The S – Word


Pacific tsunami and a City win
February 27, 2010, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Premier League, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Today has been surreal. I was woken up at about 3 in the morning, with news that a tsunami warning had been issued in Hawaii – following a devastating earthquake in Chile. The 8.8 magnitude quake triggered tsunami waves throughout much of the Pacific Ocean and, quite rightly, the warnings were taken very seriously here.

I’d gone to bed at about midnight, pretty tired after a sunset canoe paddling session, followed by a great margarita pool party (I know, it’s a hard life…). So when I woke up I actually thought I was dreaming. I went back to sleep for about 45 minutes until I was woken again. “Watch the news!” I was told.

I was glued to the news this morning, for tsunami updates

Everyone where I live was up and about – filling the cars with gas, water and food, as we’d been advised. When the air raid-like  tsunami sirens started sounding at 6am, it was pretty eerie. As a matter of fact, everything felt strange – the evacuations, emptying roads, everything closed down, panic buying at the supermarket, really weird. We drove ourselves to higher ground, parked up and spent six or seven hours watching the West Maui coast, anxious about the approaching waves, not knowing what would or could happen.

Thankfully Hawaii “dodged a bullet” – the words of tsunami expert and geophysicist Gerard Fryer. We saw some receding of water – which normally signals a wave is about to hit but nothing too damaging happened. There were sucks back and then surges along the parts of the coast that we could see, but no devastating walls of water.

What a relief! I was seriously impressed by the warnings we were given leading up to the expected time of the first wave, the evacuation procedure, everything. Hopefully nowhere else in the Pacific will be badly affected.

It seems a bit erroneous to talk about football in the same breath as earthquakes and tsunamis but if it wasn’t for the huge win that Manchester City registered against Chelsea today, I probably wouldn’t mention it.

But…I have to.

It’s rare that  I am pleased by a City win but today’s victory raised more than a smile. It was not just the manner of the defeat that pleased me (a 4-2 drubbing at Stamford Bridge with two Chelsea players sent off) but the loss on home turf also prevented Carlo Ancelotti’s men from going four points clear at the top of the Premier League.

It’s the second time this season that City have beaten Chelsea, which surely speaks volumes about the leaps they are making now that they’re, well, totally loaded. A top-four finish is looking more and more possible by the day, which takes some getting used to. City can’t actually win things can they? The fans I know from the blue half of Manchester will be howling with derision for me saying that but it’s just so hard to imagine. I mean really, silverware at Eastlands!?

Oh and  something else that I got great pleasure out of was Wayne Bridge’s refusal to shake John Terry’s hand. After the sordid philanderings I spoke about in my February 9 blog all eyes must have been on the pair and I think it was exactly the right thing for Bridge to do.

Snubbed!

I need some sleep after today’s events so that’s all for now… I’ll be back soon, hopefully after a Manchester United victory against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final.

Mahalo for reading!

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The Rebel Who Would Be King. Falling for Eric all over again…
February 23, 2010, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Biographies, Eric Cantona, Premier League | Tags: , ,

“Football, even at its most enthrallingly beautiful, or, if you prefer, ‘artistic’, is nothing but pure manifestation; it is not a response to anything other than itself; it is an unfolding. The flow of the ball is self-contained, self-referential – and unrepeatable. A perfectly executed free kick might require just as much time on the training field as a bassonist, say, will spend rehearsing the first bars of The Rite of Spring in the concert hall. But, wheras the bassoonist will be able to play the same line after time, finding new shades of tone and refining new articulations, even the greatest footballer we could dream of would fail to repeat a single one of his masterful creations. A football team is not an orchestra. You do not pit two ensembles against each other, playing two scores which are not just incompatible in terms of meter and key, but also try to nullify each other, despite the wildest experiments of avant-garde composers. The greatest of managers is not a conductor, and the footballer is not a soloist: you do not write footballs on a stave. But Eric was driven by the belief that somehow, some were given the ability to do so – Cruyff, Maradona, himself. On that evening in Wimbledon, he wasn’t very far from convincing the rest of the world he was right.”

Extract taken from Cantona – The Rebel Who Would Be King by Philippe Auclair.

Normally speaking, football biographies leave a lot to be desired. Who could forget ‘My Story so Far’ by the (then) 20 year-old Wayne Rooney, inside which the Manchester United striker revealed gems such as “I can’t get to sleep without the hoover on.” and “I usually turn up to training wearing slippers.” Hmmm. Enough said. And if only I could forget ‘My Defence’ by Ashley Cole. 246 pages of drivel in which Cole earnt himself legions of enemies. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Cole’s book. Here’s a taster…

Let me first set the scene. It’s 2005, Cole plays for Arsenal and a new contract is in the offing. The 24 year-old is driving home from training (I am hazarding a guess here but probably in a Baby Bentley or an Aston Martin Vanquish) somewhere in North London, when his agent Jonathan Barnett calls. Barnett has news from David Dein, the Arsenal vice-chairman. Cole will not be receiving his demands of 60,000 a week, no, he’ll have to settle for a measly 55,000 instead. Fifty. Thousand. Pounds. A. Week. I’ll let Ashley take it from here:

“When I heard Jonathan repeat the figure of £55,000, I nearly swerved off the road. ‘He is taking the piss Jonathan!’ I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard.”

And that snippet just about sums up the attitudes on display in most football biographies these days. But Eric’s biography is so very different. Call me biased, as my adoration for Cantona knows no bounds but seriously, SERIOUSLY this is a beautifully written book.

Cantona was a truly unique player and Cantona – The Rebel Who Would Be King is a truly unique read. Auclair writes with an elegance that I am equally envious and in awe of – his poetic prose tells the story of Eric’s career – from his early life in Marseille to ending his career at Manchester United. Eric’s involvement was zero, but this does not detract from Auclair’s meticulously researched and wonderfully crafted read. The French journalist interviewed 200 key figures from Eric’s career and must have watched hours upon hours of footage in the three years he spent writing the book.

The result is incredible and quite unlike any sports book I have come across in the past. I mean, really, name another football biography in which the writer makes reference to Velazquez, post-structuralist historians, the shirt of Nessus, Jacques Derrida and more? And also, as in the above quote, not many football biographies manage to draw parallels between the masterful creations of a footballer and the articulations of a bassoonist.

It’s just a shame that it had to end. Eric Cantona has always been my favourite player and in all probability he always will be. He was an enigma, a breath of fresh air and a huge catalyst in changing the fortunes of Manchester United. I think it’s the same for all United fans – we know that wonderful, talented players will come and go at Old Trafford, games will be won and lost, goals will be scored and they will be missed but one certainty stands head and shoulders above the rest. There will never, ever be another Eric.

“An artist, in my eyes, is someone who can lighten up a dark room. I have never and will never find difference between the pass from Pele to Carlos Alberto in the final of the World Cup in 1970, and the poetry of the young Rimbaud.”  Eric Cantona 

And, readers from the USA, if you’d like to see a bit more of Le King. Watch this:

Thanks for reading!



Soccer’s JT makes the Maui News
February 9, 2010, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Football in Hawaii, World Cup 2010 | Tags: , , ,

When I saw a column about the England captaincy running in the Maui News this week, I knew it must be a big story. Not famed for its soccer coverage, even our local paper told the tale of John Terry’s recent ‘away days’ and subsequent demotion as England captain.

For those of you not in the know – John Terry has a reputation that stretches beyond the confines of the football pitch. Like many footballers before him he has an eye for the ladies and has openly admitted to cheating on his wife, Toni Poole, at least eight times before they were married in 2007 (imagine the count of the ones he hasn’t admitted to!).

Footballers + kiss and tell stories = everyday tabloid fodder, but the column inches devoted to Terry’s latest misdemeanours are even more lurid than most.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Tugendhat, a high court judge, lifted an injunction which had been preventing details of an affair between Terry and the ex-girlfriend of his friend and England team-mate Wayne Bridge. Terry, 29, is said to have started the extra marital affair with Vanessa Perroncel, mother of Bridge’s child, while Bridge played for Chelsea and the pair were neighbours in Oxshott, Surrey.

All smiles at England training. Little did they know...

Bridge is said to be “in bits” about the affair, while Poole has  retreated to Dubai with Terry’s children – three year-old twins Georgie John and Summer Rose.

Okay, so it’s not the first time a player has had an affair and it certainly won’t be the last but seriously, of all the women to choose – why would you do it with a team-mates girlfriend? Ex or otherwise…?

I have never been Terry’s biggest fan. Perhaps as a Manchester United fan it goes with the territory, but I did meet him once, about four years ago when I interviewed him for a radio show. I actually found him to be a nice guy – very agreeable and polite – quite the opposite to what I had expected. We had an amusing conversation about the merits of horseradish sauce and yorkshire pudding (Not part of the interview, I hasten to add) and I was slightly taken aback by the woollen jumper he was wearing – it had knitted deer on it. No, seriously, it did. But I came away from it thinking he was a nice fella. That dissipated over the years, I must admit, especially whenever United faced Chelsea…

Anyway – quite rightly (in my view) Terry was stripped of the England captaincy this week. Fabio Capello, the England manager, lived up to his own reputation as a strict disciplinarian and told Terry the armband was no longer his, following a 12 minute meeting at Wembley.

Capello said: “After much thought I have made the decision that it will be best for me to take the captaincy away from John Terry.”

“As a captain with the team, Terry has displayed extremely positive behaviour. However, I have to take into account other considerations and what is best for all of the England squad. What is best for all of the England team has inspired my choice and Terry was notified first.”

Before the news of Terry’s demotion came to light I was wondering who would be a natural replacement as captain and it was quite alarming to think about how slim the pickings are.

There may be many natural leaders on the pitch – Terry, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand, even Wayne Rooney, but honestly  – when it comes to role models the cupboard is bare. Terry – see above, Gerrard – in court recently for assault, Rio – we all know about his infamous ‘missed’ drugs test, Rooney – lewd tales of aging prostitutes. I’m not even going to start on Ashley Cole…

Even David Beckham. Becks, ‘Golden Balls’ oh how we all love him and how the sponsors love him, but even he has been embroiled in kiss and tells. Perhaps unfounded allegations, but who knows…

Role model or not, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand will be our new captain, with Gerrard as deputy. Rio has done a good job as United captain, when injury doesn’t keep him on the sidelines, and hopefully he can command the national team with responsibility and vigour as they head to South Africa in June. And hopefully he can keep peace in the dressing room – it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall when Bridge and Terry next meet.

I’ll be back soon, with a look at one of the most interesting football books I have ever come across. Until then, thanks for reading!