Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Rampant corruption, 11 foreigners and $1m bonuses: Why nobody should support Equatorial Guinea on Saturday

WHEN Equatorial Guinea take the field for their CAF quarter-final on Saturday in their capital Malabo, look carefully at the names on offer. And the money on offer.
You may find that NOT ONE of the co-host's players was born in the country they are representing. That their vice-president’s $1m bonus for every win is going out of the country as fast as the rest of Equatorial Guinea’s oil revenue.
On Supersport, we’ve twice seen Benni McCarthy offering glib approval of Equatorial Guinea’s ridiculous bonuses. The Orlando Pirates veteran told Robert Marawa: “It’s great, anybody will perform for that kind of money!” But hold on Benni, what’s really going on here?
Just how does Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangu, the son of the president, manage to find the cash to pay $1m for a win and $20,000 per goal to his lowly-ranked players from every nation except his own?
And exactly how did his tiny nation manage to produce a squad of players which features six Spaniards, an Ivorian, a Cameroonian, two Brazilians and only a smattering of actual so-called Equatoguineans? On January 18, barely a week before the big kick-off in Bata, former coach Henri Michel reportedly resigned over Teodoro interfering with his squad, with Brazilian Gilson Paulo taking over. I guess he speaks the language – he has already had his lucrative contract extended by the kindly vice-president.
Perhaps we should be asking too, how a nation smaller than Swaziland managed to see off Nigeria in the bidding for the competition, given that they had never qualified for the finals before. Bit like 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar I guess.
But no, we must ask no questions. When the hosts (ranked 150th in the world by FIFA) take on Ivory Coast (16th) in their surprise quarter-final on Saturday, we shall take the line FIFA took: It’s nothing to do with us, CAF look after the African Nations Cup.
So we must simply accept that Didier Drogba, Yaya Toure and Co will be playing a mercenary army on Saturday. When they upset highly-fancied Senegal last Wednesday, their winner was scored by a Spanish Fourth Division striker called Kily.
They also boasted a Brazilian goalkeeper, a Liberian defender, an Ivorian midfielder and a Cameroonian forward, as well as a host of Spanish players.
Go through the names in their 23-man squad and you’ll find only third choice goalkeeper Felipe Ovono and reserve defender Jose Bokung were born in Equatorial Guinea.
They call their team “National Lightning” but by thunder, they haven’t struck twice in the same place since 2004 when a Brazilian called Antonio Dumas took over as national team coach.
Dumas was the guy who used to run the equally dodgy Togo national side. He introduced several “foreigners” there, many from Latin America and claims he was encouraged by the Equatorial Guinea government to do the same with his new side after disappointing performances in CAF and the World Cup.
A former Spanish colony, the trend was set. Passports and work permits were granted to virtually any footballer who was willing to gain citizenship and play for the oil-rich nation.
Take journeyman defender Lawrence Doe. A veteran of a dozen professional clubs all over the world, he never managed to break into the Liberia side.
He insists: "I feel very happy and very proud because even though I was born Liberian I am now a Guinean. Equatorial Guinea is my home, I have my wife and son here now.
"I am a Guinean, they take care of me, the government take care of me here.”
But nobody seems to care what the locals think, the president and his son have made sure of that over the last 32 years of dictatorship – the longest in the world since the departure of Colonel Ghadaffi in Liya.
Teodorin, the popular name given the son of president Teodoro Nguema Obian Mangue (like North Korean dictarors, they like to keep the naming convention simple) is an expert at cleaning oil soaked millions.
Though he claims to be paid a mere $7,000 a month for his role as minister of agriculture and forestry in the tiny oil-rich enclave, Teodorin is watched carefully by an organisation called Human Rights Watch. On October 6 last year, the US Justice Department filed an official notice in California of a pending claim for the forfeiture of more than $70 million in assets, including a mansion, jet, and Michael Jackson memorabilia belonging to the younger Mr. Obiang.
Though living standards are low in Equatorial Guinea, Teodorin likes to live the highlife on his meagre salary. And pay his football team huge bonuses. But Arvind Ganesan, a director at Human Rights Watch says: “US authorities have turned up stark evidence of corruption by President Obiang and several of his family members in multiple investigations since 2003. The move to go after his son’s US assets, though belated, is a good step.”
And it’s not just in the US that Teodorin makes hay. He is also being investigated in France and Spain, along with his dad, Obian family members and close friends.
The Justice Department initiated the investigation in 2007, following a US Senate investigation from 2003 to 2004. The Justice Department’s legal action names Sweetwater Malibu LLC, a company belonging to Teodorín Obiang, and seeks the forfeiture of a variety of valuable assets, including a $30 million Malibu mansion, a $38.5 million jet, seven luxury cars worth almost $3 million and valuable Michael Jackson memorabilia, such as “one white crystal-covered ‘Bad Tour’ glove.”
The US investigation centres on the “Riggs Bank Report” which was reported by Senate to have “turned a blind eye to evidence suggesting it was handling the proceeds of corruption”.
Essentially, millions of dollars of Equatorial Guinea’s national oil revenues were transferred to a private offshore account that Senate investigators concluded was controlled by President Obiang.
Now the Immigration and Customs department have declared they will “identify, trace, freeze and recover assets within the United States illicitly acquired through kleptocracy by Teodoro Nguema Obiang and/or his associates.”
They believe Teodorín Obiang laundered more than $110 million in suspect funds through US bank accounts between 2004 and 2008. They also claim he transported 22 vehicles out of the US to Equatorial Guinea via France in 2009, according to a Le Monde report, citing customs records. Oh, and there was a party with a tiger in California which cost untold millions too.
Neither the government of Equatorial Guinea nor Teodorín have responded publicly to the news of the pending asset forfeiture action, though in 2010 Obiang’s government released a statement saying the allegations are clearly “clearly RACIST, XENOPHOBIC, ARROGANT and SEGREGATIONIST” (their capital letters) while expressing “complete support, confidence and backing” for Teodorín.
The French are worried too. According to Le Monde last year, French police have catalogued Teodorin’s recent purchase of nearly $26 million on antiquities and other goods at auction.
And then there’s Swaziland. Police there opened an investigation into the theft in late August of a suitcase belonging to the younger Mr Obiang that reportedly contained some $400,000 in cash ($300,000 in dollars and 75,000 euros) and two expensive wristwatches. He reported the suitcase stolen from the five-star villa where he was staying during a visit.

