Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Hollande reaching for the heights

September 24, 2015

From Kaspar von Erffa

French President Hollande with the captain of the French National basketball squad Sandrine Gruda


Drunken parents and nasty kids at the Swedish pony championships

September 22, 2015

The image of the Swedish pony brigade took a beating this weekend. One usually expects cute ponies, bright young kids, horse-mad girls, enthusiastic and doting parents, some real equestrian skill and much fun.

(As a kid, many, many, years and even more kilograms ago, I was pony-mad and rode regularly at the gymkhana races at the Poona Race Course).

But it wasn’t quite good, clean fun at the Swedish National Pony championships as one might have expected. The national pony races in Ljungby degenerated this weekend into a destructive “orgy” with drunken parents leading their spoilt kids into juvenile vandalism.

smålänningen:  The Ljungby Riding Club had organised the national pony championships to run from from Friday to Sunday in Sickinge. But instead of a pleasant event for children and their parents it degenerated into vandalism and police complaints.

“It all started on Saturday”, says Linnea Benjaminsson, who was one of the weekend’s functionaries. On Saturday night, she helped to rebuild the track for Sunday’s first jumping class, and already then some children were messing around in the indoor arena. When the race organisers arrived at the course early on Sunday morning, they found that the track had been sabotaged. Barriers had been shifted around and the numbers of the barriers had been jumbled.

“We left late in the evening so it must have happened during the night”, says Linnea, who thinks it is strange that parents allow their children to be out so late and horse around. Soon it was also discovered that a locker room was heavily flooded. It turned out that someone had deliberately blocked the drains in both sinks as well as in the showers and then turned the water on. “There was also a clogged toilet”, after hay bale plastic had been used to block it.

It seems many of the parents had imbibed more than a little heavily and were themselves behind some of the incidents. Some had been urinating in the dining area. These nasty little pony kids are not from deprived circumstances. The Swedish pony brigade – as in most countries – tend to be fairly well-off. And some of the kids are more than a little spoilt.

Behaviour 101. Nasty drunken parents beget nasty, destructive kids.


The natural world is overturned as the Japanese ” Cherry Blossoms” devour the S African “Springboks”

September 20, 2015

The Rugby Union World Cup is on and the natural order of the universe has been overturned. The carnivorous cherry blossoms from Japan won their first ever World Cup match since 1991 (when they beat Zimbabwe), by bringing down the mighty S African Springboks. Or maybe that should be the once-mighty Springboks.

Holland beating England in a T20 cricket world cup match last year was shocking enough but still does not come close to yesterday’s astonishing result.

The S African team are now probably suffering from PTSD.

sbnation: Japan has stunned the world with a wholly unbelievable 34-32 win over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup. Before Saturday, the Cherry Blossoms hadn’t won a World Cup game in 24 years when Japan defeated Zimbabwe in 1991. They knocked off one of the favorites to win the whole thing.

Carnivorous cherry blossoms

springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)


3 wins, 2 walkovers and the US open goes to Hingis and Paes

September 12, 2015

They had a relatively “easy” draw in that they had 2 walkovers in their 5 wins to the mixed doubles title.

Mixed doubles is the afterthought in any tennis tournament and sometimes just a consolation prize for losing out in the singles, but for Martina Hingis (35) and Leander Paes (42), the mixed doubles is “mainstream”. They have just won their 3rd grand slam title of the year with the US Open title following their wins at the Australian Open and at Wimbledon. For Paes it was his 9th mixed doubles grand slam title and the highest number for any man. Martina Navratilova has 10 md titles – and two of those were with Paes (Australian and Wimbledon in 2003). It was Paes’ 17th Grand Slam title overall and Hingis’ 19th.

The combination of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza which won Wimbledon, has also reached the finals of the ladies doubles at the US Open.

USOpenLeander Paes has now won more Grand Slam mixed doubles titles (9) than any other man in the Open era with his victory in Friday’s championship match. Teaming with Martina Hingis, the No. 4 seeds defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey, 6-4, 3-6, [10-7]. …….. The win gives Hingis her first title at the US Open since 1998 and her first mixed doubles title here. It also marks Paes’ second mixed doubles title at the US Open, having last won in 2008 with Cara Black, and the ninth mixed doubles title of his career.

The HinduThe fourth seeded India-Swiss pair, edged past unseeded Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey 6-4 3-6 10-7 in a tricky final to win their third Major title together this season. ………. With this win, Paes and Hingis, who also won Australian Open and Wimbledon titles early this season, have become the first mixed doubles team since 1969 to win three Grand Slam mixed doubles titles in the same year. 

