southern League, having had 10 points deducted during the course of the season, a transfer embargo and speculation the club would not complete its fixtures. Although their results have been relegation material, a spirited fans campaign is keeping the club alive, after 140 years of tradition.
You can view the Poppies Fans forum here, and listen to Poppies Radio for match commentaries, and follow Save KTFC on twitter. Or better still if you are in the area - got to a match and show the team some support.
Radio 5 has set aside two hours of its scheduling on Tuesday 9 October at 1930 to consider the career of former Celtic and Scotland manager Jock Stein.
Today we may giggle at the prospect of a Scottish side ever winning the Champions League - Stein won the European Cup in 1967 with a team in which all the players were born within 30 miles of Glasgow. An enormous achievement at the time - which looks even bigger today.
I was disgusted by the footage that Crimewatch showed earlier this week of an incident in Leicester, where a traffic warden was kicked in the head by an angry motorist.
He ought to be leading with his left jab, then following up with a right cross. Then when the opponent comes on to him, he should he throw his kick to the head.
Channel 4 certainly came up trumps with the use of Public Enemy's 'Harder Than You Think' as their Paralympics theme tune.
The video for that has now been reworked to include footage of some of the UK athletes - it is an incredible piece of work. Here's Channel 4 on the subject, plus the video:
I have not always been very positive about the Paralympics, arguing in the past it gets publicity out of all proportion to the actual interest in it.
It is time to change my views - firstly through meeting a couple of the athletes, and secondly because, at least in the UK, the interest now is there. One stroke of genius by Channel 4 has been the promotional video it has used for its Paralympics coverage, with features the very apt 'Harder Than You Think' by Public Enemy. Just listen for the line 'thank you for allowing us to be ourselves'....
I used to love Public Enemy. I saw them the first three times they played in Manchester (and believe me, Hip-Hop gigs were heavy in those days) and I still regard 'It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back' as one of the greatest LPs ever. In terms of innovation, I can't believe 'Sgt Pepper' was as innovative in its day as that album was in 1988.
I never really took the Nation of Islam controversies around them seriously - if you are going to get angry about science fiction - and the NoI is nothing more than science fiction - you may as well get angry with the Scientologists.
In time, my interest in Public Enemy, and to a large extent Hip-Hop faded. Other things took over in my life - mostly getting very drunk at Class War meetings and talking nonsense. Watching the video for 'Harder Than You Think' on You Tube a lot of PE's greatness comes back - to make a track like this aged well into your 40s is a real achievement. It is also a clever piece of work - twenty years on and they are not portraying themselves living it up on the West Coast surrounded by gold and bimbo's, but filling up skips and driving an old van around suburban New York. And that of course is a lot closer to the reality most of us are in.
Harder than you think is a beautiful thing!
Below is the video to 'Olympic' by 808 State.
The band once had ideas this would be used to promote Manchester's Olympic bid, something that was not to be.
Saturday's Daily Telegraph magazine had a section on British Olympians who had won Gold.
Audley Harrison, who won Boxing Super Heavyweight gold at Sydney in 2000, is true to form unintentionally hilarious. First there is the usual hyperbole such as 'the Audley Harrison show' and the curious statement 'I'm a bit of a showman' - not in the ring you are not Audley. This gem though takes the biscuit:
"Boxing is still an amateur Olympic sport, but I hope it becomes professional so boxers will go back and try for Olympic gold a second time rather than just reinvent themselves in the professional field".
Given Audley has had the best part of 12 years to invent himself in the professional field (and is still to do so) the prospect of him returning to the amateur game to do so is - well, hilarious. It is almost a shame that the rules don't allow it..............
Going on the basis that politicians usually exaggerate, and that the reality is eventually somewhat different from rosy predictions, take a look at the text of the leaflet the London Mayor has delivered to homes in Hackney this week.
Point 7 of Boris Johnson's leaflet is headed "Ensuring a true Olympic legacy - 11,000 new homes and 10,000 new jobs". That is underwhelming - Hackney has 27,000 households on its council waiting list alone - 11,000 new homes, across 32 London boroughs with similar housing pressures? That is barely a drop in the ocean.
No further details are given on the 10,ooo new jobs - are they full-time, part-time, fixed term for the duration of the games itself, or for the wider period of the Olympic building project? How many have gone to local residents in east London, or to Londoners more generally?