Equatorial Guinea, with high oil revenues and a tiny population, has one of the highest per capita gross domestic product ratios in the world.
. But the government has failed to make improvements in socio-economic conditions commensurate with available resources.

The per capita GDP is equivalent to that of some of the worlds’ top-tier economies yet many of the people of Equatorial Guinea lack access to basic social services. The country is 19th worst in the world for child mortality, according to 2010 UN and World Bank statistics. Education spending as a percentage of GDP is lower in Equatorial Guinea than in neighboring countries. The government has invested huge sums in high-profile projects, such as ultra-modern hospitals, luxury conference centers, and a lavish $830 million resort complex built to host the June 2011 African Union summit meeting that have little benefit for the poor.

After Human Rights Watch published a 2009 report on oil, corruption and human rights in Equatorial Guinea that detailed government abuses and the lack of transparency, the Obiang government responded by accusing the group of “blackmail” and “pulling from their sleeves information that lacks all transparency and objectivity.”

The US State Department’s human rights report for 2010 describes an array of serious abuses, including unlawful killings, systematic torture, and official impunity and denounces “official corruption at all levels of government” in Equatorial Guinea, specifying that “[t]he president and members of his inner circle continued to amass personal profits from the oil windfall.”

The legal proceedings involving Teodorín Obiang come as speculation mounts that he is being positioned to succeed his father in power. On October 14, the Obiang government set a November 13 date for a referendum on proposed changes to the constitution. The centerpiece of the announced reform is the introduction of term limits that would allow the 69-year-old President Obiang, who has been president for the past 32 years, to serve for two more terms of 7 years each.

President Obiang was re-elected in 2009 with 95.4 percent of the vote in an election with weak international monitoring, raising “the suspicion of systematic voting fraud” according to the US State Department.

