Tag Archives: sport

On Football

I know I don’t know much about football, but does anything more sum up the sheer degradation of the “beautiful game” than the rise and fall of Jose Mourinho?

 If you and I were to insist our colleagues call us “the Special One” we could at best expect ridicule. At worst, be shown the door for being such an arrogant dickhead.

He abuses a (female) line doctor in the foulest of terms for doing here job and trying to keep one of his players safe and gets away with it, because we can’t possibly punish one of the little tin gods of the game, can we?

When he is winning, he is indeed special. When his winning streak comes to an end, as they all do, he blames his players. He gets sacked, as they all do. Pride goes before a fall. Except he walks off with forty million quid as a reward for failure, we read. And will certainly get another massively paid job.

Try to imagine the reaction if some chief executive had screwed up so royally, and got £40 million in return. Some greedy banker? Football’s always different, isn’t it, not subject to the normal morals and rules that bind the rest of society.

Super-injunctions protecting players that can’t keep their trousers on. Mass orgies involving overpaid yobs and cheap, celebrity-obsessed trollops. Violent, racist “supporters” on the Paris Metro. A corrupt culture at the top of the international game that would make a Nigerian scam letter peddler blush.

God, I hate football.


On Wimbledon

It is Wimbledon fortnight. And I, having failed to read the calendar and think ahead, have booked time off during the second week of it.

Wimbledon has gone from, in my youth, a pleasant, sedate summer sporting event akin to the Henley Regatta to a massive annual corporate binge cum tourist attraction rivalling Glastonbury for size and general disruption and inconvenience to those who have to live there. Like me. And we don’t even win any more, if you disregard that bad-tempered Scot the other year.

(The term “Wimbledonisation” is even used to describe the process whereby the City, for example, which was once run by homegrown businesses, is now dominated by corporate behemoths from overseas. There are parallels with sport; the old City was a sedate, relaxed affair as well, probably too much so, the City today is anything but, and hugely more profitable. Sic transit.)

In the old days, I could leave school and walk to the grounds by about five pm, to be given tickets to the Centre Court by spectators who were just leaving. My school uniform, as I have written elsewhere, was so Edwardian and garish that it could be spotted by the local yahoos half a mile off.

It did, however, go down well with Americans, who would often ask me to pose for photographs before handing me a ticket. (Oh, innocent days. Don’t try this with passing schoolkids now.)

Somewhere, in yellowing albums in Des Moines, Louisville or Baton Rouge, there is a series of black and white photographs with my ten year old self peering out.

Anyway, one of the irritations of admitting you live in SW19 is being asked why you don’t rent your house out and use the proceeds for a holiday. There are specialist letting agencies who advertise, so it must happen. But I have met just two people who have done so.

The reasons are several. The school term. The fact that my house is several miles from the grounds, and too humble to be of interest to the seemingly interchangeable tennis princelings who dominate the game today.

They want five bedroom houses as close to the ground as possible, ideally with gyms, power showers and the rest. These tend to change hands at £5 million or so. The practice of letting them out may have been prevalent all those years ago, but these days, if you live in a house worth five million, you probably don’t need the hassle of moving out for a fortnight for a few thousand.

On Making Sport Less Boring

I have very little time for sport and know little about it – though a working knowledge of cricket is a useful survival mechanism in a house where the person in charge is obsessed with the game. So I have no particular argument with attempts to make cricket and football more interesting.

We learn that FIFA, the world football governing body, wants to make the goal posts higher and wider because people are becoming bored with goalless draws, especially Americans. That is, according to an apparently serious piece on R4’s Today programme.

On the same day the new boss of the England and Wales Cricket Board wants test matches to run over four days, rather than five. Again, Americans have difficulty getting their heads around matches that last five days and end in a draw.

Yes, yes, I know, the first is an April Fool. The second appears to be serious, and is on the ECB’s official website. Both seem eminently sensible to someone like me, who cannot conceive of sitting through a five-day test match and can’t see the point of watching 22 people kicking a ball around a field to no great consequence. Who cares which one is the April Fool?

On Sport

It is apparently a great year for sport, I read. We’ve just had the Ashes – I know because I share my life with a cricket fanatic. (Sorry, correction, apparently we have the Ashes every year. In my house it feels like it’s on every four months or so.) Shortly, the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Then there is the World Cup. And the Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow. Come to think of it, most years seem to be great ones for sport. Which is a pity if you find it almost all of it about as fascinating as stamp collecting. I watch a bit of cricket. I might take in some rugby. The rest leaves me cold.

I recall Seb Coe talking of the day in 2005 when we learnt London had won the Olympics, and the sense of exhilaration “we all felt”. My reaction, and that of many people’s, I believe, was, oh God, what’s that going to cost? Will London be even marginally inhabitable? And, where can we go on holiday? France, as it happened.

It was a little bit like learning London had been selected for, all right, the Philatelists’ Olympics. Very nice for such people, I am sure.  Happy for them. Until you realise we are expected to lay out £12 billion, or whatever obscene figure it eventually cost, so they can moon over their Penny Blacks.

Us non-sporties are one of the last persecuted minorities. This is because sporties don’t get it. Non-sporties can understand that some people might like to watch men in white shorts running around in a circle, or fighting over a pig’s bladder, or hitting a tiny white ball with a stick. Each to his own. We just can’t see the point.

Sporties don’t believe us. Seb genuinely thought the entire country rejoiced, and would not have believed you if you said otherwise. Sporties seem, weirdly, to love all sports, which is why there are dedicated sports channels where you can graze on, in sequence, the footie, the darts and the golf. Then the footie again. Readers, music fans, discriminate. If you like Jane Austin, you probably don’t read much James Herbert. Few Megadeath fans possess the collected works of George Formby. Most sporties don’t seem to discriminate at all.

And they simply cannot comprehend non-sporties. They think we’re lying, or being wilfully perverse. I told a colleague at the time I was not expecting to watch any of the Olympics, and she didn’t believe me. “But you’ll watch the 100 metre dash/marathon/freelance skipping, obviously?” Er, no.  I simply don’t care. Ditto the Winter Olympics, the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.

Others have suggested I must be lacking some vital part of my soul, or be quite spectacularly boring, or would prefer to torture kittens instead. (Not quite. But the implication was there. Something not right with this one.)

I dislike most sport. And I really, really hate football, one of the main factors behind the yobbification of this country over the past couple of decades, a game where only money talks, thugs rule and the rich get away with anything. A true metaphor for our society, then.