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I love being a sports fan . . .

Sport

Why?

I don’t believe anything in life can replace the teachings of playing and watching sport. The romance of it, the hardships, the disappointments and the moments of elation. When you watch your favorite team, watch your country play a sport it takes on a new meaning for me. I love myself in it, in the soap opera and the journey of a game. I love every second of it.

I guess with age comes perspective and its less about winning everything and more about appreciating the winning along with the rest, because that’s life after all. Doesn’t mean I like losing, in fact I hate it but it does mean I can appreciate the lessons learned from losing more than when I was younger.

As I’m sure you know I’m a massive Manchester United fan. Today as much as ever, seventh on the log, out of the league cup and the FA Cup and in ‘crisis’. I will watch United and believe in them every time they step on to the field. I will respect their players and the leadership that guides them because building and creating a team comes with time, comes with sacrifice and comes with hardship, people forget that in the world of bought victories and instant gratification.

I just finished watching ‘The class of 92’. The movie about the team of Manchester United kids who won the youth cup and then the famous six who went on to be senior Treble Winners.

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What a time for United, what a magic experience to watch the men grow up and what a privilege to be able to watch them for 10 odd years together. I forgot how special they were, how special those moments were. When I watch them again I go cold, I get Goosebumps and I start crying. It was sport at its best. It was the romance of it at its best.

Six kids who grew up as friends playing for and basically creating one of the greatest footballing legacies born out of the tragedy and heartbreak of the Busby Babes. Its Hollywood script worthy without question, spose Becks will play himself!

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I remember those 10 days. The league then the FA Cup final then the Champions league Final in Barcelona.

I remember the moments of that campaign, the semifinal against Arsenal. Keane getting sent off, Phil Neville giving away the penalty that Schmeichel saved and Giggs coming on and carving up the Arsenal side to score, it was destiny. It was guided by a higher power.

I remember that Champions league semi when Scholes got booked and knew he would miss the final. He was my favorite player in the world. I was devastated. I remember that final, the colors of Munich, the red of United. The shield badge over their hearts. I dreamed of being on that field.

I remember watching at my parents’ house, the whole house was asleep and I was sitting on the very edge of a 10 meter l shaped couch, I couldn’t lie down, I could sit still. I remember those two goals going in and I remember that feeling of absolute elation. Imagine being on that field, that night, with six guys you had played with for the last ten years and celebrating together.

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Sport is special in ways that are inexplicable, that team was driven by a force I cannot comprehend and it was a privilege to watch it, to be in some way a part of it. To relive it through this documentary was magic, to re-experience the personalities, the players, those moments and the feelings. It makes me appreciate being a fan of the club I have been for so long.

Watch the trailer and tell me you don’t feel the same!

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The state of the Manchester United nation . . .

Sport

THIS POST WAS WRITTEN ABOUT A WEEK AGO AND CERTAINLY BEFORE THE WONDERFUL VICTORY OVER THE FAR TOO SMUG ARSENAL!

I’m not a good loser, I fucking hate it, it’s that simple but I am a pretty good winner I think. I don’t really gloat, out loud, or violently abuse the losing side, during the game yes, but once victory is sure there is something to be said about quiet enjoyment of it.

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This is why I find it so amazing that every person I know who has supported a team that has stood in Man United’s shadow for the last twenty odd years as I’ve supported them, is now smug with United’s currently transition struggles. I find it incredible that those Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and whatever relegation contenders are supporters there is some supreme delight in the currently embattled United side. I never realized just how down trodden you all were all this time.

I also find it incredible how disastrous this picture of sudden gloom has been depicted.

This is the adjustment period, it may take a season, maybe two maybe three but fans on both sides of the fence if they know anything about football will understand this. We are building the next generation of United greats, it doesn’t simply happen.

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While I can understand how the other teams fans are enjoying seeing United nowhere near the top of the log I cannot believe how pathetically the United fans are taking this period. The lack of support and faith in club that has delivered pretty much everything we have asked for 20 years must now stand and deliver or face brutal abuse? This doesn’t seem like the club and the supporters I’m part of. We are not City, Chelsea or the like that want to immediately buy success, we fight for it, we build it through sweat, hard work and years and years of practicing and pushing ourselves.  If you think this simply can be switched on or off you firstly know nothing about sport and second about building a great legacy.

I hope that the powers that be at Old Trafford are constantly giving this message to David Moyes.

As my father used to tell me this is a marathon, not a sprint. We are building for a generation, in this view the last 10 games mean less than nothing. It reminds me of the 04/05 season when United finished out of the top 3 or 4 and everyone was calling for Sit Alex’s head. It’s amazing what ‘support means nowadays.

We should be ashamed when we hear boo’s echoing around Old Trafford, this is not what we do as part of this great club.

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Can we be frustrated, angry and disappointed at results, absolutely no question. Can we debate and disagree over signings made and lost and a lack of cohesion, sure. We are supporters, that’s what we do, we argue over decisions and substitutions, we bemoan the referee and his decisions and we scream at the opposition but we never, ever at Manchester United outwardly project a negative image of our club and of our players. We are Manchester United and we stand by each other all of the way through the good and the bad and if we look at the last quarter of a century we are pretty damn lucky with what they have given us.

 

 

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We are Manchester United – for the highs & the lows!

Sport

I wrote an article a while ago at a low point in Manchester United’s rather illustrious recent history. I wrote it because I believed that a team I have watched and supported for 20 years was not playing to the clubs expectations. They were not giving what I expect players of a club like this to give, every minute of every game.