I reproduce the rest of Boris' text in full:
"Boris johnson is ensuring we all benefit from the Olympic Games.
Boris has delivered the Games infrastructure on time and budget. A saving of £10 million was made on the building of the Olympic Stadium and he has ensured that existing facilities are upgraded and used wherever possible. Hackney will benefit from the lasting legacy of the Games as 12 organisations have received funding to offer free coaching and Boris has funded seven sports participation programmes".
So far, so modest. That really is it. Perhaps to make sure we do actually think there is some benefit to the whole 2012 shebang the leaflet then adds:
"Thanks to Boris, Londoners will benefit from the jobs created by a £5.2 billion economic boost from the Games."
A few points arise:
1. Boris seems to take all the credit for 'delivering' the Games. Clearly the hatred between the British Olympic Association and London Organising Commitee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has created a gap for one man to heroically organise the entire event.
2. If £10 million has been saved on building the stadium, what has that money been spent on? Where has it gone?
3. Which existing facilities have been upgraded? As a Hackney resident I should presumeably be able to name several - none spring to mind.
4. 12 organisations are getting free coaching out of this. Not much of a return from the biggest sporting event in the world coming here is it?
5. Boris has funded seven sports participation programmes. Again no details, but isn't that the sort of thing Mayor's are supposed to do anyway?
6. What and where is the £5.2 billion economic boost from the Games?All the economic news I seem to hear concerns a double dip recession.
All this is not to single out Boris Johnson as any worse than Ken Livingstone would have been (he isn't it) but to raise the single question:
If the projected gains from the Olympics are so modest now, how modest are the actual gains likely to be after the event?
From the interview in today's Sunday Times with Jimmy McColl, who played for the Great Britain football team at the 1948 London Olympics:
"For the 3rd/4th placed playoff with Denmark, the manager, Sir Matt Busby, asked the entire squad if those players who hadn't yet been picked could be in the starting XI, even if it was to the detriment of the result. Everybody, respectful of Busby's intentions, agreed with this, meaning we all had the chance to play at the Games".
For the record, Denmark won 5-3 at Wembley, to take the Bronze medal.
I was too young for the Kung Fu craze which swept the UK following the release of Bruce Lee's Enter The Dragon in 1973.
I was probably 30 when I first saw the film, and was amazed how good it actually was - there is a plot, there is politics, and there is action. On Radio 4 at 1100 on Weds 22 February Jolyon Jenkins looks at how popular Kung Fu briefly became in Britain, although it seems in most cases this was not neccesarily a search for enlightenment............
Clare Balding is on Radio 4 at 1345 on Wednesday 15 February presenting Fighting Back - an examination of the relationship between race and boxing in the UK.
There is much to discuss - how many people know that as late as the 1930s the British Boxing Board of Control sometimes operated a colour bar?
If Fabio Capello feels so strongly about the Football Association stripping John Terry of the England captaincy, there is always one particular option open to him.
He can resign.
The first World Cup I can really remember, and certainly the first World Cup where I watched the majority of the games, was Spain in 1982.
The highlight of that tournament was Italy's fabled 3-2 victory over Brazil, and the highlight of that match, to my twelve year old's football brain, was the Brazilian goal where Socrates beat Dino Zoff at his near post. Socrates seemed incredibly exotic. This was an era where English footballers were 'over the Brian' in interviews, our World Cup mascot was a bulldog that would not have looked out of place as an illustration in National Front News, and our two best players, Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan, injured more than they were fit.
Socrates seemed improbably, impossibly exotic. The idea of a footballer who was also a Doctor was in the English context, unthinkable. But a footballer named after a Greek philospher, and who chain smoked when not on the football pitch? This interview, with Mancunian journalist Andy Mitten, not only gives us the mark of the man, but the following examination of Brazil's defeat to Italy:
"Our loss to Italy was not simple," Socrates says. "It was like achieving the conquest of the most beautiful woman in the world, but then being unable to do what matters with her. But it can happen, in life and in sport. "Some say that we were the greatest side never to win the World Cup. They tell us that to this day ... People remember our team because we lost, not won. But nobody tried to copy Italy, the pragmatic team which lifted the World Cup. The beautiful team, with the art and creativity, lost."