While the government has not yet published a text of the constitutional changes that will go to a vote, they are understood to create a new post for a vice-president that observers expect will be filled by Teodorín Obiang.

In 2010, Teodorín Obiang was elected to head the ruling party’s youth wing, which automatically conferred on him the vice-presidency of the ruling party. The US public relations firm that represents the government of Equatorial Guinea and also has a separate contract with the younger Mr. Obiang, hailed his selection as “part of a broader effort by the government to improve the democratic election process for its citizens.”

Along with declaring the date of the national referendum, Equatorial Guinea also announced that Teodorín would be its deputy permanent delegate to the Paris-based United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). President Obiang has unsuccessfully sought to reinstate a controversial UNESCO prize financed by and named after him. The senior Obiang’s most recent effort to force UNESCO to issue the award, in September, was scuttled in part because news of the seizure of Teodorín’s assets in Paris, a short distance from UNESCO’s headquarters, highlighted the risk of associating the organization with the reputations of the Obiangs.

“The people of Equatorial Guinea should be able to choose their government in free and fair elections, hold it accountable, and apply the country’s wealth to fulfill their basic needs,” Ganesan said. “Unfortunately, President Obiang does not provide leadership that respects such basic rights, and his son seems to be following his father’s path.”

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Wenger lives to fight another day. But it's lucky, lucky Arsenal

Will we look back one day and talk about the winter’s evening Arsene Wenger was 45 minutes from resigning his post as manager of quadruple European Champions Arsenal?
In five years, when Wenger is 67 (still three years younger than Sir Alex Ferguson is now), will we look back at the three highly fortunate goals, and sigh "Lucky, lucky Arsenal" like they used to in the 1930s when titles were ten-a-penny at Highbury.
I hope so. He’ll have been there 20 years by then. But some will remember.
That day in late January, 2012 when they were 2-0 down against Aston Villa at half-time? Not 48 hours after telling fans he was intent on winning the grand old FA Cup, the Frenchman from German-speaking Strasbourg found himself all at sea and sinking faster than a cruise ship captained by an Italian with wet socks.
Villa just did what Wolves, Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United have done in recent weeks. Exploited a flat-footed Arsenal defence. After a neat-interchange down the left, Robbie Keane’s teasing cross set up an aerial one-on-one between Laurent Koscielny (there are far better centrebacks in the local Sunday League than this particular Frenchman) and the old warhorse Richard Dunne. Only one winner. 1-0.
Then, with Arsenal pressing and the half-time pie beckoning, Villa did it again. Stephen Ireland set up Darren Bent, who timed his run to perfection before unleashing. Arsenal’s deputy Pole-in-goal Lucasz Fabianski blocked but Bent was there to finish the rebound. He generally has been throughout his career.
At half-time,  former England manager Graham Taylor witnessed Wenger being roundly booed by the Gooners and said: " You see your side in total control but you don't see the opposition goalkeeper worked, that is what is frustrating people."
That, and a six-year trophy drought. And that record-breaking three-match losing streak which has put Arsenal in danger of missing out on the four Champions League places.
But after the break, God smiled. Even Wenger smiled.
First Dunne, the opening goal scorer already booked, slides through Aaron Ramsey. Stupid challenge. He’d already lost the ball. Penalty but no sending off. Robin van Persie (who else?) slots it.
Minutes later, Walcott breaks down the right, beats one, cuts in and tries a stupid shot from a ridiculous angle. Given gets a touch, then Alan Hutton – yes, a former Spurs fullback – clears straight in to the unknowing Walcott and the ball bounces in, 2-2. How lucky was that?
And they were ahead on the hour when Koscielny of all people charged forward, perhaps fired-up by his half-time roasting for that first Villa goal. In slides Bent with a strikers tackle and it’s another penalty. Van Persie goes the other way. 3-2. A miracle.
Though there was a slight feeling that they may just have scored those three goals too soon, Arsenal held on.
Lucky? Oh yes. But a win’s a win. Wenger lives to fight another day. Specifically against Middlesbrough or Sunderland in round five towards the end of February.

On a weekend where we had witnessed the embarrassment of England's cricketers being skittled for 72 by Pakistan and Novak Djokovic winning the longest-ever Grand Slam final against Rafa Nadal in Melbourne, the Emirates was able to match the drama.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Amazing Grace comes crashing back to earth in the desert

BRANDEN GRACE came back to earth with a bump in the desert yesterday, finishing day one of the first big tournament of the season a distant eight shots behind joint leaders Robert Karlsson of Sweden and world No3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.

After winning twice on the European Tour on home soil in South Africa, the 23-year-old sensation could only manage a 75 in the first round of the Abu Dhabi champions.

With the big guns back in action, Grace was hoping to match the late, great Seve Ballesteros with a third successive victory in the capital of the United Arab Emirates when the fourth round draws to a conclusion on Sunday night.

Grace won the year’s second tournament – the Johannesburg Open – and last week held off his heroes Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in a play-off to win the Volvo Golf Champions at Fancourt Links near his home town, George. He became the first professional since Fred Couples to win immediately after his debut tour triumph.

Before teeing off against world No1 Luke Donald (71), reviving superstar Tiger Woods (70) and the irrepressible US Open champion McIlroy (67), Grace said: "I just hope my game stays the way it is and my energy levels stay up.

"I've just been running with emotion. I'll keep playing and keep playing until I'm exhausted and until I find it's time to take a break."

But the Buffelsbaai pro struggled on the lush green oasis of the Abu Dhabi golf club, and is unlikely to feature among the leaders on Sunday night.

A third successive win was achieved by German Martin Kaymer two years ago – but his victories were not in consecutive weeks. The last to win three times in successive weeks on the European Tour was super Spaniard Ballesteros in 1986 at the Irish, Monte Carlo and French Opens.

Just a month after coming through the Tour qualifying school in Spain, Pretoria-born Grace has those two victories under his belt and after climbing 166 positions in the world rankings, he said: “Getting into the top 50, I think that is every player's goal. That would put me in the US Masters and to get into a Major would be an unbelievable year.

“If I could achieve that to get into the Masters, it would just be a highlight, indescribable.”

“I know for a fact I'll definitely take it easy the next couple of days, go out and play the Pro-Am in Abu Dhabi and take it from there.”

Grace, after three events of the 2012 season, still leads the Race to Dubai moneylist with R5.8 million in earnings, a fairy-tale start to the season.

“I'm looking forward to the next two weeks. I've always looked forward to playing in big tournaments. So I'm going back and making new goals and taking it from there.”

That round of 75 left him in joint 102nd place in a field of 129. He double bogeyed the par four fifth and turned in 38 and came through the second nine just one over regulation. But the man now ranked 92 in the world was two shots clear of Kaymer, the world No4 who also suffered a horrific opening day in the desert.

And he was doing slightly better than the home favourites. Ahmed Al Musharrekh, the only Emirati in the field, carded a nine over par 81 while Stuart Fee, the top local professional qualifier, produced an awful 15-over 87. The pair fill the 128th and 129th positions on the leaderboard going in to the second round.

Keep track of Grace's progress in the desert... and all the rest of the sport with me in South Africa's new tabloid Scoop! on Sunday... available at all reputable street corners and outlets in Gauteng and KZN. See also www.scoopnews.co.za

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Harry Redknapp: The full incredible story of his trial...and his dog's bank account at Barklays

What you probably don’t know about Harry Redknapp, the famous Spurs manager currently in court for tax evasion in London, is just how popular the bloke is.

Father of the talented Jamie, now a television presenter after a successful career with Liverpool and England, Our ‘Arry is beloved of journalists and would be a popular choice to take over the England job if Fabio Capello resigns after Euro 2012 later this year.

Badly injured in a car crash which killed his close mate and Bournemouth FC owner Brian Tiler at the World Cup in 1990, ‘Arry is not your typical frosty football boss.

As he approaches what used to be a pensionable age – he’ll be 65 on March 2 – ‘Arry has manipulated Spurs into a position of title contention after taking over from the clueless Juande Ramos three years ago with the club languishing at the bottom of the Premier League.

