Whether it’s because there wasn’t any meaningful football on (and I include England vs Spain in that category), but rugby union dominated many of the sporting headlines, both on and off the field.
We’ll consider onfield matters first. And there is little doubt that much in the same way as the Champions League has captured the imagination of football fans, so the Heineken Cup has done the same in rugby.
The big kick-off took place today, with Edinburgh causing a shock and a half by beating London Irish. Not to be outdone, Glasgow Warriors then defeated Bath 24 hours later. Here’s hoping they haven’t peaked too early.
Glasgow’s win was dramatic, coming in the final seconds. I still think, however, that the Cliff Hanger Award (named after a little-known Welshman) would go to Munster, who beat Northampton Saints with Ronan O’Gara’s last-gasp drop-goal.
It’s been done before, I know, but on the 40th phase! I don’t think so.
Off-field, Mike Tindall is fined £25,000 for his off-piste (or very pissed) antics during the Rugby World Cup.
It might have come as a surprise to him that he’d be in the media focus. I mean, who would be interested in a former England captain, a World Cup winner and the man who happens to be married to HM The Queen’s grand-daughter?
But rugby players – especially English ones – have been fair game for years.
I recall, some 15 years ago, Mike Catt being warned what he and his ilk could expect now that they had become professionals and won a Grand Slam or two.
The caution came from Ronnie O’Sullivan, then still just 21, who’d had his own run-ins with HM’s press.
“Wait until you come home from a night out and the camera flashes go off in your garden,” Ronnie warned. If Catt was able to live the quiet life in Bath, the same couldn’t be said for one of his England colleagues, namely Will Carling.
So Tindall should have known there would be more than just rugby lovers (or ex-lovers) keeping an eye on him.
The fine, however, seems way over the top. Rugby Football Union director Rob Andrew said Tindall’s actions “reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player and amounted to a very serious breach of the Elite Playing Squad code of conduct”.
Twenty-five grand down for attending the Mad Midget Weekender, being a bit tipsy, some cavorting, and a porky pie? God knows what the fine or punishment would have been had he actually thrown a dwarf on that night out…
There was a time when the Lombard (later Network-Q) RAC Rally dominated BBC schedules. William Woollard, Steve Lee and Tony Mason became semi-permanent on BBC2 for what was then a five-day marathon, even visiting Scotland year-on-year.
The rally still exists, not that you would know unless you were an avid petrolhead. These days, it’s called the Wales Rally GB – and if you want to see it, you’ll either need a dustbin lid on your chimney, or to live in Wales.
BBC Wales got an hour of highlights, S4C packaging up a preview and action from the four days. But unless you paid for the privilege, you’d see nowt on your TV.
For the record, Ford produced a 1–2–3, crumbs from the master’s table after Sebastien Loeb was crowned world champion for the eighth time, despite not finishing after being the innocent party in a road traffic accident which broke his Citroën.
He wasn’t alone, however, in not getting to the end, as this footage shows.
Some found it hilariously funny. But you have to ask what the hell those supposedly well-trained marshals were about allowing such carnage, and expensive carnage at that, for so long?
Or were they just upping the entertainment level to attract a crowd for next year?
Scotland’s Under-21’s score a remarkable 2–1 win over their Dutch counterparts in their European qualifier in Nijmegen.
Congratulations, hearty handshakes, praise-be and all the rest of it. But I for one ain’t getting too carried away.
Scotland has had successful youth and under-age teams in the past: 1983 in Mexico, 1989 in Scotland. But once they get all growed-up, they seem to lose something – mostly important, qualifying matches…
Not so the Irish. A decade after they last made a major tournament, the 2002 World Cup, Ireland are among the finalists for Euro 2012 after caning Estonia 5–1 on aggregate, the hard part done long before the return leg at the Aviva Stadium.
Investment (much of it private funding) in Giovanni Trapattoni finally paid dividends for the Irish. Is that something Scotland might consider? Is there a Scotsman (a) wealthy enough and (b) mad enough to invest? Of course, we don’t need to go to such lengths. We are in Craig Levein’s capable hands.
