Saturday, 9 June 2012

Why the missus didn't get a look-in this weekend... and there's more to come

Court case to come: John Terry and Anton Ferdinand
SOME weekend for sports fans. Maria Sharapova wore a nice strappy frock and won the French Open. The television ratings always rise for the Russian beauty, along with many male members.
The much-hyped mens final between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal will resume tomorrow afternoon due to rain with Djokovic attempting a comeback after losing the first two sets 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2.
On the rugby pitch, England were clearly robbed 22-17 by Heyneke Meyer's uncertain Springbulls in Durban, where Kiwi referee Steve Walsh is due to be replaced by South African public enemy number one, Bryce Lawrence for the rest of the series (he said hopefully), New Zealand trounced Ireland, Australia were too much for Wales. Same old, same old.
The Canadian Grand Prix saw a SEVENTH different winner in as many F1 races this season as Lewis Hamilton used his fresh tyres to slip past double champions Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
In Las Vegas early on Sunday morning, Manny Pacquiao lost his WBO welterweight title to Timothy Bradley after a highly controversial split points decision. There will doubtless be a rematch, otherwise somebody is going to have to take on Floyd Mayweather when he comes out of jail.
But all this is mere window-dressing on a weekend of footballing humdingers.
In Gaborone, South Africa's new caretaker coach Steve Komphela came in, changed nothing and, unsurprisingly, produced Bafana Bafana's 1,356th successive draw. Apparently this has to do with muti and unpaid songomas rather than Komphela's bizarre decision to stick with the men who curtailed Pitso Mosimane's international coaching career when they drew with Ethiopia. Phokeng hell. And that was just the headline.
With Gordon Igesund leading the hastily assemble SAFA shortlist ahead of Gavin Hunt, Neil Tovey, people's choice Shakes Mashaba and the now-unpopular Komphela, perhaps I should offer this: for many nations, two draws in two World Cup qualifiers is considered something of a coup. In Africa, where coups are common, we should consider a group containing the Central African Republic, Botswana and Ethiopia - who beat CAR 2-0 yesterday to top the group - a free air-ticket to Brazil in 2014.
One unkind Botswanan suggested South Africa, home of AFCON 2013 after Libya shot their president and pulled out, are adopting the "if you can't beat them, host them" philosophy.
This is unfair. South Africa, providing they don't panic and appoint a Serbian to lead the nation, will top their group. After that, with play-offs to decide the meagre five-strong African contingent in Brazil, it's a lottery.
And so to the European Racism Championship. Poland and the Ukraine have done their best to present their fascist face to the world, and when Holland's black players were subjected to racist chanting in their first public appearance, we suddenly realised Sol Campbell's Panorama investigation was more than a hatchet job.
Still, the shows goes on. After two nights of action, no games have been called off, no players have stormed off. Missiles were thrown during Portugal v Germany, but hey, they were hardly intercontinental or ballistic. This is, after all, the battle for Europe, not the world.
At SuperSport headquarters, or more precisely in the roofed garden behind Studio 6 in their Oak Avenue complex, I spent yesterday with the great and the good in the first of our weekly EuroZone series (every Saturday at 4pm, don't miss it, next week it won't start just as Botswana equalise).
The grand old man of football Terry Paine was there. He's been commentating on South African football since Sepp Blatter was a lad. Get him talking about Southampton's promotion to the English Premier League this season, and he's a laugh a minute. In great shape for a man of 73, he brightens visibly when talking about his 50-year-old column in the Southampton Evening Echo. Apparently Southampton - where he still holds the record for club appearances - invited him over to hand out the trophies after their epic rags-to-riches promotion season.
Then there's John Barnes, also part of the SuperSport crew for this Euro2012. He turned up two days late after being told halfway to Johannesburg that he needed a new passport. Barnesie is a great character. He may have missed the 12-minute Opening Ceremony in Warsaw flying backwards and forwards but he told me this joke: "Breaking news: There were incidents of monkey chanting during England's training sesson at Euro2012 yesterday, John Terry has been warned if he doesn't stop, he'll be on the next flight home."
On the more serious allegation that Rio Ferdinand has been omitted from Roy Hodgson's squad because of John Terry's impending court case over racially abusing Rio's brother Anton at QPR, Barnes says: "You have to respect Roy Hodgson's decision. When I said that in England, everyone accused me of supporting Terry. But I wasn't. I just said respect the coach. Personally, I think Rio is England's best centre-back. He should be there."
Terry Paine insists: "The FA have got involved here. They've told Hodgson not to pick Rio. Simple as that."
Also present? Bradley Carnell, who spent 12 years as a professional in Germany, lovely bloke, tells a good tale. The mad Italian Stefano Vigoriti, the knowedgeable Spaniard Ricard Fernandez and of course the beautiful presenters, Carol Tshabalala and Thomas Mlambo.
We get an hour on SuperSport3 every Saturday at 4pm. Might be worth watching.
The football certainly is. Plenty of incident in the opener, where hosts Poland were held 1-1 by Greece with two red cards and a sub-standard Spanish referee. Then the Russians, tipped by both yours truly and Ruud Krol (I had a quick chat with the former Orlando Pirates treble-winner before make-up) crushed the Czech Republic 4-1.
Krol was ushered out in a state of some distress after Holland's shock 1-0 defeat against unfancied Denmark tonight but I can console him with the news that Robin van Persie's boots have been found in Fernando Torres's blue-and-red kit bag.
After that, Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 other blokes in red tried to Germanate Joachim Loew's tournament favourites. Sadly, Mario Gomes scored after 70 minutes and CR7 had no reply. While all that was going on, Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick in Argentina's 4-3 win over rivals Brazil (fielding their Olympic squad in New Jersey, USA) to help us remember Euro2012 is NOT the World Cup. Many described it as the game of the year.
Today World and European Champions Spain were expected to crush an Italian side floored by match-fixing investigations. It ended 1-1. Mario Balotelli didn't wear his Ghanaian surname Barwuah on his shirt, Fernando Torres missed a couple. Habitual scorer Di Natale came on for Balotelli and scored with his first touch for Italy. Cesc Fabregas, the former Gunner now with Barcelona, replied within three minutes for a Spanish side which started without a striker. Spain held 1-1? They lost to Switzerland 2-1 in their WC2010 opener and went on to win it.
Croatia then crushed the Republic of Ireland, much to the chagrin of my late Irish bastard great-grand-dad Collins with Luka Modric writing his CV for that move to Manchester United.
Monday sees England take a pounding from Laurent Blanc's rebuilt France, unbeaten in 21 games, while Sweden versus the Ukraine is anybody's guess. I've got eNews at 8.15am in the morning, my New Age column to write, then my debut on Ballz Radio at 3pm.
The action just doesn't stop. But consider this. South Africa's cricketers go to England next week. There are two more rugby Tests between the nations to come. And then the Olympics in London. Stay tuned. And warn the wife.

1 comment:

  1. Neal Neal Neal, its not Botswanan its Motswana ne... Lol ya'll can bring Bryce all you like we still gona beat the hell out of England. And its Springboks too not bull *nice piece*