New Zealand celebrate their victory
(Picture from Facebook)
I like my boxing, especially meaningful fights. Fitting that bill handsomely was the world super-middleweight title contest between Carl Froch and George Groves.
(Picture from Wikipedia)
This was always going to be a belter (excusing the pun) especially after the build-up; no holds barred, no love lost. And it was the same afterwards following referee Howard Foster’s controversial decision to stop the contest in the ninth round with challenger Groves ahead on most people’s cards. Some said Forster was premature in stepping in as IBF and WBA champion Froch unleashed a series of blows on the challenger. Not so Froch, who reckoned Forster had saved Groves’ career; not so the British Boxing Board of Control, who subsequently backed the man in the middle.
I didn’t have a problem with the decision. Forster had a split second to react, all it takes for untold damage to be done to any fighter. I’d much rather be talking next time about the various acronyms who control boxing and who sponsor these titles and belts than the one mentioned when some boxers careers have been ended prematurely. Like RIP …
The mantra of playing till the end could have been made for the rugby players of New Zealand. The day after their Rugby League stars held on to their world crown by beating England 20-18 in the final minute of their World Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Heartbreaking for the English, matched on Sunday when their Irish Union counterparts were beaten 24-22, Ryan Crotty’s try well after the 80 minutes had expired tying the contest, Aaron Cruden kicking the clinching conversion, given a second attempt thanks to some overly-keen Irishmen encroaching. That denied the Irish their first win over the All Blacks in 109 years of trying, losing 26 of 27 previous encounters, a draw in 1973 at Lansdowne Road their only ‘success.’
Cruden’s kick did however mean the world champions ended 2013 with a perfect 14 wins from 14 starts. If you want to see the difference between a good team and a great team, watch a re-run of this game – after the clock had gone red. Playing to the end, and beyond …
After England’s capitulation in the First Test those wondering what’s they’d have to write about with the match finishing a day early quickly got their answer.
Returned home from the Ashes Tour
(Pic: Public Domain)
On the back of a going over with the ball by bowler Mitchell Johnson, and verbally by David Warner, England’s Jonathan Trott leaves the Ashes tour of Australia because of a long-standing stress-related condition. Warner’s comments about Trott (“the way that Trotty got out today was pretty poor and weak”) meet with disapproval from England captain Alastair Cook who branded the Aussie opener “disrespectful” while former Australian skipper Steve Waugh said Warner had “crossed the line.”
Meanwhile current Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined 20 per cent of his match fee for telling James Anderson “to expect a broken arm,” his comments picked up on a stump microphone.
Sledging – the verbal bating that goes on during matches – is nothing new. I doubt even if this was the most serious example of it in Australia-England battles, and neither do I believe the Australians are entirely at fault. Was Anderson and Stuart Broad inviting various Aussie batsmen around for cucumber sandwiches and tea when they dismissed them or beat the outside edge? Oh, they were!
Trott’s departure has put another slant on sledging and there is obvious concern about the matter now going by the comments from Australian pace bowler Peter Siddle about sledging.
“It’s just natural. It wasn’t any different to normal. If it hadn’t of been on the mic a lot people would not have said so much about it. The most disappointing thing is that it actually came up (on the broadcast). It’s not meant to at that time and it is very stiff for Michael (Clarke). There was a lot of other stuff going on and James Anderson was in the thick of it and a culprit for it all happening. Anderson brought it on himself. So fair’s fair.”
Good to end on a conciliatory note …
The shortlist for BBC’s Sports Personality of The Year is announced with winner Andy Murray joined by those making up the numbers, namely athletes Mo Farah, Christine Ohuruogu and Hannah Cockroft, cyclist Chris Froome, golfer Justin Rose, Sir Ben Ainslie from the world of sailing, jump racing legend AP McCoy, British Lions star cricketer Leigh Halfpenny and Ian Bell, the England cricketer.
They, beyond anyone else, met the criteria set which were: to reflect UK sporting achievements on the national and/or international stage; represent the breadth and depth of UK sports, and; take into account ‘impact’ over and beyond the sport or sporting achievement in question. Adjudicating on who best met those criteria were BBC representatives Barbara Slater (director of BBC Sport); Philip Bernie (head of TV sport); Carl Doran (executive editor of Sports Personality of the Year) and Mark Pougatch who occasionally pops up on other TV channels but was on this occasion the voice of Radio 5 Live.
The opinions of the written press were gleaned from Alison Kervin, Adam Sills and Dominic Hart, respective sports editors from The Mail on Sunday, The Mirror and The Telegraph, with former nominees Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson, Dame Kelly Holmes and Marcus Trescothick accompanied by Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, former SPoTY host Sue Barker.
And between them, they decided that neither Carl Froch nor Ronnie O’Sullivan, world champions in boxing and snooker respectively, were worthy of consideration. I’m so glad I don’t know as much about sport as that esteemed panel …
I’m working my way through the Scottish independence Referendum White Paper. I thought I’d better read it first before deciding who was going to get one for Christmas. But finally, I’ve reached the ‘Sport’ heading. And what an interesting Q & A it is.
218. Will Scotland have its own Olympics and Paralympics teams? Yes. Scotland currently meets all of the qualifying requirements of the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees (IOC), other than being an independent state. Arrangements will be put in place to ensure that Scottish athletes were able to compete in Rio 2016 by attending any necessary qualifying events in the lead up to Rio 2016. This work would be undertaken in parallel to the wider governance arrangements required for Olympic and Paralympic accreditation, establishing Scottish Olympic and Paralympic Committees and transferring functions currently undertaken at UK level. It is only through independence that Scotland can have its own teams for the next Olympics and Paralympics.
The White Paper
219. Will independence affect who can play for the Scottish rugby and football teams? No. The criteria to play for Scotland at a sport are set by each world governing body (FIFA for football, IRB for rugby etc) and not by the Scottish or Westminster Governments.
220. Will Scottish football teams still be able to compete in FIFA and UEFA competitions? Yes. The Scottish Football Association (SFA) is already a member of FIFA, the world governing body for football. Likewise, the SFA is also an affiliate member of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).
221. Will an independent Scotland still be able to host the Open Golf Tournament? Yes. The Royal and Ancient are responsible for determining the venue of the Open. Scotland is the home of golf and Scottish golf clubs will continue to be part of the rota to host the Open championships. Both the 2015 and 2016 events are planned for Scotland.
222. How will an independent Scotland ensure that elite sport continues to secure appropriate levels of funding and facilities? Scotland already has a number of world class competition and training facilities. Our national agency for sport (sportscotland) has responsibility for all aspects of community and performance sport up to Commonwealth Games level. It will be for the Parliament of an independent Scotland to decide how best to generate and deploy this resource to the benefit of Scottish sport in future.
223. Would all Scottish athletes have to compete for Scotland or would they be free to represent the likes of “Team GB”? Athletes are currently free to choose which country they represent providing they meet that country’s relevant qualifying criteria. Whilst the Scottish Government hopes that all athletes who are qualified to represent Scotland will do so, this is a personal decision.
Little did I realise that sport could become so simplified when you are an independent nation, or have nothing to do with football as an industry or business in Scotland. Not sure who was asking the questions (probably the combined might of the SPoTY panel), but I couldn’t help but notice a couple of glaring omissions.
Would the British & Irish Lions become the British & Irish & Scottish Lions? When would Scotland win the football World Cup? Will snooker and elephant polo become part of the school and education curriculum?
Having read this leaflet, cover to cover, we deserve answers …
And after UEFA launch an investigation in to banners and slogans displayed by the Green Brigade during the Champions League tie against AC Milan, and the SPFL steal the idea of doing the same in relation to events at last weekend’s Aberdeen game, Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell responds with a terse statement. Lawwell claimed the incident “was nothing more than clear disrespect for the club and our supporters who now face another UEFA charge.
“There have now been a number of UEFA charges made against the club during the last three years, relating to behaviour, displays and pyrotechnics – it cannot go on any further. Let’s be very clear. Following the actions of a small minority, these charges are made against the CLUB. It is the reputation of Celtic, our great club and our great fans which is damaged, while others carry on indulging in such behaviour. Regardless of the political views people hold, football stadia, whether it is Celtic Park or anywhere else, should not be used to promote these.”
Strong words, but still only that. As everyone knows, actions speak louder than words. And Celtic’s actions up until now, namely outrage followed threats, followed by, eh, more outrage when it happens again, and more threats, scare no-one.
A good start would checking and searching people entering the ground to see if they are carrying these massive banners. I know, innovative thinking. Personally, I think the talents of the Green Brigade are being wasted here. With such a talent for words they should join the Stadium Scrabble Tour in America. I wonder who’ll be first to Google it?
In other news, Scotland fail to qualify for next year’s World Twenty20 following an eight-wicket defeat by the Netherlands. So, Scotland will stay at home again while the likes of Afghanistan and Nepal (yes, you did read that correctly), will be in action in Bangladesh in March.
I tried desperately not to be too critical. But in cricket, Scotland is going backwards. In 2005 we won the ICC Tournament staged in Ireland, and eight years on we are losing out to nations who most people don’t even know play cricket – and that’s within Afghanistan and Nepal! Questions must be asked – though please, not by the SPoTY panel or independence White Paper authors …
And a Happy Birthday to Ryan Giggs, 40-years young, still playing for Manchester United. He puts his longevity and youthfulness down to yoga. Not sure about the first bit, but I put his youthfulness down to the fact he’s successfully avoided football management …
The day ends with the shocking news of a police helicopter crashing into a Glasgow pub. Not a time for jokes, unless of course, you are golfer Steve Elkington. You may recall him from The Open at Royal Birkdale when he Tweeted; “Things about Southport England … -fat tattooed guy -fat tattooed girl -trash -ice cream stored guy -Pakistani robber guy -shit food.”
Difficult to see how anyone could surpass those insults, but Elkington did just that minutes after the helicopter came down on the Clutha Bar.
“Helicopter crashes into Scottish Pub… Locals report that no beers were spilt…”
Not surprisingly, big, brave @elkpga quickly removed the tweet, but then explained “sorry … heard it just flopped on top.” A bit like your thought process, Steve …