I see some fans have lumped this current period into that same genre.

I actually appreciate this hardship United is going through, don’t get me wrong I don’t like to lose, far from it. But I believe we had become fat on winnings as United fans. We had forgotten what it feels like to build and sweat and strive for each inch. We had that luxury under Sir Alex. We had the luxury of knowing that there was a maestro pulling almost every string. Those days are gone, very much gone.

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We cannot expect David Moyes to step into Sir Alex’s very well worn shoes and pick up where he left off, we cannot expect the trophy’s and the success to be as easy to come by as it has been for so long and we, most importantly, cannot expect to support our current management any less than the previous!

We would never dare, even in our darkest of times, question the leadership of Sir Alex and we have no right to do so with his hand-picked successor. David Moyes is embarking on what we hope is a career for the rest of his life with one of the biggest clubs in the world and to write him off after seven games seems like something City or Chelsea would do, it’s not what Manchester United does.

We are all in this together, we are all fighting to make this team become as great as it was under Sir Alex but it takes time and for us to be turning on each other is merely putting smiles on the faces of other premier league teams and their fans.

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Being a part of this club in any capacity comes with a responsibility, one that requires us to pull together and back each other in any time but most importantly in the tough ones. Never will this club sink to the level of so many others in professional sport that expects quick wins, bought success and harsh punishment if they don’t get it! We will never expect this because we know that kind of hollow victory doesn’t build legacy, it doesn’t build legends and it doesn’t build a club that is revered and feared in equal capacity. It has never been the way we build at Manchester United!

We are Manchester United and we stand together, you will do well to remember that every time you have the privilege of watching this club play. You can debate team selection in pubs and on couches, you can bemoan poor decisions and on field antics but you dare not give your full support each and every time it’s called upon.

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We are Manchester United and we will always be proud of who we are, what our club has become because the sweat and tears that built this club will never be dishonored by fans who do not have the courage to help pull the club out of the lows. If i believe for a moment we are not successful tdue to lowered standards and poor work ethic i will be the first person to call them out, as in the afore mentioned article, but this moment in United history is certainly not one of those times.

We are Manchester United, remember that always!

 

 

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The season to come . . .

Sport

Written this week for The Pundits

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As a United fan, I find myself in a very unfamiliar position at the start of this season. For as long as I’ve watched United, about 20 odd years, I have always felt safe in the knowledge that any preseason trading, games or tours only needed my bar room debate. I had no need for concern because Fergie had it all in hand. He was merely tweaking, testing and perfecting a formula he had been evolving over decades. But all of a sudden everything seems a little uncertain.

I’m not going to debate the merits of David Moyes(DM) as a selection because I believe he is probably the best choice for United. He could, given some luck, some support and some time, build a legacy that could follow Fergie, and I don’t dare say any one could eclipse him, but even just being comparable would be enough for most managers’ careers.

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So let’s get into it then. At the time of writing, United have played a number of preseason games without hitting anything that resembles premier league form. Combinations seem to be slow in coming back, or being made anew. Except for maybe Kagawa and Zaha, fresh from Crystal Palace, who may yet become one of United’s greats, as well as Lingard who really showed off by top scoring on tour, there has been little to show that there is improvement in this squad. Then again they did walk the league last season so massive improvement may not be needed or in fact, possible, without serious spending.

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So far, United have done nothing exciting to date in the transfer market except make a massive deal out of Wayne Rooney’s tantrums and currently trying to pry Cesc Fabregas away from Barcelona’s bench! If this falls through, United may push hard for Lewandowski from Dortmund but he has made it clear he wants to go play with Pep and the new wunderkinds at Bayern. This leaves United potentially with nothing except the child prodigy from Palace to show for a summer worth of transfers. The potential of getting a quick cheap replacement for Patrice Evra in the form of Everton’s Leighton Baines seems unlikely and unreasonably expensive, and the prospect of Mario Fellaini heading to Old Trafford, hair and all, seems even further away than when the manager first joined.

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How does the team line up? Well, De Gea has all but cemented himself in goal, even with the fans. The back four – Rafael,who despite one or two hiccups has recently come of age really well; the aging Patrice Evra; at fullback, the aged Rio; and lastly NemanjaVidic – it could be a strong and attacking back four for United. But given the length of the campaign relying on them to all stay fit, it seems a bit of a pipe dream and with Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones as cover,it doesn’t fill me with massive confidence, except for maybe the latter. Then there’s young Buttner who could potentially turn into something useful in the event of a wing back injury forcing him into the first side more often. I, unfortunately, have a feeling we will battle to keep our first choice, and some of the second healthy, and the switching combined with lack of real depth, will cause us major problems in defense leading to a very small count of clean sheets.

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In midfield, Anderson has failed to prove himself for too long now, sadly, because he really had potential or the possibility of it. Tom Cleverly is developing into a fine young player and I believe he has a magical career ahead barring injury, he and Michael Carrick will again be pivotal in the stabilization of the United midfield this season. Antonio Valencia is due another great season and with his ability he will be difficult to stop, while Nani, unlike Christiano Ronaldo, never developed the ability to finish or deliver the final ball. He, like Anderson, must either find a new club or be used exclusively as a silent mannequin on the website. Ashley Young, who showed so much promise when he arrived at United, has battled with injury and accidentally tripping on the field but I still believe he may yet add some serious lift to the United flank this season. Kagawa has slotted sensationally into midfield but the formation of playing him together with Carrick and Cleverly has yet to be perfected, if it is this season it may be magical to watch. Giggsy will be there for stability, calm and confidence in the biggest of games and just when we need it, a touch of magic he no doubt will deliver as he has done for almost 20 years. His new role as player manager, I think, is a genius move from DM keeping all of the experience; culture and presence that you never want to lose in legendary players.