In booking their tickets to Poland and Ukraine next summer, two people in particular have justified their decision to follow their international careers on the Emerald Isle.
Scots-born Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy should be in Trapattoni’s plans next summer. Of course, there are those who will be on their high horses as regards these “traitors” swapping blue for green.
Funny though, as I said to Mike Graham on talkSport, I can’t recall too many jumping up and down when Owen Coyle, Ray Houghton, Bernie Slavin and Tommy Coyne “became” Irish. Can you?
I’ve mentioned him in dispatches before, but dear old FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made an arse of himself again, this time by claiming on CNN that “There is no racism [on the field], but maybe there is a word or gesture that is not correct. The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.”
It obvious that Mr Blatter just doesn’t get it, or isn’t able to work out, how certain groups might be offended by his take on life and the world.
I mean, it was he who said, following Cristiano Ronaldo’s move from Manchester United to Real Madrid, that “There’s too much modern slavery in transferring players or buying players here and there, and putting them somewhere.”
And when asked about that fact that homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, hosts for the 2022 World Cup, Blatter giggled: “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”
And famously, when asked about women’s football, he told SonntagsBlick: “Come on, let’s get women to play in different and more feminine garb than the men … in tighter shorts, for example. In volleyball women wear different clothes from the men. Beautiful women play football nowadays, excuse me for saying so.”
I was critical of Blatter’s words regarding the ladies, but in hindsight I might have been too quick to pass judgment.
Maybe he does have a point. Maybe the girls should strip off a bit more. And if there are any reading this who feel offended by those comments, I am more than willing to shake their hand to make things better…
He’s banned the Scottish press, but Vladimir Romanov doesn’t stay quiet, this time announcing through a Russian news agency that he could sell Hearts and purchase a theatre instead.
As I tweeted, if those were his long-term plans he should have perhaps have held on to Elvis.
Of course, given the way the current performers at Tynecastle are paid, or not, maybe it’s his intention to have them sing for their supper.
Meanwhile Rangers, who will be taking Indian players Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua on trial this month, are seeking to break into that potentially massive market by offering match coverage in Hindi.
Plans are being made to provide a Twitter feed to India’s 250 million Hindus, starting tomorrow with the SPL game against St Johnstone.
I just wonder if the fans might join in on this marketing exercise by changing the words to a few of their songs, like “We’ll guard old Delhi’s Walls…”.
Joking aside, it reminds me that a quarter of a century ago, some Indian engineers came to work in Motherwell on an exchange project, and were introduced to the delights of Easter Road and Fir Park.
First up, they travelled to Edinburgh on a Rangers supporters’ bus, and someone explained to them during the game why Hibs were being referred to as “those Paddy bastards” – commonplace then, possibly illegal now. (Although is anyone quite sure?)
In midweek, the Indians were treated to a League Cup tie by some Motherwell fans, shocking their hosts to the core when one shouted “Get in to these Paddy bastards.”
The opponents that August evening? “Patrick Thistle.”
I’ll sign off this week with a request for some support. There was an old fella sat near me at the football. He was there for the last game of the season. But he was missing for the start of this term.
From being a bright, cheery soul, he had in the space of just a matter of weeks needed to be hospitalised, so rapid was the onset of dementia.
There was not a person who knew him who wasn’t visibly shocked both at the news, but also the speed at his decline.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised. Dementia is an illness which affects the brain, causing a progressive loss of mental powers.
It is the fourth-biggest killer for women in Scotland and the ninth for men, and between 58,000 and 65,000 Scots have the disease. By 2031, more than 100,000 people in Scotland will have dementia.
Charitable support is needed, and football supporters are being asked to contribute both in terms of money and memories.
So a special mention this week goes to Tom Hall, editor of the Scottish Football Blog, who at noon on Saturday will embark upon a 24-hour blogathon, raising money for charity, especially Alzheimer Scotland.
I will be lending some supportive words to his cause – and I’d ask all who read this, or Tom’s words of wisdom, to think about lending some financial support to what is a great cause.
– Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz