Weir’s Week: Goodbye from Gudgin and up all night with Sachin

Sachin Tendulkar – still one short <em>Picture: arunramu</em>
Sachin Tendulkar – still one short Picture: arunramu
By Stewart Weir

Saturday
The first day of the weekend, traditionally our biggest sporting day, often provides a bit of a mixed bag.

South Africa these days is a unified nation, which on a sporting stage has hosted cricket, rugby and football world cups. With memories of those events, it’s difficult to think that South Africa were, rightly, sporting pariahs at one time, banned from international sport because of their policy on segregation and apartheid.

It would have been something of a history lesson for many watching the news at the weekend to hear of the death of Basil D’Oliveira.

People talked of his Test record and his performances for Worcestershire. I best recall him for the latter, in his mid-40s, with a torn hamstring, batting with a runner in the Benson & Hedges final at Lord’s against Kent.

But all the runs, all the wickets and catches he amassed over the years would never square with his greatest achievement. For D’Oliveira unwittingly began apartheid’s demise in 1968.

While the world debated exactly what to do with South Africa, the Test and County Cricket Board selected D’Oliveira for England’s tour there. Actually, they didn’t initially.

They, for want of a better description, “bottled”. Knowing what his inclusion, as a Cape Coloured, would mean, they omitted him from their original selection, only bringing him in after injury ruled out Tom Cartwright.

The South Africans said no. England didn’t tour, although there was plenty of pressure on them from those who believed politics had no place in sport.

But England didn’t go, the world took notice, and South Africa were ostracised, becoming sporting outcasts thereafter – except when the likes of the British Lions went there in 1974 and again in 1980. But that’s another very different story…

He didn’t quite read or broadcast such stories, but sports fans – and even those who hated sport – would hang on every word uttered by Tim Gudgin.

His voice is one I’ve recognised since I first got into sport. The man who once read the racing and rugby results has, since the death of Len Martin, “decided” whose Littlewoods or fixed-odds coupons would be successful.

But Saturday saw him retire from making – and breaking – many a dream, aged just 83! Another victim of the Beeb’s switch to Salford, perhaps?

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, “Captain America” was being acknowledged for winning his 100th cap.

Defender Carlos Bocanegra’s achievement was marked by Rangers, who presented him with a silver salver. A nice gesture, even if his cap count on arriving in Scotland stood at 91.

At that rate, maybe a special medal should be stamped for ex-Gers skipper Gavin Rae…

Sunday
First mention in despatches goes to Tom Hall, editor of the Scottish Football Blog, for his “fitbablether” Blogathon which saw 24 hours, 24 posts, 16,665 words crafted and so far over £840 raised for Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup.

Let’s do it all again soon. Like tomorrow?

Perhaps not the quantity of memorable sport on the box this weekend, although that’s not strictly true. For Power Snooker, ITV4’s major sporting contribution to weekend viewing will live long in the memory.

When it comes to snooker, I am a bit of a traditionalist. I know, there are those who say snooker can be dull, boring, uninteresting. And that’s true. But that’s why Match of the Day has a final match of the day every Saturday night.

Even the best league in the world (allegedly, which is why Messi and Ronaldo play in Spain if you haven’t noticed) has the odd dud game.

When people talk about atmosphere and excitement at snooker, they might refer to the bear pit that was Goffs, once home to the Irish Masters, or to the drama of a Wembley Masters final of which there have been many over the years, or to a late-night Crucible semi-final.

No one, to my knowledge, has ever commented on the atmosphere generated by one of snooker’s bastard children, such as Power Snooker or 6 Reds (snooker’s equivalent of the Morris Ital), unless they were being paid handsomely to comment – or commentate – on proceedings, their every word over the weekend whipping me up in to a frenzy of apathy and boredom.

Power Snooker, had everything. Maybe that was it’s biggest failing.

But if you can imagine the best snooker players in the world, a commentary team ODing on caffine-boosted energy drinks and a snooker table, fused, reheated and mixed with elements of Pot Black, Countdown, Loose Women, karaoke night at your local Miners’ Welfare just before last orders, some Asbo-dodgers, and a set of rules which even had those officiating glancing at each other as if they’d been set either a Krypton Factor task or a paper on the causes of the National Socialism in Germany during the 1920s, then you have Power Snooker.

As you can tell, I’m undecided.

I thought I might have been alone. Until I saw what John Higgins, the reigning world champion (and sounding a tad like Olympic great Sir Steve Redgrave), had to say about the thing.

“If you ever see me anywhere near Power Snooker again you have my permission to shoot me,” said Higgins.

For the moment, I’ll also put him among the undecided…

Monday
David Beckham basks in the glory of helping LA Galaxy to a 1–0 win over Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup final. He will now decide on where his future may be, possibly with PSG, and in playing for Team GB in the Olympics.

Beckham’s team-mate Robbie Keane said winning the MLS Cup caps a fantastic week for him, after securing qualification for Euro 2012 with Ireland.

Keane meanwhile won’t be seeking a loan move between MLS seasons, so no short-term switch back to the club in Scotland he always wanted to play for.

Which will come as a huge disappointment to many supporters of that great club. But I’m sure Gers fans will get over it.

Tuesday
World Cup winning coach Graham Henry rules out seeking any post with England in the wake of their recent management cull.

It’s worth watching this interview with the All Blacks coach, if just to hear one of the shortest answers on record to one of the longest questions ever broadcast.

Henry lays out at length what he wants to do in the future, and the reasons why an England role doesn’t appeal to him, one being that he wanted to spend time with his grandchildren.

So he likes kids – although not all of those selected by England for the World Cup…

Wednesday
In English football you have the haves and the have nots. There is also a third category of those who have so much, they don’t really know what they have and have not. Manchester City and Chelsea fall into this category.

The latter now see their chances of qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League dependent upon not losing to Valencia in the final group game after a last-minute loss to Bayer Leverkusen.

City, meantime, are in an equally perilous state going into their final tie, having lost 2–1 to Napoli – whose president, Antonio de Laurentiis, couldn’t miss the opportunity to put the boot in a bit more.

“I think Sheikh Mansour just wanted a toy when he bought Manchester City,” De Laurentiis said. “If they don’t win something quickly, he could just go somewhere else and buy another toy.” Ouch!

Talking of buying things, City’s loss wasn’t lost on some who might use a well-known credit card for certain purchases.

Man City’s loss in 2010/11: £194.9m.

Man City’s salary budget: £174m.

Owner’s outlay: £1 billion.

Losing to Napoli: Priceless.

Thursday
Miracles do happen. American Samoa – officially ranked the worst international football team in the world – won a game for the first time in their history when they defeated Tonga 2–1.

The US protectorate had of course made the headlines a decade ago when they nearly became the Bon Accord of the international game, losing 31–0 to Australia.

“This victory would now be part of soccer history,” said coach Thomas Rongen. “Maybe we have a chance to do something special here beyond this one game. But let’s enjoy this one right now.”

Yes, let’s. Silver salver all round, I say…

Friday
There are sports fans, and then there are sports presenters. Then there are sports fans who present. And in that last category you’ll find STV’s Raman Bhardwaj.

At 4:47am this morning he tweeted: “Sachin Tendulkar misses out on getting his 100th 100. Out for 94. Gutted. :-(“. Such dedication.

Within a minute, however, 4:48 according to the Twitter clock, another cricket-loving nutter had replied saying that “he [Tendulkar] could learn a thing or several from Geoffrey Boycott…”.

I was of course referring to the Sir Geoffrey’s hundredth first-class hundred at Headingley in 1977…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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