Lastly, I have to mention that not being able to watch Paul Scholes hammer a perfect cross-field-torpedo pass half the length of the field directly into the striker’s full-paced path leaves me almost teary. Hopefully he will join the rest of his peers as part of the ‘United old boys coaching society’ soon. The sobering fact is that without Michael Carrick anchoring midfield we are completely rudderless let alone nearing classy, and unless we sign a really strong midfielder who can deliver defense cutting passes and a bit of stability, we will have the same uphill battle as the last few seasons.

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Up-front remains to be decided. I mean after RVP that is. So much again will rest on the Dutchman’s aging shoulders and if he keeps fit, he may just have the season of a lifetime! Danny Welbeck started to show just a slither of what he may turn into at the start of last season but since then I still class him as a non-finisher. And The Little Pea, Javier Hernandez, also doesn’t seem to be reaching the same levels he did coming off the bench or starting a few seasons ago. Then there’s Wayne Rooney who I believe, if he is happy and settled is one of the hardest working footballers with the heart of a United player, but sadly those days seem to be gone. His body, not in peak shape last season and his ego, beaten by RVPs glorious arrival, he looks likely never to wear a United shirt again. If there’s maybe just a slither of a silver lining, young Jesse Lingard, has shown on tour he could be a talent, although without some serious injury I doubt he will get much game time – perhaps a loan spell?

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Then there is of course the introduction of an entire new coaching squad. David Moyes has of course brought a whole host of back room technicians that he trusts to master their trade at United and while they all work well together, the defining thing will be how fast they can gel with the players. I am happy to see Phil Neville rejoin the club in some capacity and again the aforementioned Giggs will continue to do officially probably what he has been doing ‘unofficially’ for a few years. All of these changes, I really believe are positive and in the coming years will create a new era of United players BUT I just cannot imagine it’s possible to reshuffle the entire club and expect to pick up where we left off 11 points ahead of everyone last season.

If we look around at the rest of the preseason contenders, Chelsea look like they could win anything at this point. They are firing, they have taken to their new / old manager like a pair of worn in boxers and they have settled Super Frank back in for another season…plus they may just pinch Wayne Rooney to spearhead their attack. But as we all know from previous seasons,Chelsea coming out firing may well be a good thing because it often causes them to peak far too early. Arsenal look like their usual self and may just be doing some big business this off season but so far nothing of great substance, on the field or off. I fear there shall be another season of ‘what could have been possible’.  Spurs are in the middle of a Modric-like saga AGAIN with Real Madrid and could be selling Gareth Bale for cash, players, hookers, cars and whatever else Levy dreams up – but his influence, not only in goals, but in morale for Spurs may be too big a loss for them to compete at the top properly this season. Then there’s City. They have a new coach in the form of Manual Pellegrini and have done good, big business early to strengthen what was already a great squad. They got rid of the Tevez’s bad influence and they have a point to prove (as well as probably the coolest away kit of the year) and I fear if they keep a fit squad, Vincent Kompany who is majorly pivotal in it, they may well be the favourites for title revenge.

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Finally I think we will see very quickly what United are made of having to play Chelsea (H), Liverpool (A) and City (A) within the first six weeks of Moyes’ new tenure. All this, in-between a few champions league games. Not exactly what DM wanted to see to ease him into one of the toughest jobs in the footballing world.

Predictions, I would love to say United will repeat but I think there are just too many variable changes that will keep them off the top. I think Mourinho and Chelsea will be all kinds of class this year followed by Pellegrini’s City, who will then get the boot for not winning the Champions league, the FA Cup, the world cup, Wimbledon and any other trophy Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan knows the name of. United will come in third and reasonably close but then I think there will be a bit of a gap to, hopefully, Spurs then Arsenal.

Whatever happens it will be a phenomenal season of heart stopping moments, emotional outbursts, screaming, swearing, ref hating and player snubbing – I CAN.NOT.WAIT!

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Goodbye Sir Alex . . .

Sport

I have been delaying writing this for a while now. I guess I’ve been trying to plan it in my head since the room silencing news that Old Trafford would lose its greatest driving force in the clubs history, but until now I’ve yet to find the words, which if you know me, seems barely possible on any subject.

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I’ve followed football for more than two decades now, from a kid with a United-poster strewn bedroom to an adult living half way around the world and waking up at horrific hours of the morning to watch my team play - they are My Manchester United. I have seen United win, lose and everything in between. I have seen legends start their first game and end their last. I have seen opposition sides strengthen and weaken through decades. I have seen the game itself change along with every team in the leagues managers, kits and players. Suffice to say I have seen a lot happen in football over the last 22 years.

One thing I have never seen is a Manchester United sideline without Sir Alex Ferguson on it.

After the last home game against Swansea I battled to fight back the tears. It may sound stupid to those of you who aren’t emotionally invested in sports but to watch a man (or woman) lead a sporting team to greatness somehow resonates with me on a very deep level, but to watch someone have the hunger and passion to do it for 25 years plus is something that has been a privilege and an honor to be able to share in and something I doubt I will ever feel again.

At the start of the season I predicted glory but then again as a United supporter we have almost come to expect this. That’s the magic of Fergie. From his first interview at the club you can feel the humility, focus and the pride that drives the man. You can see in his eyes that he wasn’t in it for the glory or the money, which in todays game seems impossible, he was in it to build something great, to create and shape the future of club that would stand as a legacy never to be overshadowed.

He built this legacy day by day, year by year and not with lavish sums of money nor plain luck but with hard hard work, determination and a hunger to win that inspires me as a human being. He never took anything for granted and he never let the name and honor of Manchester United Football Club be tarnished not for a second, unlike some of our greatest historical rivals. He created and shaped the greatest players in the world, not ONE of which having left the club went on to be more successful.

Even in his final interview, on an occasion that so many people would have taken, rightly so, to bathe in their own glory he thanked everyone for helping him build the Manchester United legend that exists today and he heaped praise on players, coaching staff and fans, and with his final words he gave an instruction to the fans to support his successor. Its men like him that inspire me and moments like these that reduce me to tears.

I wont go through his countless achievements and his honor role of trophies and accolades but suffice to say he pretty much did it all and if, like we so often wish in life, time wasn’t catching up with him he probably would continue to scale even greater heights.

So Sir Alex, from an anonymous Manchester United supporter I want to thank you.

Thank you from the boy who got to admire the teams you created, whose images were stuck to his wall only to be replaced by wave after wave of players you built and created. Thank you for the moments of highs and of lows and for your unwavering commitment and dedication to the success of the club above all else. Thank you for being a leader I can ultimately be proud of in every respect and who just by sheer virtue of who you are inspires me to be better. Thank you for creating Fergie time and for allowing me to fundamentally believe nothing is ever done until it’s done. Thank you for never allowing anyone to be bigger than the club and what it represents and for never allowing any ego or actions to over shadow the honor of the club. Thank you for allowing us, the fans, to be part of something magical and historical for all these years. Thank you for it all Sir!

I hope by some slim miracle I have the honor of shaking your hand one day and looking you in the eye to deliver this thank you in person.

Goodbye Sir Alex, you will remain in our hearts and our stories always and we will forever be your Red Army!

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Time for football to deal with the rubbish!

Sport

Lets get a few things out of the way right up front because I know you are going to nag on them as you read the rest of this post.

First and most important I’m a massive Manchester United fan, I have been for a very long time. I entertain debate about players, teams, coaches and refs all the time, I love the game and I love great players, in fact some of the players I will mention below I believe are true greats of the modern game.

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Second I believe in winning, not at all costs but close. I believe in playing to the rules but playing as close to them as possible but never to the point of cheating. Above all sport should be about honor and integrity and if you cannot win with both intact then you lose with them both but you never blur the lines on this.

Lastly I don’t mind controversy. As I’ve said with my previous post on Tiger, I don’t care what the hell sportsmen do off the field, it’s not our right to judge! I don’t care Mario Balotelli parties in Ibiza with models mid-season (in fact I probably applaud it if his in field performance was as good as off it), I don’t care that Ryan Giggs had Tiger like sexual encounters and I don’t care that John Terry Slept with his teammates wife. All of these may be morally apprehensible but they are not popes or politicians, they are sportsman and the only judgment we can pass is that of their play on the field.

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Now lets get to it then.

Football as far as I’m concerned has always had some controversy, sure, but it seems that nowadays we are entering a space that I feel the integrity of the game is being compromised. Racial chants from all corners of both international and local grounds, players spitting, punching and diving, referees using the pitch as their own personal power play, it is all starting to get a bit much and I feel a few people, especially one needs to made an example of.

Luis Suarez has made it into my crosshairs more than once and for good reason too. He has shown through so many events I can barely recount from biting someone, to racial abuse of Patrice Evra (then not shaking his hand in the next game), to hand balling in the World cup (and celebrating when the penalty was missed) to, this week for Uruguay, punching a defender in the face. I won’t go into his diving, crying and wining antics because that’s a football problem not a Suarez problem.

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Through all of these things he is unapologetic and unwavering, he has not changed or corrected his behavior and it seems that the footballing authorities are either to scared or to stupid to do anything, but the bottom line is people who behave like this in sport degrade the game and its standards for everyone else!

Sure there have been some colorful characters in the past, Cantona, Maradona, Di Canio, John Terry, Joey Barton (I put him in the same category as Suarez, he should have been banned for years but he managed to run away and escape which is also not right) and the list goes on and on. The biggest difference is none of these players have had ongoing run-ins with refs, players and the rules like Suarez. Every time they stepped out of line they were punished or they learnt not to do it. Suarez like a child testing the boundaries with its parents continues to mess about and he needs to be put in his place, and soon!

The game is too precious to us all to allow people like him to continue to piss on the moral fiber that has been built for so many years. We must make an example of him, players like him and I fear that the football authorities must make the teams who employ these hooligans pay, not financially, for indiscretions that go unpunished.

I truly believe that if a few people are made harsh examples of we will be able to bring the moral compass somewhere closer to north because right now its certainly turning south and turning quickly!!

luis suarez zap sign

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We can start watching golf again . . .

Sport

So Tiger is back on the throne he built! Thank everything that’s good in the world.

Yes sure Rory gave us some moments of magic and showed the promise of the golfer he may one day become and he even gave us some great new Nike ads that made us believe we could have two messiahs, but lets be honest, golf without Tiger is boring as hell.

Now all the buzz is about Nikes new ad after Tigers weekend return to the top. There seems to be a backlash of people online today complaining about what bad taste the ad was. I’m not sure if we are still silently punishing Tiger for being a philanderer or if we just don’t think he should be winning again but have a look.