It was Paes’ 17th Grand Slam title overall and Hingis’ 19th.


Age is beauty at Wimbledon on Ladies Day

July 12, 2015

It was Ladies Day at Wimbledon and much to revel in. Not least that the winners were now mature, young ladies even though they had all been precocious teenagers when they first hit the top. Serena Williams won her 21st Grand Slam (Wow!) and her 4th in a row. Martina Hingis teamed up with Sania Mirza to win the doubles in an exciting turnaround after being one set and 5-2 down.

Beauty is relative but there is little doubt that I rejoice far more in “oldest” winners as the years go by.

Serena Williams, 34 this year

Serena 2015 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin via Yahoo)

Serena 2015 (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin via Yahoo)

Martina Hingis, 35 this year and Sania Mirza, 29 this year

Hingis Mirza - 2015 -  photo Facundo Arrizabalaga-EPA

Hingis Mirza – 2015 – photo Facundo Arrizabalaga-EPA


American Pharoah triumphs – but Secretariat’s records still stand

June 7, 2015

Lat night American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and with it the first Triple Crown since 1978. In the 1970s we saw 3 Triple Crown winners starting with Secretariat in 1973 after a gap of 25 years and followed by Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978.

Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner American Pharoah stands while being bathed following his morning workout at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York June 3, 2015.

American Pharoah: photo Shannon Stapleton /Reuters via The Daily Beast

Comparisons are of no great significance but back in 1973, Secretariat caught my imagination in a manner that no horse ever had before – not even Silver or Trigger.  Last night, American Pharoah faced a much larger field in the Belmont Stakes than Secretariat did. He won quite comfortably by five lengths and a time of 2:26.65, the sixth-fastest time in Belmont history.

Trying to compare the two horses, 37 years apart is meaningless. When Secretariat won the Belmont he won by 31 lengths and he was till going away at the finish line. He set winning times in all the three Triple Crown events. The Kentucky Derby(1:59.4), the Preakness Stakes (1:53), and the Belmont Stakes (2:24). But, 37 years later Big Red’s record times in all three races have not yet been beaten. The longest time a human athletics record has lasted was Bob Beamon’s long jump record which lasted 23 years (though 47 years later, his Olympic record still stands). To hold one record for so long is impressive enough, but Big Red still holds his records for 3 major races.

American Pharaoh has ensured his place in equine history. But it is still Secretariat – “The Tremendous Machine” – which embodies the Triple Crown in my imagination. “That is a record which may stand forever”.

1200 years after the Vikings invented krykket, cricket comes of age in Sweden

June 1, 2015

The theory is that cricket was actually first invented, not by the Saxons or even the Normans, but by the Vikings in Britain about 1200 years ago. It is said that as they raided, injured Vikings started whiling away their time by using their crutches (krykka) in a game to knock the skulls of their victims around. It was played on the beach where the injured Vikings were left to guard their ships. Perhaps it was markings on their ships which provided the first “wickets” and the notion of “guarding your wicket” originated there. For Viking warriors it was a game only for the weak and the crippled. The practice ceased as Vikings started to settle in Britain and playing with the skulls of victims became politically incorrect. The krykket games sank into disrepute and into the subconscious, only to surface again in the 16th century in England, and the rest is history. The game of skulls and crutches was never taken back home by the Vikings for want of non-Viking victims’ skulls. (Viking victims were sent off to Valhalla, with their bodies intact, on their burning ships).

(It is worth noting that Viking raids – on average – planned for 5 day forays inland, limited by the provisions they had to carry. So possibly the beached Vikings ensured that their games were completed within 5 days before the raiders returned – and somehow this time limitation has survived the centuries!)

The Swedish Cricket Federation was founded in 1990 and now at 25 years of age was accepted into the Swedish Sports Federation on 30th May.

There are some 3,000 active cricketers in Sweden in 55 clubs, with 42 clubs participating in a national league. The clubs are located all over Sweden with the northernmost club probably being the Skellefteå Cricket Club. The Skillinge Ladies & Gentlemen’s Cricket Club is one of many holding fort in the south.

The SCF became a member of the International Cricket Council in 1990 and played its first international match in 1999 against Portugal. In May 2011, Sweden won the ICC Europe Division 3 tournament and participated in the ICC Division 2 Europe 20/ 20 tournament.In 2012 Sweden participated in the European Division 2, 20/20. Sweden finished in 2nd place in the tournament and advanced to ICC Europe Division 1. In 2013, the Swedish national team traveled to England where it took part in ICC Europe Division 1 and competed against teams like Italy, Germany, Belgium, Guernsey, and Norway.

