Archive for the ‘ Sports ’ Category

We don’t hate the Olympics, but… Cardiff and the World.

We were really going to try and resist this one, but given all the very forced hoopla in the Welsh media coverage regarding the theoretical importance of the Olympics ‘coming’ to Cardiff, it became difficult to resist. For weeks now we have been fed a steady diet of saturated fat based oozing of appreciation for the significance of the Cardiff based Olympic events. Hardly a day has gone by during the last five weeks where there has not been a story extolling the virtues for the city and for Wales, of several football games being played here under the shadow of five colourful rings and the silhouettes cast by ‘London2012’ bunting.

Now, comments from the likes of the chief medical officer for Wales, that the presence of the Olympics will inspire some into physical activity, probably have some merit, if you turn a blind eye to the fast food dominated corporate sponsorship. We are not going to dismiss the good time had by people coming into the city to watch the games, after all, Cardiff is a proven venue for major international sporting events, it was always going to go well. Indeed, we don’t really begrudge the football competition being in Wales, it’s nice to be involved in something that, we can hope, will have some form of legacy for the British Isles. What we don’t like is the barefaced lies spun around the handful of games to be played in Cardiff, and what they will do for the city.

Sebastian Coe heralded Cardiff as a true Olympic City on the morning of the first football games, experts told us of the way in which the football matches would raise the profile of Cardiff and Wales to a global audience, indeed BBC Wales presenters were tripping over each other to tell us that ‘yes, the eyes of the world are all on Cardiff’. But were they? Of course there was plenty of coverage from Cardiff, but how many news carriers were really going to the effort of spinning the ‘Welsh’ story in all this?

A quick look at the British newspapers this morning might give an indication of the profile boost Cardiff was receiving yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, Times and Guardian all carried front page photographs of the first fixture to be played in Cardiff yesterday. Of those, the Guardian elaborated briefly on the location of the fixture, both The Times and Telegraph decided to concentrate their analysis on the furious North Koreans (who of course were not playing in Cardiff). The Daily Express and Mail did not overlook the Olympics, but instead chose to run stories detailing the life and times of royal Zara Phillips. Meanwhile the Star had a full page spread discussing David Beckham’s role in the opening ceremony. However the Independent, Sun, and of course, the London Evening Standard all acted as if nothing had happened at all, for them the Olympics won’t even begin for another day.

Internationally, the Wall Street Journal carried no more than Nick Hornby whining about his lack of Olympic spirit, The New York Times covered the football…featuring the US women’s team, playing in Scotland, but equally failed to make mention of the fact that the game was outside of London. In France, Le Monde was unaware of any Olympic opening games. Belgium, Germany, Ireland, no sign of Cardiff on the front pages in any of those. Even in New Zealand, the other nation to be involved in the opening game in Cardiff, saw little need to put the story on their front page. We could go on, but there are a lot of national newspapers globally to cover which failed to turn over their banner headlines to ‘Cardiff’s day in history’.

The point here, is that despite the great insistence of the Olympic organisers and the BBC, the eyes of the world were not on Cardiff, and they were never going to be. This was not some great promotional opportunity for Cardiff and Wales, and it was never going to be. Cardiff is not an Olympic city, and sadly, it will never be. It helped out, briefly, while the actual Olympic city of London continues to attract the world’s attention. Go back to all those newspapers on Saturday morning, how many do you think will have front page spreads on London and its marvellous opening ceremony? If it is any short of all of them, it will be a surprise.

So, we don’t hate the Olympics, and we don’t hate them visiting Wales, but we do hate being told, so insistently, that this is a really good thing for us. It was a nice thing perhaps, a good thing in that tourism via 30-40,000 extra sports enthusiasts coming into the city is always welcome, and a positive thing if it encourages only a few Welsh children to play some sport rather than watch it on television while chowing through their Olympic branded cheeseburger. But please stop pretending, stop trying to persuade people in Wales that this will be anything more than that. The Olympics start on Friday with an opening ceremony in London, that is where the eyes of the world will be, and that is where they will remain. Most importantly, when all this is done and dusted, and the athletes and world media make their way home, it is London that will be remembered, not Cardiff, or any of the other places to have elements of the games farmed out to them.

So can we please just treat this for what it is? Giving a small proportion of games out to distant parts of the British Isles was an effort in head patting, an exercise is distracted people from the fact that the main beneficiaries of the games will be London, despite everyone in Britain having to foot the bill. Even that is not a problem, London is hosting, why shouldn’t London be the primary beneficiary?! But stop pretending otherwise. Just let us enjoy the games without all the so-forced and oh so heavy propaganda. We certainly don’t hate the Olympics, but Seb Coe and his organisational team sure make it hard not to.

We are all TeamGB…

(Warning, features strong language.)

So the sporting farce that is the British football team had its first unveiling last night, a lethargic warm down against the youth of Brazilian football. However, little attention is really falling on the 90 minutes of play, and more on the final few minutes before the kick-off, in particular the singing, or non-singing of ‘national’ anthems. Now given the controversy surrounding the formation of a British footballing team, the fears of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football federations that their existence might be threatened by such a creation, you would have thought those in charge of the team (that would be the English Football Association) might have had a degree more forethought than to select the English (yes, we know, it doubles as the ‘British’ anthem as well) national anthem for the team to sing. After all, there are so many musical alternatives which would not have the connotation of being the song of the English football team to choose from, yet, that is what they plumped for. What did they really expect the three Welsh internationals to do? One wonders if the lack of representation of players from Scotland was more to do with an expectation that any ‘problem’ players who might cause issues with the singing of certain anthems, would be removed from the equation – those good ol’ subservient Welsh will surely step in line though and bleat out the English anthem. But wait, they did not.

Now, we are all supposed to be in this together right? Unity, harmony, Britain together and all that which goes along with the Westminster propaganda machine that has been trying to pursued us that we do actually really like each other. Well, while twitter is far from the most reliable platform for gauging the mood of the nation, it’s about as valuable as those vox-pops which the BBC tend to rely on for their evidence based journalism, so shall we consider for a moment what the reasonable, rational, ‘all in it together to the last’ attitudes of the ‘British’ public were saying about the Welsh players and their ‘failure’ to sing the anthem? Here are a few examples (again, a warning here, some of these feature some very strong language).

‏@ManicMummyat40 Ryan Giggs should be ashamed of himself – sing the National Anthem! #englishandproud #olympics2012

@djmickbrown great to see giggs and bellamy not singing our national anthem..tossers..if they dont want to b part of it properly then please go home.

‏@richardgorman1 Giggs captain? Sing the nation anthem you welsh sheep shagging no mark

‏@ItsCareyBear Ryan giggs not singing the english national anthem #welshcunt

@BiHo1984 Shameful that Giggs and Bellamy weren’t singing the anthem before #GBRvBRA.. Definitely shouldn’t have invited these sheep-shaggers to play.

@Alanmc87 Giggs and bellamy not singing anthem..welsh bastards!!! Ah 1-0 Brazil

‏@BillyRTaylor Lol Giggs won’t sing the anthem, welsh cunt

@ricky_aj_hall Giggs and bellamy not singing the national anthem? Fucking die u horrible cunts! Neymar with the headband reminds me of a young ricky hall

@itisnate Giggs your captaining GB and you don’t sing the anthem you welsh twat and pearce you ugly twat you should of picked beckham #TeamGB

‏@StJakey Ryan Giggs you stupid Welsh cunt.. He shouldn’t Captain the Great Britain team if your not going to sing the Anthem! And you Bellamy #CUNTS

Now, we would be the first to say that this is just a snap shot. There were an equally large number of people celebrating the fact that the Welsh players were not singing the anthem, some sympathetic to the fact that as an English anthem as well, that it would be difficult for them to sing it, while a smaller proportion probably took the most sensible line, and suggested people just get over it. However, it is telling that, with such little prompting, that so much bile can be spilled forth, not just over individuals, but over the Welsh in general. We are sometimes criticised in Wales for being a little too sensitive about the slurs we receive, but the age old response would be to remove the word Welsh from the tweets above, and replace them with the words Black, Jewish, Indian, do that and several of last night’s tweeters would currently be receiving knocks on the door from the local constabulary. But it’s generally okay to say such stuff if it’s ‘just the Welsh’ isn’t it? (Though off course given the state of the British judicial system, it does appear that racial slurs in the football are perfectly acceptable, so maybe we are just out of touch.)

Anyway, back to topic, Giggs and Bellamy ‘disrespected’ the anthem by not singing it, yet there was no Welsh flag waved, no spitting on the soil as the Queen was mentioned, no turning backs and walking to a quiet corner while the teams lined up. There was no protest, this was just a few people choosing not to sing the anthem which represents their biggest sporting rivals. And yet, the hatred that burst through the thinly veiled surface of TeamGB unity is there for the world to see.

So perhaps, when the world comes to ‘London’ as the British Isles is being branded and the picture perfect image of a united kingdom of loyal love all Brits is poured onto the planet’s television screens, maybe we might refer back to nights like this. Nights where the true reflection of Britain, and it’s tolerance to it’s ‘regions’ comes pouring out. We are all TeamGB after all, so long as you don’t show that you are Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh.

Wales v Australia. 2 down, and a hunt for a positive.

Well, here we are. The end of the much heralded tour to Australia. I say ‘end’ in the respect that we are into that dreadful area of sporting objectives, the chance to win some pride, the series now being dead in the water. One last chance for Wales to hunt down the southern hemisphere scalp in their own backyard, but even a win next week would be shadowed by the series defeat. ‘Brave’ and ‘close’ are two words which will be tossed around in the coming days, but defeat is the one word which will underline any superlatives dragged out to make up for failure to launch of the Welsh efforts down under.

The nature of the second test defeat was largely symbolic of Welsh failings throughout the two internationals. A dreadful decision from Priestland to hand possession back to an Australian team with a minute to go. There was no need to give possession back, no sense in giving it back, just generosity, a particular kind of Welsh generosity, a generosity that says ‘if we keep this ball, we’ll win, but have another go anyway lads’. Poor decisions will haunt Wales, and from the fans perspective, frustrations with those decisions will be the marker to take home from the tour.

But here is a thought that probably won’t be snowed under in support or adulation, Wales should have won this test series. Despite the two defeats and a calamity of errors, both tests were there for Wales to win, and their own ineptitude contributed to their defeat as much as Australian commitment and skill (of which there was plenty on display). Wales would certainly not have deserved to lead the series 1-0 after their first test showing. Awful decision making, lethargic play and a general absence of pace and intent left Wales looking like an end of season touring party that had enjoyed one too many on the beach hut bar the night before, yet the sheer volume of chances that were there for Wales, missed only through poorly placed passes, a failure to look up, a fumble here and there (in short, Welsh errors, often unforced) would have been enough to win for game.

For the second test, in attack Australia vanished. Apart from a flash or two of mercurial running, there was very little coming at the Welsh try line. What was coming had been given position and space from catastrophic Welsh lineout play, and little else. This time the chances for points were taken by Wales, but the set piece collapsed. From a lineout that dominated the Six Nations, Wales have reverted to the bad old habits seen during the Henry/Hanson era – basics going badly wrong, and gift upon gift was lavished on the Australian backline as a result.

And yet, for so many crucial things going wrong so very often, Wales led the second test with a minute to go, and, had a monumentally stupid decision not been made, a victory would have been recorded. Despite the depressing long list of ‘areas to improve’, Wales still came within a whisker of turning over an Australian side away from home, something unheard of in several rugby playing generations. Now, is that a positive? Well, if it is, it’s not a very promising one. This Wales squad should have left the days of ‘brave performance – no result’ long behind them, but here they are again. And still, despite playing poorly, the result should have come. The more recent occasions where a Welsh team has gone to Australia and performed poorly, has usually resulted in a minimum 30 point hammering. Not so this time.

So let’s not sugar coat things, Wales lost. Perhaps they should have won, but they failed once more on foreign soils. But while this is disappointing, it is far from the end. Too many Welsh journalists wrote before the Welsh team flew for Oz, that this was the now or never moment. Really? With these defeats, this Welsh team will never beat a southern hemisphere team down under? I’m not so sure. There are things to improve on, lots of things, but developmentally this Welsh squad has a very long way to go. The Grand Slam was not the final product, a series defeat in Australia is not the end of the teams progression. So yes, let’s be annoyed that bad habits have crept back in and cost us a series win overseas, let’s call for changes, for trying Hook, for dropping Phillips, for bringing back Ian Evans, for not playing Warburton when the man can barely walk, and anything else you might want to add to the suggestion box entry to be posted asap to Mr Howley, but let’s not say that this is the end. Learn from this, and be better for it, that is the only way this team will improve, and let’s hope, for want of anything else, that they might start that process next week.

What is a shirt worth?

Really Cardiff City…really? For the sake of ‘tradition’, you would sacrifice how many millions of pounds worth of investment? As daft decision go, the sudden desire amongst the Cardiff City community to throw up their hands in disgust at the prospect of their ‘traditions’ being undermined, a move that could well put pay to a planned investment that would not just develop the club for the future, but preserve its very existence, is at the very least short sighted, if not completely daft.

Now, EyeOnWales tends to fight the cause for tradition more than most, usually to a fault. But one wonders where Cardiff City’s traditional values were when the club was sold out to overseas investors? One wonders where the attitude that puts tradition above all things was when their beloved Ninian Park was demolished and given over for a profitable housing development project. Let’s face it Cardiff City, you’ve sold out on plenty of the clubs ‘traditional’ qualities in recent years, what’s a shirt colour to add to the mix?

Were the shirt to change colour to appease those generous Malaysians who own, what is that they own, oh yes, the club, what exactly would change? Would Cardiff City stop being Cardiff City? Would fans upon entering the stadium next season take on the appearance of lost children in a supermarket, knowing that certain shapes and smells were familiar, but having no ideas of where to go or what to do? No, of course not, it would be the same club, wearing a different top. After all, what football club has not been selling out on their away shirts for decades already – where was the tradition when fans bought the arbitrary replica away strip with this season’s random colour selection?

It would appear Cardiff City fans have a choice, they can accept the level of investment that they otherwise would be weeping at the prospect of receiving, in exchange for a new shirt, or they can keep playing in blue until the club folds, and then what, support Swansea City is it? Or how about switching allegiance to Newport County, after all, they play in colours far closer to the shirt originally worn by the foundation club for Cardiff City – if it’s all about the colour on the shirt, then Cardiff City gave up on their ‘traditions’ some hundred years ago.

Those who flap their arms in the defence of tradition in football need a timely slap in the face and the instruction to grow up. There is no tradition left in football! The world game sold out decades ago to Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mars, then the oligarchs, the emirates, the chicken farmers and anyone else willing to spray hot liquid cash onto the faces of those who maintained their verbal allegiance to tradition, while allowing their actions to be remiss of a two penny whore desperate for their next hit.

You want to survive in the big leagues Cardiff City? Then time to face up to the reality of it – you need money, not just to succeed but to survive. Is a new shirt that much of a price to pay? It would seem so. Well, best of luck with it – a defence of tradition at Cardiff City is to be admired. We can only hope that their morals allow them to survive long enough to see all those other oh so ‘traditional’ clubs surge past them. Seeing red? For CardiffCity, it will appear that it is only the bank balance that will now reflect such colours…that is until they face one more, probably fatal winding up order from the HMRC.