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For me its simple, I love Tiger, or at least I did until he stopped winning. I don’t care how many hookers he had dancing around his hotel room, that’s not what I watch him for. His personal life has absolutely no bearing on the way I feel about him what so ever! I watch him because he is a magical sportsman that draws me in to see him sink that long put and fist pump down the green as he reels in another major. That’s why I love Tiger.

So as you can imagine I am so happy Nike have the balls to come out right behind him and rightly so! He didn’t cheat like Lance (on his sport that is) and he didn’t shoot his girlfriend like Oscar. He had a personal issue which took him all of three years to get through and thankfully he is back.

A talent like his comes along once in a generation if we are lucky and when it does its there for all to marvel at! I hope he eclipses Sneads tour record and Jacks major record and I hope we can all go back to judging sportsman on the stuff that matters – THEIR SPORT!

Ps Its nice to see Tiger has a new Elin – hopefully this one sticks around, I’m not sure I can take another three years of Tiger-less golf!

tiger woods lindsay vaughn (1)

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The scrawny school kid who grew up to be Bryan Habana . . .

Local is / is not lekker, Sport

I had the privilege of captaining Bryan Habana at school for a while back in the days when I thought I had a career in rugby and he was then about the size of his left thigh today, so he didn’t!

I remember watching him from year to year and at some point he started putting in some serious work, bulked up over the off seasons, grew stronger, faster and really started to develop from a sneaky tiny scrumhalf to a talented, smart and agile member of the backline!

He started to make provincial youth teams and around about the same time people started saying it was because of his race, because of his father’s influence, because of a million different things other than his talent. As if he had been training for his future stardom he took this all very much in his stride, put his head down and carried on developing.

I followed his career with keen interest for obvious reasons but it never really hit me what a global superstar he had become until the 2007 World Cup. While stumbling blind drunk back to my hotel I got lost and managed to find someone to ask for directions. Once I had shown him the hotel’s name and he had pointed in the general direction he asked “Afrique du Sud?”, in my very limited French vocab I responded positively to which he burst into the boradest smile and screamed “HABANA! WOW!” that was the sum total of his English vocab. Through a haze of red wine it made me vicariously proud to have in some capacity known this kid from KES who had made such a positive impact on so many people around the world!

Today he is a household name, he is a magician on the field, he is the leading Springbok try scorer of all time, he is the highest capped Springbok of all time and he has just won his third SA Rugby Player of the year. There is certainly a case for him to be one of the all time Springbok greats.

A far cry from the young man who was accused of getting ahead because of his race.

I could not think of a more worthy representative for South African rugby. He is humble, joyful and thankful for what he has achieved and what he has got. He comes from a good close family who has and continues to support him and he without doubt deserves everything he has achieved!

Congratulations on yet another accolade Habs! You continue to make us all proud!

 

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Oscar PISSED-OFFrius should be ashamed!

Sport

We’ve all had those moments, ones when we finish a race or get off a sports field and our instant reaction is an outburst of anger and complaint, generally because we know deep down WE are to blame. This of course is never instantly understood. Fortunately for most of us this ended during our teen years (then again I’ve never competed in global competitive sports so maybe I’m out of my depth here)

The long and short of it is Oscar Pistorius, global hero and icon after this year’s able bodied Olympics, fought his way through two years of courtrooms and committees to declare that his blades give him no advantage over anyone and therefor he should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. To his absolute credit he won the fights and he won over the fans, all over the world.

After a magical appearance at the able bodied games he turned his attention to medal hunting in the Para-Olympics (where he is the ‘Usain Bolt’), he stormed through the 200m heat setting a world record in the process. Moved into the final and as he coasted ahead with 80 odd meters to go, I’m pretty sure he took his foot off the gas and tried to soak it all in. What happens next however is unscripted, a Brazilian kid called Alan Oliviera, who no on has ever heard of, burns his way down the track and pips Pistorius at the finish.

Cut to what SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED . . .

Pistorius, hands hiding his face in bitter disappointment, tears streaming down his Olympic-dream-broken-face walks over to Oliviera, hugs him and congratulates him on his win! The world celebrates an underdog triumph and a superhuman performance to take gold – all the good and gushy stuff that the Olympics is always about! They both then take the podium and emotionally accept their medals proud to have achieved all they have!

What actually happened was a disgrace, Pistorius refused to congratulate the winner, stormed off to an interview and basically blamed Oliviera’s blades for giving him an advantage (slightly ironic, no?). In his view this is the only way Oliviera could have managed to achieve this time, was to have cheated, disgraceful, disrespectful and astonishingly bad form on the global stage!

When you lose, and ESPECIALLY if you know deep down it’s your fault, you don’t look for someone or something to blame, you don’t use the closest scapegoat to whinge and whine at. That’s not what champion’s do, that’s not what role models do and that right there was the defining moment of Oscar Pistorius’ s character for me sadly.

As a hero sometimes you need to learn to accept defeat as well as you embrace victory and especially for someone who has overcome so much in their life, to see them react like that is not only horribly disappointing for me but I think marred one of the greatest Olympic underdog victories.

Congratulations to Alan Oliviera, he ran a stellar race and he deserved to have his moments of glory! He deserved to smile and be congratulated by those he defeated instead of demeaned by a spoiled child.