I've never been much of a rugger bugger, but you have to hand it to Martin Johnson and the boys.
In their month in New Zealand they have packed in white water rafting, bungee jumping, dwarf throwing, several nights on the piss, a bit of rugby with a 'you win some you lose some ethos' and then rounded it all off by daring the daftest member of the tour party to jump in the harbour.
Just like any other rugby club tour!
A regular column in which this blog exposes half-truths, exaggerations and downright lies from those involved in London 2012.
Yesterday's 'Front Row - London 2012 Ticketing Update' email was largely devoted to the Paralympics, for which ticket applications open on 9th September. The Paralympics is given publicity out of all proportion to its importance, and publicity that is so far out of proportion to the public interest in it, that is almost amusing (there, I've said it)
Whilst some of this is down to political correctness, I can't help seeing the bulk of it as old fashioned distrator flares - look at how inclusive our games are (when they are not) and look at how positively we treat disabled people in this country (we don't). Having spent a fair amount of time yesterday carrying a double pram up and down stairs at London tube stations, realisng a person in a wheelchair would simply have to go elsewhere or not travel, I have seen with my own eyes hype is very different to reality.
Anyway, onto today's corporate lie. From Visa's little section of the 2012 Ticketing Update:
Visa has been a proud sponsor of the Paralympic Games since 2002.
In recognition of Visa’s longstanding support of the Paralympic Games, only Visa (debit, credit and prepaid) can be used to purchase tickets online.
In recognition of Visa’s longstanding support of the Paralympic Games, only Visa (debit, credit and prepaid) can be used to purchase tickets online.
So - nothing to do with a desire to obtain a monopoly position, having paid a large sum of money to do so, and having purchased the same monopoly position for the rest of the Olympics?
The first in what promises to be a lengthy series exposing lies, disinformation and spin from the organisers of London 2012.
From a direct mail sent to ticket holders today:
"Please do not drive to the Games as there will be no spectator parking at or near venues."
Except of course for those who are allowed to park at Olympic venues - corporate big-wigs, celebrities, the police, everyone allowed to drive in special lanes for the duration of the Games etc etc In fact if there is no spectator parking at or near venues - why do we need certain lanes restricted to Olympic use only?
Watching police formations during the London riots, it is easy to look back centuries.
The use of shields, the desire to attack whilst defending, to break up and put opponents to flight, are all familiar images from centuries past. It is perhaps timely then that this evening National Geographic has a one hour documentary devoted to Talhoffer's Medieval Fightbook.
European martial arts are much neglected, but Talhoffer's fifteenth century book, shows the depth and range of these forgotten practices. Replace the swords with a baton and a scaffolding pole, and you could almost be in contemporary Hackney.
I have lost count of the number of different versions Kraftwerk have made of 'Tour De France'.
This is as good as any, and comes complete with a marvellous video of historical race footage.
If Stalinism has survived anywhere, it is in football.
I have always believed Sir Alex Ferguson is the greatest ever British Stalinist (his association with new Labour and personal friendship with Alastair Campbell being merely a modern variant of Popular Frontism) The way in which he publicly humilated Wayne Rooney, before bringing him, supine, back into the team last season, was masterful. When he recently asked for the exclusion of a journalist posing tricky questions about Ryan Giggs, you knew the individual concerned would soon be travelling on the media equivalent of a slow train to Novosirbisk. And all this relayed accidentally, because a microphone was left on? Do me a favour - that was about as accidental as the assassination of Kirov!
My theory reappeared watching coverage of the recent FIFA Congress. Lots of elderly men in suits, completely impervious to events around them, happily holding an election with only one candidate. I was recently given a copy of UEFA's corporate magazine, UEFA direct, and it is a publication any Stalinist would be proud to be associated with. It has literally nothing to say or report, but trundles through 24 pages of conference reports, news of national federations and half-hearted attempts to promote a diversity you know they do not believe in. You will only want to read it once, but I do recommend you do so.
I spent yesterday evening at the Kudzu Mixed Martial Arts and K1 Cage Fighting show in Epsom, Surrey.
It was a really well organised night, but reminded once again that MMA as a spectacle does not really do it for me. 11 fights were UFC style mixed martial arts contests, one a K1 rules kickboxing match, held in the cage. This was the best fight of the night.
Why? Because fights that go to the ground, and stay there, are simply not a great spectacle for the viewing spectator. The technique and fitness on display may be of a very high standard - but for me it does not work as much as stand up action.
The UK heavyweight boxing scene is looking stronger than it has for years.
Below David Haye and Derek Chisora, we have Tyson Fury, Sam Sexton, David Price and Tom Dallas. Plus there is Reading's Michael Sprott, who seems to have been around for ever. This evening at York Hall John McDermott fights Hackney's Larry Olubamiwo for the Southern Area Heavyweight title.
Olubamiwo is a knockout merchant, with Popeye arms and appears to be in a rush to get wherever it is he is going. McDermott has fought the better oppponents in his careeer, has had dogs luck (being robbed of decisions against Danny Williams and Tyson Fury) and is more than due a win. His upper cut may be the ideal punch against a bigger, slugging man. I can't decide whether Olubamiwo takes McDermott in the first two rounds, or the fight goes on for longer, in which case you have to favour McDermott by points or even a stoppage.
I might have to toss a coin on this one.
I have probably placed details of this film on-line far to late for anyone to battle through the snow to the Southbank to see it, but today at 2pm the National Film Theatre is showing Besouro.
Brazilian martial arts movies are pretty rare, especially one's set in the 1920's combining anti-racism with magic and myth. More details here - hopefully the film will be shown again shortly!
I had been saving this story up for Audley Harrison becoming World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Having sat on it for over a decade, and given his weedy performance against David Haye last night, there seems no need to delay it any longer.
Back in the late 1990s, one of the lads in London Class War was going out with Tuppy Owens, who headed the Sexual Freedom Coalition. This brought the opportunity of occasional stewarding work at the SFC's parties, which were rather lavish fund raising events for groups like Outsiders, and brought together as diverse a group of people under one roof as it was possible to imagine.
At some stage I found myself given the all important job of guarding a fire door at the appropriately named Pleasure Rooms in Tottenham, listening to a guy in a toga, carrying a cane, waxing lyrical to two young women about how his mate was going to be world champion, how nobody could beat him, he was the next big thing etc etc. A couple of minutes later one of the biggest guys I had ever seen in my life appeared - this was clearly the future heavyweight champion of the world, although it has to be said his air of menace was slightly reduced by also wearing a light brown toga.
Fast forward to 2000, and I realised just who I had been rubbing shoulders with - the Tottenham toga wearer was transformed in Sydney into the 2000 Olympic Super Heavyweight Champion - one Audley Harrison.
Sadly that was as good as it seemed to get for Audley - although he took the BBC for a lot of money, his professional career never really got going. Domestic fights that he could have won - for example Herbie Hide, (who was once bundled through the fire doors at York Hall for calling out Harrison) never happened, whilst those that did either produced mixed results (Danny Williams) or embarrassment (Martin Rogan). Harrison skillfully avoided a succession of hungry Eastern bloc fighters - in his career he has never fought a man from the former Soviet Union, a telling statistic.
Without wishing to get all homo-erotic, I am not sure I have ever seen a sportsman as physically impressive as Audley Harrison. He was just huge. Last Friday Harrison weighed in a full three stones heavier than David Haye, and he was chiseled rather than flabby - yet in the Manchester Arena he failed to connect with a significant punch. He now leaves boxing a wealthy man, but has left us with little in the way of positive memories. If the motivation for professional boxers is glory, David Haye continues to seek it, whilst Audley never even found it.
After Audley was dumped from his BBC contract, I asked a former Muay Thai world champion why Harrison had failed to translate his obvious gifts into professional success. His answer? "You can't give people heart". Perhaps it remains the case that it is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog?
Not many good news stories come out of Afghanistan, but here is one.
The Afghan cricket team has gone from being ranked 81st in the world to 13th, and now regularly competes against what might be called the 'division two' sides in world cricket - the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. Out of the Ashes is a 90 minute film telling their story, which you can see this evening at the ICA in London, and across the country in November.
Details of where and when are here.
London's 2012 bid relied in part on London's reputation as a multi-cultural city, and the need to regenerate some of our poorest areas. And London's poorest borough is Tower Hamlets, a mere javelin throw from the Olympic Village in Stratford. As the East London Advertiser states in its current issue:
"The decision to reroute the marathon out of east London means Tower Hamlets is now ironically an 'Olympic host borough' without a single event to host. Back in 2005 when Britain jumped for joy after beating Paris to host the 2012 Olympics, Tower Hamlets was set to hold three major events - the basketball, the walking race and the marathon.
But over the last five years the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has slowly chipped away the borough's involvement"
Until it is zero. Zilch. A big fat nothing.
If Tower Hamlets is no longer good enough to host any Olympic event, can we assume that Tower Hamlets council tax payers will not be required to fund any part of the Olympics? And that any money that has already gone towards the Olympics will be returned?
The board of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games can be seen here. It is the usual mixture of the 'great and the good' - former athletes, an under employed royal, businessmen, council leaders and even the chairman of the board of trustees of Tower Hamlets famous East London Mosque, Dr Muhammad Bari. If he is not able to bat for the East End on this Committee, what is he doing there?
Such individuals probably do not visit Tower Hamlets very often. When and if they do, lets hope people tell them loudly, and very clearly, what they think of them.
"It's sad when I see what has happened to Oldham over the last few years. It has always been an area with a lot of different nationalities and that has never been an issue for me. I am upset about the way the kids are going now and what motivation they have got. No one seems to want to tolerate the other races any more, which is a real shame. We just got on with our own thing and race was never really a problem."
Those of us signed to Lancashire County Cricket Club's email service have this morning received some unwelcome junk mail.
It seems our friends at Manchester City cannot sell their tickets for tonights Europa League match against Juventus, and City have taken to buying up access to other organisations email lists to try and stimulate interest. For a 'big' club, City seem to do a lot of small things...........
Impossible as it may seem, some good news ahead of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
No longer will English medalists have to sit through dirgeful tributes to an elderly German on the winners podium. For the first time English athletes will have Jerusalem played at the medals ceremony, rather than God Save The Queen.
Lets hope it does not bring the house down.............
The Pope's visit seems to be encouraging political reactionaries in Scotland.
Emboldened by Ratzinger's impending tour is the Scottish composer James Macmillan, who is appalled at the political stances he sees on the terraces at Celtic Park. He wants to sweep out what he sees as leftist and terrorist sympathisers, and see the club return to its Catholic roots.
It is not very often this blog has praised the Morning Star, but todays issue manages to include not just one but two sporting articles of interest.
John Wight uses the recent appearance of former World Middleweight champion James Toney in a mixed martial arts fight against Randy Couture, to argue that boxing needs an age cap to keep washed out, flabby fighters such as Toney from reappearing in the sport. I actually think he is wrong about this - fighters such as Bernard Hopkins and Evander Holyfield are plainly still fit enough to box professionally, despite being well into their 40s - but Wight does write with knowledge and precision.
Secondly Jon Gemmell considers the apparent corruption of Pakistani cricket, as a mere extension of the broader corruption in Pakistani society. When you have a President who is known as 'Mister Ten Percent' and a country where tax collection has proved an impossibility, sport cannot be unaffected. Again there is more that could be said here. The UK media lapped up the pose of Benazir Bhutto as a fighter for democracy, ignoring both her previous record in office, and her own private zoo admidst one of the poorest countries on earth. Why then should her widower raise standards in office?
Gemmell fails to consider the Islamification of Pakistani cricket, and the destabilising influence religion has at times had in the Pakistan dressing room. This has even extended to the Pakistan Cricket Board, who at one point, according to Imran Khan's memoirs, was headed by a man who did not actually like cricket, on the basis that it distracted people from study of the Qu'ran!
Gemmell's closing words however, deserve careful consideration:
"Corruption has to be erased, but as cricket is generally reflective of the society in which it is played, it will take more than a few lectures from well-paid commentators and finger-wagging from the ICC."
This evenings European Championship qualifiers will see a new look France take on Belarus in Group D.
Spare a thought though for those still trying to shift French World Cup merchandise after the only campaign that was actually worse than England's! I spotted these France South Africa 2010 baseball caps in Blackpool on Tuesday, a bargain apparently at £4.50.
I suspect they may well remain unsold for some time.......
Sunday was spent watching Lancashire defeat Glamorgan at Colwyn Bay in a 40 over match.
Colwyn Bay Cricket Club is a great example of cricket at grassroots level. Spectators could sit close to the boundary rope, there were rows of garden chairs rather than a fancy stand, and the club runs on the efforts of its supporters as much as any giant business plan. In what other sport can spectators still come onto the pitch during a break in play and actually have a go themselves?
Arriving early we were able to watch Lancashire's players enjoying a game of touch rugby (purists will be delighted to know it seemed to be a rugby league version) before Peter Moores put some through fielding practice. Moores is yet to take Lancashire to the heights he took Sussex, and had an indifferent time with England, yet his attention to deal and commitment clearly remain. In time, Lancashire will make real progress.
On the day, Glamorgan were poor, falling to 29-5 at one point. Lancashire's Saj Mahmood appears to be stuck in the rather uncomfortable position of being a notch above many of the players at this level, yet being left out of an England side that is sitting comfortably without him. As Lancashire costed to an eight wicket victory, the sun continued to shine. A perfect day - which cost me just £5. I almost feel guilty.
If you hear a roar anywhere this morning, it will be the noise of people laughing at the Premier League.
Having recently amended their 'fit and proper person' rules for owning a Premier League club, it now appears the consortium looking to buy Liverpool FC, is actually run by the government with the worst human rights record in the entire world.
That's progress for you!
Next week: The Taliban ask the Premier League for clarification that Tottenham's Yid Army is nothing to do with Mossad, before buying White Hart Lane lock stock and barrel.
The eagle eyed amongst you may have spotted my letter in yesterday's Evening Standard, although given its brevity it would have been easy to miss.
Here's what the Standard published:
Third behind Russia and France in the European Athletics Championships: what hope have we of reaching fourth in the world at the Olympics?
Here's the rather longer original:
The pictures below are of 77 Eastway, Hackney E9. If you were to stand on the western edge of the multi-storey car park that is currently being constructed at the Olympic site, you would just about be able to see this:
You can even peek into what was once the living room and see this:
For those driving into Hackney from the A12, Eastway is one of the first streets you see, having viewed the emerging Olympic stadium site only moments earlier.
77 Eastway has been derelict for as long as I can remember. It could of course be someone's home - perhaps for one of the many local families who wait to be housed in the area, and cannot afford the exorbitant mortgages the private sector inflicts. As Hackney changes by the day in the run to the 2012 Olympics, 77 Eastway serves as a reminder that some things don't change - at all.
Flicking through the weekend papers and the current spate of articles concerning the London Olympics, there seems to be an air of both expectation and success.
Talk of record medal hauls and golds galore indicate that few if any lessons have been learned from England's World Cup flop, and the failure of the 'golden generation'. Perhaps a more realistic assessment may emerge from the European Athletics Championships, which not only features most of the 'proper' Olympic sports (I struggle to count sailing and Taekwondo as genuine Olympic disciplines, to name just two) but starts two years to the day that the Olympics will begin.
I have a liking for the throwing events (discus, javelin and shot put) where it has to be said Great Britain is now rather weak. Indeed our best known coach, Geoff Capes, has faced a series of drugs accusations regarding his athletes. For the record, the women's shot put final is this evening at 6.35pm, and the men's on Saturday at 5.30pm. BBC2 has the most live coverage.
Proletarian fans of horse racing were left disappointed yesterday at the performance of Workforce in the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
The derby winner, heavily backed and tipped by Freedom Press in the current Anarchist fortnightly, finished a woeful sixth from seven runners. I am reliably informed that a somewhat sheepish editor of Freedom was spotted on the eastbound platform at Ascot station yesterday evening. Hopefully the book shop profits were still in his possession.........
From a fascinating piece on Mike Tyson's visit to Peterborough(!) in Saturday's Telegraph:
"It was a crime street when I grew up there but when I went back, there were white folks living there. It was smart. It was like my whole life there was a lie".
This question is likely to be a recurring one, so get the answer lodged in your brain sooner rather than later.
Who was the only unbeaten team at the 2010 World Cup?
Step forward the all whites - New Zealand. Congratulations to the Kiwis for showing just how far effort, organisation and commitment can take you.