*12/05/12 (As has been pointed out on twitter, this was not just about a shirt change, but a badge change as well…of course, that makes such a difference to the debate doesn’t it? *eye-role*)

Poor Sales for Olympic Football…Go Figure.

It would appear that Olympic bods are a little concerned about the state of ticket sales for their under 23 knock about football tournament. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, better known for hosting 70,000+ fans cheering on fifteen gents in red, currently looks set to welcome around a mere 15,000 people to watch the so called ‘TeamGB’ join other youth teams from around the world in a contest for the 7th most significant tournament in world football. Why then is this leg of the Olympics, part of what is usually sold as the greatest show on earth, failing to whip up the sort of fervour that competitive sporting fixtures usually invite when hosted in Cardiff city centre?

From a Welsh perspective, attention would well be drawn to the most recent press conference regarding the forthcoming tournament. Plenty has been written over the lack of a Welsh FA endorsement for the TeamGB concept, and there is little point wading through all of that once more. But if anyone wanted an insight as to why Welsh fans are not flocking to snap up their taste of the Olympics, look no further at the figures who made up the press conference panel. At one end, we have the manager of the England Women’s team, Hope Powell, next to her, occasional England Men’s team manager and former England international Stuart Pearce, and then over to the other side could be found Clive Woodward, former England rugby international and manager of the winning English Rugby World Cup squad. So, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, these are the figures spearheading your campaign, do you feel the pride in your English, English, English, oh so very English management team, well, do you? Not even an attempt of tokenism towards the non English elements of this TeamGB farce, a sentiment not helped by manager Pearce asserting that he would have no qualms selecting an all English first XI (though he stressed the same for an all Welsh XI, though that would require having enough of said nationality to put out that many players…we will wait and see on that one).

TeamGB was a pandering to England’s love of their beautiful game, and in it the authorities in London saw a chance to soften up those noisy ‘regions’ of Britain who felt they were being shafted financially in order to give London yet another advertising boost in front of the world for a few weeks. Well London, we are not buying the trade off, and we are not buying the tickets.

Couple that with the fact that the whole concept of football being played out in the Olympics is a farce in itself – remember everyone, if it’s in the Olympics, then the Olympics has to be the pinnacle of that sport’s ambition. Well, I don’t see the football World Cup being downgraded, so Cardiff and Hamden get the pleasure of hosting a second rate tournament which should not even be in the Olympics, which barely represents them, as part of a pat on the head for not making too much noise about being sold out so that the English capital can enjoy another day in the sun. Thanks London Olympic Committee, but no thanks.

TeamGB football has been a misguided concept from day 1, while dropping some events outside of London (hello London Olympic Committee, you do realise that you are shipping off parts of the Olympics to a different country yes? Was that in the French plan, to give Belgium some long distance track events?) is a nonsense. Wales will not be sold on the idea, and Wales will not be sold out for some colourful rings. Sadly, we don’t seem to have much choice about it, apart from not turning up to see any of the meaningless matches, and that, for us, will be exactly what we will do.

Oh, and when you do drop into Cardiff London Olympic Games, clean up after yourselves, London is a filthy little place – don’t treat Cardiff as if it was one of suburbs…which of course, is exactly what you are doing.

Welsh Regional Rugby: The Legends Leave

As weekends go in the RaboDirect Pro 12, this was a fairly good one for the Welsh regions. Yes the Scarlets’ unlucky draw at home to Munster put pay to their play-off hopes, but one draw and two wins (someone had to lose in the Ospreys – Dragons Welsh derby) is an above average set of results. However, as seasons ago, there has been little to shout about, with average displays overall in Europe, and only the Ospreys left to fight for the league title. With the passing of the regional season and its collective disappointments, comes a changing of the guard. Well, perhaps an exodus of the guard is a more apt description given the lack of a new guard coming into replaced the old one. Whatever description fits best, it is certainly the end of a playing era for many favoured faces from the Welsh regional scene.

Plenty of star talent is on its way out, the likes of Gethin Jenkins will be missed, but you would not bet against his return to Wales in a couple of seasons time, while the scything runs of Tommy Bowe will certainly be missed on the Ospreys wing. Beyond the stars, there are the plucky figures who found their moments to push beyond their ability. Deiniol Jones was one to punch well above his weight, while Ritchie Rees was one to fight his way to a brief ownership of the Wales No 9 shirt. Special mention should go to the hair styling’s of Maama Molitika, the likes of which will not be seen in Cardiff colours again anytime soon. That’s five mentioned, the list of those leaving Welsh rugby is much longer.

There are three figures in particular who are deserving of special mention though, as the weekends fixtures saw the curtain drawn on the Welsh playing days of three of the modern day greats, Stephen Jones, Martyn Williams and Shane Williams. Two move into retirement, one to pastures new (we imagine Stephen Jones will never actually retire – don’t bet against his boots being laced in 2015), all three have played their part in the resurrection of Welsh international rugby, all three played their roles in two Grand Slams, the first one delivered to a nation that never dared to dream that they would see such a feat again.

For Stephen Jones, the record cap holder for Wales, it will probably be his searing second half break against France that will live longest in the memory. From his own 22, Jones tore open the French defence with the sort of incisive run that so many of his critics loved to suggest he couldn’t do, yet so often did. However, in a scramble to find some classic clips, this wonderful face off between Jones and O’Gara surfaced. At EyeOnWales, we’ve always hated O’Gara and made no secret of it – and enjoying Jones giving him what-for is almost, almost as enjoyable as the Grand Slam break.

For Martyn Williams, it was probably the return out of retirement that was most memorable. The master on the floor of any rugby field, such was his importance to the Welsh cause that successive Welsh coaches would go to him cap in hand, pleading for the Ponty product to pull on the red shirt one more time. In 2008, Williams sealed the second Welsh slam with a wonder break, tip toeing through a battered French defence, but perhaps this highly unlikely clip shows off a touch of his versatility – how long until Warburton attempts one of these? (It’s not pretty, but it’s a bit of a classic.)

Then there was Shane, the little big man who made the Welsh left wing his very own. Try scoring records were made to be broken by this man. Probably the biggest hero of them all for this generation, Shane Williams highlighted once more that rugby was a game for players of any size, and we can only hope that he is indeed not the last of his kind. If he is though, those who saw him play will remember his ability and efforts with the same fondness as any effort by Gerald or JJ. There are probably too many tries to chose from really, but this one, probably not his best, but one that highlights his ability to baffle a defence – how many South Africans did he beat there, three, four, five…great stuff, a try the likes of which only man in world rugby could score.

Three legends who lit up the game, three who will long be remembered, and will be sorely missed in Welsh club colours.

Cardiff Blues – The Downward Spiral

There were some desperate sweaty palms on display in Cardiff Blues corners this week, as yet another star looked set to part ways with the crises club. The fear element for the Cardiff Blues though must be that now one of their young guns, Grand Slam winner Alex Cuthbert, looks to have packed his bag. Previously it was a case of the aging foreigners and light weight Welsh journeyman quota who seemed to be lining up to walk out of the city centre, but now the future of the Blues seems to be following the present away from the club as well.

 For Welsh rugby fans, the loss of the likes of Dan Parks, Ritchie Rees and Rhys Thomas will see few tears shed, and while Lauala is no doubt a star, he is a foreign star blocking a starting spot for a Welsh player, another departure which in itself is not an entirely bad thing. Sounds coming out of the Blues management should also have given reason to be reassured, after all, a commitment from the club to follow a ‘home grown’ path, similar to that develop by the Scarlets, should be welcomed. However, no sooner had the Blues announced such intentions, they did what they have done so well over recent years, flown in some very average foreigners.