I can only imagine the thrill of winning an Olympic gold medal and to do so by beating a global icon must be even more rewarding, in some way to topple your personal hero must be the pinnacle of every sportsman’s dreams, no one deserves their hero to turn around and say they cheated!

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The UNITED preview . . .

Sport

Let me first say how outrageously excited I am for the new season!!

Suffice to say I think I was the first person to order the new home kit and have placed and order for the away kit!

I even went to go watch United’s C team in action in Shanghai just to warm up and to get a quick look at the new boys!

Now if you’re a football fan, settle in, this is going to be a long one! What is my view of My United this season?

So first to the big things, yes Robin Van Persie is signed sealed and you have the tracking number for his delivery. Does this transfer make me happy, in theory yes. In practice I think that its a lot of money for a guy who possibly peaked at the end of last season. He was majestic and magical last year and I just don’t think he can get close (and that’s if he somehow manages to stay injury free).

In fact I’d go as far as to say that the return of Nemanja Vidic is more important to Uniteds trophy hunt than the signing of RVP. Having said that he is tremendously talented and lets be fair we need someone to chip in with a few goals!

So up front we have Wayne Rooney, who if we are honest has not hit quite the heights everyone has hoped. He is, for me, the hardest worker in this side and embodies what it is to be a United player but as good as he gets (and he has been magnificent in recent times) his talent promises to exceed superlatives and I’m not sure we have seen that from him just yet, certainly not consistently! I think this season with RVP, as a partner, may just be that one!

Then as cover we have Danny Welbeck who seems to get better and better every year, I cant imagine he is too happy about the RVP deal, and the Little Pea who showed so much promise in his first season but since then hasn’t really fulfilled all expectations – I have no doubt he too will be back this season and show his worth.

Bebe and Macheda both wait in the wings but unless they score more goals in the mid week fixtures than RVP did last year I don’t think they will get much of a look-in, unless of course RVP gets injured, as he does. Although Bebe and Macheda (to a lesser degree) impressed on tour (more than they have before which isn’t too tough) there is plenty of cover upfront! Berbie is another stuck in the United wilderness and even though I think he is probably the most naturally talented out of ALL of them, his slightly slack sometimes lazy approach has left him, possibly unfairly, out in the cold. Where he will fit in this season? Your guess is as good as mine. Oh yes, and then there’s Michael Owen – no comment (but he was really good a decade ago!)

It almost feels like the Springbok selectors trying to choose loose forwards, two spots and a million talents! We really should have NO issues scoring goals this season, unless . . .

Midfield remains a problem! We have not managed to sign anything really of significance except for the only-just post pubescent Nick Powell. I have seen barely anything of him except him missing an absolute sitter in Shanghai so I shall reserve judgment. The other mid field purchase Shinji Kagawa looks fast, slick and focused. The Ji Sung Park version 2.0 if you will. I am very excited to see what he can do combined with some youth and experience around him.

On the wings, depending on form Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia as well as Nani can all be devastatingly good on their day and very average off it – Valencia probably has the slight edge here as he has been more consistent than the other two. Thankfully the ever green (yes I know its horribly clichéd) Ryan Giggs is sticking around for another year and his influence on the team as well as on the pitch is absolutely invaluable! He is simply a class above the rest and always has been but his ability to evolve his game to suite his aging legs has been exceptional!

In the center of midfield there are the injury prone Tom Cleverly and Anderson who started last season like Xavi and Iniesta. My bold pick of the year is that these two stay fit and hit their best hurling United clear at the top of the table come mid-season. They are, for me, two of United’s biggest talents and if they click like they did in the first few games of last season, we could be in for something stellar! I unfortunately think they will not only not be at 100% the whole season and they won’t get the game time needed to get there with players like Shinji and my all-time favorite Paul Scholes around and about.

Scholes can pass and strike a football like no man on the planet, he has a football brain designed by the gods and he can execute like a sniper, he is a true United legend and again he may have aged but as soon as he re-entered the United fold last year he assumed complete control of the midfield.

So again, on paper we should have enough talented cover to either hold and press, out right attack or defend the midfield with absolutely no problem, on paper that is!

So where do I think our Achilles heal may lie, right here in defense!

With Michael Carrick (I call him the most boring footballer in the world) having filled in for most of the pre-season tour in defense our troubles have started early this season! Like last season we may be make shifting the back four for the better part of 20 games with already Evans, Jones and Smalling all out injured and with Rio looking sort of like a pensioner with a Zimmer frame and Patrice Evra, who I have rated as one of the best fullbacks in the game over the last 5 or 6 years, seriously starting to struggle, I’m a little concerned to say the least.

I don’t even think Nemanja ‘Chuck Norris’ Vidic can hold this defense together.

If Evans and Smalling come right we should be OK as both have shown they have come a very long way over the last 18 months but I still do not feel close to as comfortable as I have with pairings like Bruce and Pallister and Rio and Vidic of a few seasons ago. Even Wes Brown and John O’Shea felt a little more stable! Jones on the other hand I think will develop into a world class defender or midfielder even, but again he needs to stay on the pitch long enough to do so.

It looks as if a lot of responsibility will be put on the young shoulders of Rafael who I hope has been whipped into shape over the pre-season. Last year he was too cocky, too rambunctious and was caught out of position making stupid decisions far too often. He is young and he must be given some time and leeway but at this level that is sadly not going to happen!

