Friday, 20 November 2015

Vive La France, Vive Jonah

There's no such thing as a friendly international. It used to be the case. Nowadays they are always 'feeling out' exercises that by and large leave England supporters disarmed by futile optimism. Tuesday night at Wembley had none of that, unless you actually look at England's performance.

Two neat goals. A young side with a bit of pep about it. Dele Alli looking less of a whim and more of a winner. That was an irrelevance. The main thing was that the game was being played at all.

First of all, it's hard to imagine respect and empathy better demonstrated by a sporting crowd than the pre-match proceedings at Wembley. It was solemn, hugely dignified (not least by the French players who, reluctantly in some cases I'm sure, put on their kits and put in a shift in the most onerous of circumstances); it was not indulgent, there was a footy match to be played after all, but neither was it without passion - I belted out the Marseillaise myself from the comfort of a pub stool and I wasn't alone.

But Christ Almighty, Allah Be Praised and Atheists Shrug In Disbelief, it has been a shitty old week. Let's make that clear. So don't expect too much of the funny here.

I have always had a problem with people who say that sport and politics shouldn't mix. Well, especially in matters of international sport, they always bloody well do. Occasionally this brings out the worst in us and Sun headline writers, but often it brings out the best.

Anyone who thinks that Nelson Mandela handing Francois Pienaar the Rugby World Cup trophy in 1995 wasn't of huge political significance is an idiot. Or two black men clenching their fists on a podium, supported by a white man who only recently has had his bravery acknowledged - http://griotmag.com/en/white-man-in-that-photo/. Or the treatment of Basil D'Oliveira by the MCC.

Yes, it's a shame when the Olympic Games becomes a political football. (Sepp Blatter could make a fortune out of Political Football couldn't he? Hey, but let's not have a pop at the poor man, he's had a minor nervous breakdown and it's hard to sleep with all those rogue payments crumpling up your mattress.) But sport is political.

So similarly, but more solemnly, this harmless international fixture became a bold and emotional statement about what unites people, rather than what divides them. The tricolour on the Wembley Arch spoke volumes, as did the minute's silence while rivals came together around the centre circle.

That's what sport does - unifies, rather than separates. It's why it's so bloody infuriating that the men running it are so waist-deep in the sewage of their own corruption, and utterly unconnected from the passions of those that watch and practise it (except, possibly, in a ruthless exploitative way). If the likes of Platini and Beckenbauer, men upraised by the splendour of football and their place in it, have seen fit to grub around like hyenas in a carcass for the last five or so years I think we might as well all give up.

France of course weren't exactly at the top of their game. Conclusions need not be drawn form the result. But, what with more horrendous news from Mali today, these gatherings take on huge significance. There have been many more courageous acts in the last seven days, but nevertheless those French workers simply going back to work was impressive. Football has never seemed so important to the lives of decent citizens.

There have been other less momentous stories from the week's sport but one that should and has been properly marked is the very early death of Jonah Lomu. Me, I didn't care too much for rugby union. Not in England anyway. It was and still is the province of the posh lad at play. Its rules are murky, its occasional glimpses of wonder soon disintegrate under a pile of heaving steaming flesh, like a darting kingfisher suddenly crushed beneath collapsing cattle.

I couldn't help identifying more with the Wales team, peopled as it was by working men from grittty backgrounds. Plus they were way better than the lilywhite Englanders. But there weren't too many charismatic blokes around - Serge Blanco maybe.

Lomu blew a hole in all that partisanship. Here was a bloke who rewrote the rules. Your wingers were whip thin and swift, shimmiers and sidesteppers. Forwards were massive and slow. If your backs were fast-running streams your front five were glaciers, hard to stop but easy to catch up with..

Step forward Jonah, a wardrobe fixed with an outboard motor. Fast enough to go round you, big enough to go over you, strong enough to simply straight-arm you into the stand. And a lovely bloke. It's hard to remember quite how unbelievable he was until you look back at the clips of Lomu at the World Cup.