 Campese Ma’afu, the Fijian forward to have the briefest of international careers, and star of the English second tier Robin Copeland were the names announced last week as replacements for Lions and All Black internationals… Now, the Blues as with all Welsh teams don’t really have the money to be bringing in the southern hemisphere superstars, however, in Ma’afu and Copeland, the Blues have ‘invested’ in two non Welsh qualified players, who have never shown the star capabilities to inspire young Welsh talent at the club to go on to be anything more than mediocre.

 For Alex Cuthbert, no one in Wales would blame him for leaving. This is in part an issue of money, but far from entirely. We know Cuthbert was offered a substantial figure by a Blues management desperate to appear to be doing their bit to ‘save’ Welsh talent, but for all the money put in front of him, surely Cuthbert can see that this is a club that has, in a very definitive fashion, set its stall out to be an average side, and no more. The recent on field capitulations have shown this all too clearly. Say what you will of the future, last week the Blues were fighting for a shot at a European title and a place in the Pro12 play-offs in the present…they surrendered both opportunities in such a manner that you’d be justified in asking why they turned up in the first place.

 Balancing the books is one thing, but curbing ambition is quite another. If the Blues commit to the current policy of bolstering a depleted squad with the rejects of the lower divisions of English rugby, the concept of ‘holding on’ to their Welsh stars will rapidly become irrelevant, as the Welsh stars won’t be bother bring to be held on to in the first place.

The BBC, Boat Races, and the ‘Bastard’ (if you ask the Beeb) in the River.

I forget, is it against the law in Britain to hate rowing? Well it often feels that way, especially if you rely on the BBC for any of your day to day news coverage. I’ve never fully understood the appeal. Oh the physical endeavour is impressive enough, rowing, at the sort of speeds and the distances involved is not something to be sniffed at, mores the point, professional rowers tend to be monsters and individuals best not to be taunted regarding their sport. But when it comes to a visual spectacle, well, it’s like watching long distances running – repetitive and largely incident free. Well, whatever your position might be, it’s difficult to argue with the fact that rowing is a bit of a television sporting obsession with the BBC, and as a result, it is perceived to be a television sporting obsession with the nation as well.

This could not have been illustrated better than the news coverage offered by BBC Breakfast today. Repeatedly and in increasing detail, we heard more and more about a savage, wretched little man, who dared to disrupt the great ‘British’ tradition of the ‘Boat Race’. For those who might have missed the story (and if you are British, then surely for shame, were you not watching live, and then the full race again straight after, already purchased the collector’s edition dvd complete with oar cam footage?!), this relates to a man, portrayed by the BBC as an anti-elitism protestor, who took it upon himself to have a dip in the river, coinciding with the passing of two university student filled boats. The race was suspended, restarted, during which a hapless Oxford cox ignored repeated warnings to actually steer her ship, and then crashed…

The crash is irrelevant, the man is interesting. Well, the man is not particularly interesting at all, but the television coverage the following day certainly was. Every fifteen minutes, viewers of BBC News 24 were treated to more coverage of a man’s head bobbing about in water, ducking under some oars. ‘How could this individual be so rotten as to ruin such a wonderful British past time’, the BBC seemed to be asking. After all, this was a story that put the Syrian atrocities into a state of insignificance, in the eyes of the BBC that is. Put in context, this was the equivalent of a streaker running on to the field in the Manchester football derby and the game being suspended for a short period of time…not exactly headline material, not exactly more important than national genocide, so what makes boats so special?

The obsessional enquiry betrayed the very elitism that was being contested by the lone figure who was hauled from the river. Just as with the monarchy, this ‘cream of the crop’ celebration of all things well to do that is the Oxford – Cambridge boat race, is another example of the way in which the BBC panders to its upper crust minority viewers – insisting upon its audience that this sport is something that the nation wants to watch, a nation of whom the vast majority will never be able to aspire to participate in the japery of university row boat larks that is so insistently forced upon them. We’ll get it all over again in the blasted Olympics…

So what have we learnt from all this – that the BBC is desperate to appease the most well off 5% of the country in its coverage? That’s not something that we’ve learnt, we’ve always known that. No, what we have learnt, is that a boat race is far more entertaining with a ‘head-smashed in with oar wish’ (not as catchy as death wish, but it will have to suffice) protestor than it is without, and long may this new, very British tradition continue!

Wales v France: Grand Slam Day in Photos.

An amazing day was had in Cardiff yesterday as Wales brought home a third triple crown in a generation, but what really marked the occasion was the wonderful atmosphere coming from the fans, as Welsh and French alike enjoyed the day together in the best possible spirits.

The Bretons were in full force.

Flags for sale.

Bands paraded the high street.

While bin men and bands joined in musical harmony.

The game builds up.

Injured, but not for long.

Wales on the attack.

Celebration!

The French and the stewards.

Flag flown with pride.

Welsh and French on the streets.

A late night comes to its conclusion.

 

 

 

 

Six Nations Donkey Awards: The Final Round

There it is, over and out, the Six Nations leaves us with happy hearts and sore heads – it’s been emotional. A Grand Slam of a hangover means that the final Donkey Awards for this year may not be the most coherent, but there were no shortage of candidates to raise their hands for recognition in the final reckoning of donkeydom!

1. Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda…

Ah David Denton, one of the finds of the tournament, a revelation in the Scottish back row, and a player of huge potential for the coming years. However, it seemed like Denton was in the mood to tempt fate in the build up to Scotland’s final fixture of the season, boldly stating that ‘we probably should have beaten the other team’ when discussing all of Scotland’s other fixtures. Perhaps Scotland did not always deserve to lose, but ‘should have beaten’ everyone in the tournament might have been a leap too far as well. Either way, the rugby gods stepped in to reward Denton’s protestations with a game Scotland certainly should not have won, and plump them into last place, the wooden spoon, and sitting only above Canada in the world rankings.

Donkey Score: 3

2. Huffing and puffing, yet all out of ideas.

Declan Kidney must be wondering where it all went wrong. With a game plan so elegant it could be written down in only a sentence or two – ‘have Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell on the field, then win’, how could the Irish have failed? Too harsh perhaps, but Kidney has seemed short of a tactical concept for some time now. Over reliant on the past masters, and unconcerned with a plan for replacing them, Kidney’s coaching prowess has been brought in for some serious scrutiny and one wonders after such a second half capitulation in Twickenham, how long he can continue to direct his team without a rudder.

Donkey Score: 4

3. And while we are on the Irish, the pack perhaps…

When considering Kidney’s plight, special mention must be made of the Irish front row, who were so clinically dismantled by England during the second 40 yesterday. The Irish pack are given a special mention, simply for the dramatic nature of their decline. Not so long ago, and Irish scrum was one of the most fear inducing products in international rugby, now they stand as straw men, pushed aside and spat upon by the team hurling them backwards. A true shame to see what was once an immovable object become so brittle and weak.

Donkey Score: 1

4. Slippery Steps.

It’s hard not to feel for Julien Bonnaire, a great figure of the back row for France, at the end of an illustrious career, being made to look a complete tit by Alex Cuthbert. Cuthbert’s score was a magical little creation, with a delicate step and surge of power, but look again for the despairing flop of the French No7. In an ultimately flawed attempt to stop Cuthbert, Bonnaire seemed to pivot in a manner that led to his legs going one way, his torso another, while his arms flung wildly above him in mid air. By the time he had picked himself up off of the ground, the try was scored. For quite such a daft drop to the ground:

Donkey Score: 1

5. Finally, him again…

To round things off for this week and year, we could not go a week without mentioning Alain Rolland. He’s had plenty of flak for his decision making this season, and while we might not be in the mood to contest any of his many yellow card calls yesterday, the fact that he makes them with such ease and relish, that he is so insistent upon being seen in a game, is reason enough for him to make another appearance on these pages. The game is not about you Alain, and it’s about time both you, and the IRB realised this, and let a game of rugby flow for a change!

Donkey Score: 2