The Swedish Cricket Federation now becomes the 71st member of the the Swedish Sports Federation (Riksidrottsförbundet).

SCF comes of age

SCF comes of age


The difference

December 8, 2014

Dress code for football coaches.

The key difference of course being that European football coaches are more formally dressed than the US football coaches.

Reblogged from RealScience


Tragic death of Phillip Hughes triggers memories of Nari Contractor

November 28, 2014

Phillip Hughes image

The tragic death of Phillip Hughes has triggered some discussion about safety and the design of helmets. But I am not sure that this is the right discussion to have. Hughes was hit on the top of his neck, behind his ear but just below his helmet. He was hooking and had hooked a little early so that he was almost facing long leg at the moment of impact.

I know first hand just how hard a cricket ball is. Forty years ago I was hit on the head by a cricket ball while playing a club match in Birmingham. It was not the bowler in this case and I was not wearing a helmet. I was running between the wickets and the ball was thrown in by a fielder and caught me on the top of my skull – a little forward of centre. Apparently I just crumpled to the ground but came to a few minutes later. I was kept in hospital for a few hours for observation but fortunately suffered only a mild concussion. But I am told that if the point of impact had been an inch further forward or an inch further back, the result could have been far more serious.

Nari Contractor image

But after the Phillip Hughes accident, what comes to my mind is not my little accident but the Charlie Griffith bouncer which caught Nari Contractor on the back of his skull in March 1962. Like Hughes, Contractor was a left-hand bat. This was 52 years ago when as a schoolboy avidly following the tour of the West Indies, I was up at all hours listening to the live radio commentary whenever I could. Helmets were not in use in 1962. India were playing Barbados between the second and third Test matches. Contractor was leading the side after a series win against England and he opened the innings with Dilip Sardesai. Contractor seems to have turned his head due to some distraction from the pavilion. But he was, like Hughes, facing sideways with the back of his head exposed at the time of impact. He suffered a fractured skull and was unconscious for 6 days.  A neuro-surgeon had to be flown in from Trinidad and he went some 24 hours – unconscious – before proper medical treatment began. He needed a blood transfusion and Sir Frank Worrell – the West Indies captain but who was only a spectator at this match – was the first to donate blood. Later Contractor had to have a metal plate inserted for the fracture. He survived and went on to play first class cricket but never again played a Test match.

Contractor is now 80 and spoke about the Hughes accident to the Mumbai Mirror:

“I am not sure if any technology or better technology can prevent such injuries. My injury took place in 1962 and it has taken 52 years for another such injury. You cannot ensure anything in cricket.”

I do agree that safety and safety standards should be reviewed. But without trying in any way to minimise the tragedy of Phillip Hughes demise, it is nether opportune or appropriate, I think, for any knee-jerk reactions.

My point is that all rules for safety or safety equipment are inextricably linked to the skills of the game. Every new rule or new piece of equipment suppresses some skills and encourages others. There is nothing wrong with that of course but it does change the game. There is little doubt that the advent of helmets and chest pads has suppressed the skill of weaving and dodging to avoid being hit by the ball while not taking your eyes off it. On the other hand the use of helmets and other protection has allowed the hook shot – among other shots –  to be played much more confidently and – for the best players –  has led to the development of new skills of shot making. Shot making has never been as inventive as today (to the chagrin of many bowlers) and this is partly due to the lower level of physical risk perceived by the batsmen. For the less skilled players, it could be argued, it has led to a greater proportion of injudicious shot selections because the downside is low. More players try to hook today and fail – but it is safer to do so. The balance between “avoidance” and “playing the shot” is different to that when there were no helmets. The skill of “avoidance” is needed less and is therefore less well developed.

Phillip Hughes was certainly one of the better players of the game. But the game today is not the same game as it was in 1962 when Nari Contractor suffered his injury. But would a player of the 1962 game, brought up without the use of helmets, make the same shot selection that Phillip Hughes did? It is impossible to know but the 1962 batsman would surely have had a different background of risk assessment and a different basis for selecting when to play the hook shot and when to avoid the ball.

Changing the risk level in any game changes the game. But – lest we forget – without risk there is no game.

No surprise – FIFA whitewashes itself and Qatar but their investigator dissents

November 13, 2014


It seems FIFA’s conclusions are not even shared by their own investigaor:

BBC: The findings of Fifa’s inquiry into allegations of corruption during bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups have been questioned – by the man who conducted the two-year investigation into the claims.

In an unexpected twist, lawyer Michael Garcia says the report “contains numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions”.



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