Occasionally there are sportsmen and women who outgrow the narrow boundaries of their sport for reasons of brilliance and sometimes outspokenness too - Muhammad Ali springs immediately to mind - or simply a certain unique genius that reinvents the sport they play. I'd suggest here is where Lomu sits, alongside current giants Federer, LeBron James, Messi, and of course Stewart Downing.

The idea that this behemoth could have been brought down so soon by an ailment he struggled with all his life makes me feel a little bit humbler. Lomu wasn't one to complain. We should celebrate him, too.

68 comments:

  1. Personal favourite rugby commentary on Jonah Lomu was from Bill McClaren.After flattening several players in his way to the try line,the commentary was "Jonah Lomu there,demonstrating that the quickest way between two points is a straight line".

    Lovely piece Robbo.

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  2. Well done, Robbo, a fitting review of a crap-atcular week. I'm not a devoted or casual follower of rugby, Union or League. I'm still trying to figure out the rules and differences with out paying attention (same with cricket). When I do read or think of rugby, I always picture Jonah Lomu in my head. I probably always will. So sad, he passed on so young. He seemed like he would have been an awesome person to have as a neighbor.

    Regards,
    ~74

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not if he turned up with his car stereo on you wouldn't!
      Bisq

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    2. Good one, Bisq. I guess it would have to depends on his music choice. There are plenty of idiots driving around here with their music turned up to ridiculous levels. Which is why I suggest investing in a hearing aide manufacturers for your future financial security. Their loss will be your gain. :-)

      Cheers,
      ~74

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  3. Just perfect Robbo, well said on all fronts, a pleasure to read.

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  4. Great Blog, Robbo, very fitting in the circumstances. Tony Underwood probably still has nightmares about Jonah bearing down on him/running over him. Viva Lomu. Viva La France.

    Spider

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  5. I agree with all of that and I'd like to mention Rooney who struck all the right notes, said exactly the right things with considerable dignity and by the way scored a cracker.

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  6. First of all I would like to say that your blog captures the thoughts and the feelings of the U.K. and is superb even by your own high standards.
    I agree with what Blogs said about Rooney and also think Beckham deserves great credit for showing how football can be a force for good with the charity match last Saturday. He is not the most eloquent of people but he is sincere.
    On Lumo I agree with Spider as I also think of him against Underwood. Lumo almost regarded him as a piece of grass when he ran over him. He epitomised rugby at that time and brought the game to higher levels.
    When sport provides such memories and inspiration then it transcends borders and proves itself better than both those who run it and those who wish to destroy a way of life. It is not as important as life and death but it does allow a statement to be made.

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  7. Great blog, I was genuinely dumbstruck on hearing about Lomu, and sadly unsurprised at the horrendous goings on in France. Just a horrible world we live in, thank goodness for the uplifting moments sport can give us ( both in participating and spectating) and of course Stewart Downings left foot!
    Bisq

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  8. Very well put, Robbo. Top form in the last two blogs, from the silly to the serious.

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  9. I've just read the article from the link you give Robbo - the story of Peter Norman the white Australian who stood in second place on the podium and supporter the athletes giving the black power salute in 1968. It's an amazing story, his resilience in the face of pressure from the racist state is an object lesson. Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed Blogs: I was just coming on here to mention what a great story that was. A forgotten great man.


      Jedi

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  10. It is Saturday's like this that makes me love the EPL. Well done (again) to Vardy who has had great supporting roles from the rest of the team. Top four looks like being a great race. Bring it on!

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  11. Good blog Robbo. I concur with your words and sentiments.

    On Platini and Beckenbauer, I am not sure the blame lies with them, rather the positions they held. No matter how pure the intentions when moving into a position of power, that office will eventually corrupt you I know of nobody who has been able to resist the effect. I am sure Blog or some other well read commenter, will be able to dredge someone up from history to disprove that. I speak only from my own knowledge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well there's er.....no you're right. Power=cuntification. The only solution is strict time limitations and any system, like FIFA s that doesn't allow for this is evil.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. Can we call Liame Diack a Coe-conspirator?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does anyone really expect a company who allegedly pays Seb Coe hundreds of thousands a year NOT to have a quiet word about the upcoming championships in Jolene? It would be odd if they didn't, I reckon. It does seem a bit odd that the head of the IAAF is (was) in the pay of a major sportswear manufacturer in the first place.

      Rastafairy

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  13. I think this is a story that could run and run.

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  14. they could be coe-lame ducks in a couple of weeks. They might be for the high jump.

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  15. Only if there aren't any Russians competing or only Lance Armstrong or Superman would have a chance otherwise.

    You know maybe Lance wasn't a drug cheat and is Clark Kent or Captain America in disguise. Bet Tom Cruise could win the TDF without cheating though as that bloke is as fit as the proverbial fiddle although what makes a fiddle fitter than a violin I'm not sure

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    Replies
    1. Tom Cruise could maybe win except I hear that Kim Jong-un is entering this year and he reckons he can do the whole thing in 9 hours 23 mins, non-stop.

      Rasta-Jong-il

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  16. Being Scottish and European football don't mix, back to the day job.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Apparently some bloke called Vardy scores today. Anybody out there heard of him? Seriously what a legend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes - you can see in him a bright blue flame of anger. Aged 16 he was dropped by Shaeffield Wednesday for being "too small". Whoever took that decision should be publicly shamed. Unlike lots of other top talents he survived it and Leicester are the beneficiaries

      Compare him with Rooney, rebranded now as national treasure, he's lost his anger and it's taken the edge of his game. Maybe ten years of fame and heroisim is enough for anyone. The Greeks after ten years beseiging Troy thought fuck this. Achilles' Achilles heal was his er heel but with Rooney its pies and grannies. Maybe a better comparison would be the gambling brothel keeper Wyatt Earp who was a lawman for about the same time but had a great biographer after the OK Corral. Time to get out of Tombstone, Wayne before Coleen meets a gambler from Tucson. Great player but compare the flame that burns with Vardy who's a similar age but you'd think was ten years younger. What Im trying to say is I always wanted to be as good as Rooney and now I am.

      Delete
    2. Congrats to Vardy. So now he's a Batistuta. Hope he can be as lethal in the national team.

      As for Rooney, I suppose all those anger management therapy worked so well it cost him his fire on the pitch. Now is the time for the club's pyschiatrists and psychologists to get him angry again, permanently. Like The Hulk.

      Delete
  18. Koast FM has on a Saturday 10am ~ 2pm – Madness & Mayhem with Robbo, The G Man & Dave

    Is this our Robbo or an imposter?

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  19. Hey Robbo, my lot are playing your lot in the League Cup QF tonight - any thoughts? If we play like we did in the first half on Saturday, you've got no hope, if we play like we did in the second half, I might as well go into hiding now!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed - and if Everton DO score very late to take the lead, keep the fans off the pitch!

      Delete
  20. I know we tend to have some fun at each other's expense from time to time (Chelsea). But I was really sorry to read about Bolton's financial condition, which might be worse than their league standing - players not paid in November! Trotts, I really hope they can get things turned around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it'll get worse before it gets better. My 40 quid offer hasn't yet been taken off the table!

      There's also a school of thought that says they don't deserve to be paid based on performances but they should find a few quid for last night's creditable draw against Brentford.

      Get through this month then put 'em all up for sale. Play the kids through the end of the season and start over in division 1 with Bill Gates in charge.

      All this of course was brought about by Freddie Shepherd luring Big Sam away with promises of Geordie riches and then selling out to Fat Mike. They both have a lot to answer for.

      Delete
  21. Gary Neville new manager of Valencia

    and the Express & Star had him nailed on for Fulham.

    Will be interesting to see how the brothers get on in Spain

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    Replies
    1. My guess is they will flop. He might be a good pundit, but being a manager is not just about technical stuff.

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    2. I don't know about that - Gary was/is assistant to Roy Hodgson, at the national team level and they were both managed by the best in business, SAF; something should have surely rubbed off on them. Let's wait and see...
      SashPie

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    3. I think Gary Neville's in a "can't lose" scenario. If he makes a go of it, he'll be managing Man U. in 5 years time, If he's sacked at the end of the season (regardless of how good or bad his record is) he'll be the next England manager.

      Spider

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  22. World Cup: Fifa to debate expanding tournament to 40 teams.

    Is there anybody left at FIFA? I thought they were all "awaiting trial."

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    Replies
    1. The debate is in FIFA code which is an established number of clangs on the water pipes between cells, one clang for "money", two for "lies" and three for "fuck the English it's our game now".

      Delete
    2. That one made me laugh out loud

      Delete
  23. I'm expecting Phil Neville to murder Gary Neville any day now. Can you imagine having a younger brother like Gary who exceeds your pathfinding exploits every fuckin time - for man u, england, in punditry, now management - to become your boss. I bet his wife is hotter as well Phil must fucking hate him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It must be like being one of the lesser musical Neville brothers from New Orleans - except Gary doesn't have the huge mole on his forehead like Aaron Neville, to balance out all his other advantages.

      Some of it might be who you hitch your wagon to - SAF vs. Moyes...

      Delete
  24. I know this isn't a political forum but Im sorry I just dont agree with the decision made in the House of Commons last night to start bombing Serie A. I hate Itlaian football as much as anyone but thats going too far.

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    Replies
    1. doube chuckle. Are you on nights?

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    2. I wasnt then but I am today.

      Bolton will be doing well to avoid administration, trots. 13 games without a win now? Vale were in a similar position 5 years ago until they found some new mug to cover the annual loss. Good old smurf.

      Delete
    3. That's what we need, someone good in the box.

      Delete
  25. Blogs you are on fire right now. As for Gary Neville I think he will do a good job there. He knows how the game should be played. My biggest concern is if the players will work hard enough, look at Newcastle and you can see the effect when players don't try.

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    Replies
    1. I think gary neville could do a good job at the bat club but we'll see next bat season. he'll be able to use his extensive spanish language skills eg

      "Agarra esos conos, Phil" ("Get those cones, Phil") or

      "Puede alguien decirle a mi hermano que necesito otra tasa de te?" ("Someone tell my brother I need another cup of tea?")

      http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/row-zed/gary-nevilles-guide-spanish-9-6940553

      Then he can join Phil in his daily morning ejaculation on the beach

      http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/row-zed/phil-neville-tries-tweet-spanish-6058111

      Delete
    2. Ok I admit I was confused about the bat comments until I saw the club badge. Does Gary have to change his name to Bruce Wayne and does that make his brother a Dick?

      Delete
    3. You can't make him something he already is!

      Spider

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  26. If Neville succeeds at Valencia, he'll be the only ex Un**ed player that played under saf to have have done so at the highest level. Most were/are shit at any level.

    I'm not sure Blog, they have as much hope stopping ISIL by bombing Serie A as they have bombing Syria or Iraq.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's not fair Bo, Beckham is doing alright in Miami. Hasn't lost a game yet.

      Delete
  27. I would mention Paul Ince. That should prove your point Bo.

    ReplyDelete
  28. No one's spent a quarter of a billion quid on a bunch of incompetent tossers since the banks were bailed out. Always nice to see United crash of course. LVG your numbers up old son. Not sure even Pep could make a good team out of that load...

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    Replies
    1. ... SAF, on the other hand ...

      Delete
  29. The team of kids showed a load of courage and desire I thought. It was one hell of a game with a roller coaster of emotions (if you wanted United to win). It wasn't boring anyway.

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  30. Will the Champs league draw be televised on Monday? From which prison?

    ReplyDelete
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