There is not much more to say about Vidic other than he is world class, his absence quite possible cost United at least one trophy last season and his reintroduction will rejuvenate the defense. He has more heart than most complete football teams and the fact that he was injured last season may just mean that he remains at United instead of being the target of big money from around the world! Even with a limping Rio they are a great defensive unit but I still believe that we will see a new United central defensive partnership emerge this year and one for the ages. I have a very funny feeling Carrick in central defense may just be a stroke of genius!

Between the sticks I feel progressively more confident with De Gea even though he looks like he stuck pubic hair to his chin. He has grown and continues to grow as a United keeper which at his young age must be seriously tough to handle. He is also being pushed a very talented Lindegaard and I think between them they will keep a solid session in goal this year, especially if we can guarantee a slightly more stable back four!

So that’s the entire team. What do I think of the season ahead, the ups and downs and the many many games to come and many trophies to be potentially won?

I think if MOST importantly this teams stays relatively injury free they will get very close to winning the league. City are of course very strong and Chelsea remain a great threat, especially because I think Torres will have a blinder season. Arsenal are never to be written off and Liverpool are a wild card under new management. I do however have a very strong feeling barring injury and without getting cocky that United may just have a monster season and win by 5 or 6 clear points!

The FA cup is always a gamble and can never be predicted, if we get to the latter rounds we should make it at least to the semis and then its anyone’s game from there. The league cup is not a priority but depending on how the season goes it may be that we start saying ‘a trophy is a trophy’. If we do though I fear there is SERIOUS cause for alarm. Again like the FA Cup but not as precious, we will try get to the later rounds and then see. With the amount of talent we have though we should have no problem getting through the early stages with a second string team.

Now the big one, the Champions League. We should make it to the quarters and then depending on the draw we will have to see. I think though we have enough experience to get through almost anyone and then the semis will be tough. If Alex stops playing the very flat defensive pattern in the CH league that i feel cost us the last few years I think with the strike power we have we will get a long way to lifting the trophy.

So all there is left to say is bring on the new season and COOOOMMMMEEE ONNNNN UNNNIIIITTEEEDDD!

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Does sport save patriotism?!

Local is / is not lekker, Sport

I haven’t been very patriotic lately. It may be the fact that I’m living so far from home that every time I smell anything resembling a braai I try and lick the air, or it could be the fact that when you are outside the snow globe you can actually see how dirty it is and it makes you sad.

Either way I haven’t been particularly kind in my writing about SA lately. The truth I think ist because I really feel sometimes there is very little to be proud of and even that seems to be slipping away quite quickly.

Enter the Olympic games . . .

Now I guess skepticism fills me during these occasions (probably more the fact that I want to pre-empt the disappointment of what I’m used to seeing from South African Olympians generally) but when I saw South Africa walk proudly into that stadium I couldn’t help but cry.

You see we are a nation that sends our men and women off with vuvuzelas! We are a nation who gets to the Olympic village and makes sure that there are enough flags for every man women and child in Britain to see!

We are a nation of fighters, we are a nation of being written off and coming back to kick Michael Phelps’s ass to the finish line!

We are a nation who are missing both legs and when they tell us we cannot compete we fight them in the board rooms and court rooms until we get our shot to compete as an equal and we make the world fall in love with us!

We are a nation of women who are mocked and ridiculed about their sexuality in every circle both nationally and internationally and we keep composed and quite because on day we will lead our nation into an Olympic arena!

We are a nation who were once told blacks and whites would never co-exist let alone rely on each others every stroke to win gold one day!

We are Chad LE Clos’s father talking about his beautiful boytjie! We let our emotions gush because we are a nationa that loves and lives passionately for each other!

We are a proud and honorable nation, one you dare not discount or disregard for we will make you eat those words one way or another! South Africa made me very proud this Olympics and very heart sore. I’m sure very few of you know what it feels like to be in a very foreign place (one where your home country actually doesn’t even exist on the map for most locals), the truth is when you know the feeling of every one back home, you know they are having a braai and a beer and cheering on our athletes whether they have no chance in hell or whether they are medal winners, those are the moments you miss the most!

South Africa made me proud these Olympics because they reminded me why I love this country so much, because it’s the under dog, because it fights and because it is eternally hopeful of itself and its people. Those traits are the ones we often forget and those are the ones that make me so proud of our nation.

Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika

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Farewell London 2012 . . .

Sport

Yes I know they are not done (and Caster still has to run her  final) but we’re sure as hell not going to spend this weekend posting about it!

So we decided its maybe important to have a little fun send off to this year’s epic games in London!

In STM style this is about the fun, the silly, the sexy and the cool (basically everything besides who won anything!)

Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Sorry and just a little touch of Michael Jackson synchro swimming to finish it all off!

 

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What are the Olympics for if not to push the bounds of human ability?

Sport

I stumbled across this video of USAIN BOLT vs 116 YEARS of the 100m and as interesting as it is, after watching this video I started thinking . . .

You see I don’t get massively excited by the Olympics generally, I guess it’s because I’m consistently underwhelmed by South Africa’s achievements over the years (yes we won a few gold’s but come on, surely we should have more of an impact!) . I mean I watch the usual opening and closing and a few other events depending on who’s in them but mainly I’m in it for the highlights.

Things like . . .

Then maybe a few funnies . . .

Or a little bit of skin . . . 

But this video really got me wondering what is so fascinating about it all. You see the Olympics are the biggest stage in the world of combined sports. It is the best place for athletes to showcase themselves and so every effort in training, nutrition, gear and technology is focused on pushing the limits here.

In short it is the pinnacle of human performance and therefor the premier event to advance human ability.

This video shows just how incredibly the performance of the 100m has improved over time. It shows that, if nothing else, whenever you hear anyone say, “They will never beat . . . “you should slap them in the face and HARD! Humans will continue to develop as they have over the last 100 years and Usain Bolt is merely one point in time of that evolution. Granted he is one majestic stride forward but one step in the process never the less.

I guess I’ve realized that the Olympics is more than the hype, the medals and the sponsors, it is our best way of ensuring that we as a species continue to move forward in at least one sphere.

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Things you never thought you would say . . .

Sport

Like, there is a legless man running in the Olympics or I got sent a press release that is actually interesting. I know I’m being a little mean (about the second one) but so seldom is it the case that I get sent something as blogger that interests me.

We normally get flooded with endless promotional crap that somehow the senders think we’ll just be happy to copy and paste in. Now sure, we love individuals sending in things to post but the mass market digital agencies or PRs – not so much.

Of course we all know Oscar is competing in the Olympics (I guess our minds have been blown so many times by this dude that its actually not massively surprising anymore!)  and now his official watch sponsor is U-BOAT. His specific watch . . . U-BOAT 53mm CLASSICO Titanium Automatic Chronograph watch ‘the Oscar of timekeepers’

I’ve seen him in a number of print ads for fragrances, Nike and a few others but let’s be honest here this dude deserves to get the metal scratches on his blades sponsored by someone. I’m not going to go into a long story about his determination and spirit but I think the most accurate (and granted clichéd) thing I could say is that he, ironically, probably embodies the epitome of an Olympian!

Here’s the times & dates he will be running (click for more details) . . .

 But these are the times you should be watching (his personal bests) . . .

  • 100m: 10.91 seconds (South Africa, April 2007)
  • 200m: 21.41 seconds (South Africa, March 2010)
  • 400m: 45.07 seconds (Italy, July 2011)

While I would rather see him wearing this . . .

I suppose this is cool in the meantime!

As a country we are proud to have Oscar Pistorius representing us at the Olympics. As a brand U-BOAT salutes their brand ambassador Oscar Pistorius Blade Runner!
The dedication and incredible fortitude against the odds has ensured Oscar a place in history. Already a Paralympic gold medalist, Pistorius’ ability has not been without controversy – initially banned from competing against able-bodied peers because many argued that his blades gave him an unfair advantage, he continued to strive toward his goal. “One of the reasons for doing the tests was proving that I’m in a sport and have the ability to run due to my own talent and hard work and sacrifices, and that was important for me. Looking back at that, I’m happy that we went through it.” Says Pistorius 
In keeping with Oscar’s spirit he has been named brand ambassador for U-BOAT watches –  Luks Group CEO Marc Hoffman, U-BOAT distributors is elated at placing the hottest time piece on Oscar’s wrist … U-BOAT understands the value of every second, which is why each watch is hand-crafted with meticulous attention to detail ensuring each time-piece is of the highest quality. Nobody is better suited to understand the brand ethos more than Oscar Pistorius who is also dedicated to making every second count both on the track and in life.
“Oscar is an inspiration to all South African’s and millions of people around the world. He is showing us all how to live beyond our limitations. Oscar encompasses strength, individuality and inner confidence. The same values that U-BOATwatches stand for. U-BOAT South Africa feels privileged to affiliate with Oscar as he pursues his dreams.”
When U-Boat paired Oscar Pistorius with their 53mm CLASSICO Titanium Automatic Chronograph watch, it was a perfect match for the athlete. With Oscar being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2012, he was a natural choice as a U-BOAT Ambassador, for U-BOAT too continues to influence watch design and style around the globe.
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United vs City and why sport is the greatest teacher of all . . .

Sport

I love sport, all kinds of sport, no matter how stupid, useless or irrelevant it may seem I love them all (well except South African cricket but that’s a whole other story). Each sport represents some kind of way for humans to excel, push themselves and achieve. It is the greatest teacher of life lessons of triumph, elation, heartache and so many more.

Tonight is one of those great moments in sport where everyone invested will be taught one of these lessons.

You see tonight, well actually at 3am my time, My Manchester United will play Manchester City in a football game that will most likely decide the destination of the Premier League trophy for another year.

The significance is special on so many levels. City have been very much in the shadow of United for decades until they were scooped up by an Abu Dhabi billionaire in his quest to play Football manager (as seems to be the trend) and they immediately used the open cheque book to buy a way to compete.

This year they may not have achieved their goals of European glory but they have certainly shown they are no longer merely Man United’s neighbors.

United on the other hand are the epitome of legacy, they have been at the top of English and sometimes world football for the past two decades and winning is not only expected but its engrained in every players brain when they pull on that shirt!

Tonight will be a great test of new spirit and its will to win and old hands trying to prove they are still on top.

Tonight out on that pitch you will see the desire to win like you seldom have the privilege of seeing and regardless of result it will be an epic clash. Either United will seal the title on the very home pitch of their biggest rivals and we will learn to celebrate and win with a level of humility or City will finally earn the chance to topple their generally patronizing neighbor and we will learn to accept pain and heartache of defeat with heads held high.

If you are a United fan the wounds will still be fresh of the last time we faced our rivals from the other side of town, home thrashings are not usually part of the United script!

I love sport for games like tonight because whichever way they go we will learn something and we will feel emotion on a level that we seldom can.

It’s always said with a clichéd snigger that ‘sport is the real winner’ but the truth is we are the ones who win, we are the ones who have the privilege of watching modern day gladiators do battle and thrive off the electrifying emotion they give us!

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