Conviction for tax fraud for one of Britain’s great sporting icons, who took a break from his beloved bench to undergo heart surgery last year, is simply unthinkable.

Through a long, largely successful career in management (West Ham, Portsmouth, Southampton, Portsmouth again and now Tottenham) after a modest stint as a player mostly at West Ham and Bournemouth, he has always been good for a quote, a larf, a sound-bite.

I say always. There was the time he said he’d "sue the b*******" off one my old mate Rob Beasley, the News of the World football reporter who asked too many questions about his tax dealings. Still, at least he’s outlasted the newspaper.

Harry’s problem revolves around a bank account set up in his dog’s name – Rosie47 (the dog and the year of his birth) was allegedly the Monaco-based off-shore home for his ill-gotten gains.

Now, after all those years of entertainment, we are told by the court in Southwark that he has been "feigning ignorance" about his illegal dealings “for six years before his arrest” despite telling police “I’m not on the fiddle” as he and his former Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric were questioned over two payments amounting to £189,000.

Redknapp insists his dog’s account – soon to be moved to Hounduras, Barklays Bank, apparently, using a pawpal transfer according to the wags – was built up through transfer profit bonuses. Mandaric, unfortunately, insists the money was “an investment fund” set up outside of football.

John Black QC, prosecuting in the tax evasion trial at Southwark Crown Court this week, recounted a conversation between Beasley and Redknapp. ‘Arry told the reporter: “I’ve got the best accountants in England, the Inland Revenue know about Monaco.”

But  Beasley then mentioned Mandaric's explanation and ‘Arry said: "He don't know what he is f***ing talking about. What is he talking about? It is a bonus."

Redknapp insisted the cash came from profits made on the sale of Peter Crouch from Portsmouth to Aston Villa – he was later to sign the gangly striker again at Spurs.

He added: "If it was something dodgy I would have gone over there and brought it back in a briefcase."

When Beasley asked him whether he had paid any tax in the UK on it, Redknapp replied: "Haven't been asked to, Rob."

Redknapp said "there ain't nothing crooked in it" and told Beasley: "Don't say bung. It's nothing to do with a bung. It's paid by the chairman.

 "How can it be a bung when the chairman of the football club paid me? What's a bung? It's a f****** sick word."

It’s the idea of ‘Arry being paid the money in to an account in his dog’s name that has really captured the imagination though. Redknapp declared the account to tax inspectors just before he left Portsmouth for Spurs in 2008 and told police he thought the “Rosie account” was dormant and that he didn’t know Mandaric, now 73 and chairman of Sheffield Wednesday, had put any money in it.

Redknapp told the police: “Milan's probably lost it. I could show you people who I have lent money to in investments.

"It would blow your brains away, the money I have squandered but then I do trust people, that's the way I live my life.

"I was told I wasn't liable for income tax on so many occasions. For the sake of that amount of money or any amount of money, I don't fiddle. I pay my tax since I have been in football my entire life. I pay every penny."

But the prosecution says ‘Arry only mentioned the Monaco account after he was questioned during the Premier League-led Quest investigation in 2006.

Mr Black said: "The existence of the bank account was not registered to Revenue and Customs for a period of six years, two months... after Mr Redknapp was first arrested and questioned in the course of this investigation.

 “It's clear that it was only at this time that Mr Redknapp brought to the attention the existence of the Monaco bank account, feigning almost total ignorance of its existence, its operation and its contents."

Redknapp and Mandaric deny two counts of cheating the taxman. The trial continues...
Read Scoop!, South Africa's new Sunday tabloid for more from me on this story - available at Gauteng and KZN outlets. See also www.scoopnews.co.za

Monday, 23 January 2012

Tragic truth behind sport's fallen stars: suicide lurks says Dean Windass

Dean Windass is a bit of a character. Talented, effective, funny. As a professional footballer he never ­played for the glamour clubs in Manchester or London, but he did okay. He earned R5 million a year, bought high-fashion R2 000 T-shirts and “every new car” on the market.

A month ago, he attempted to kill himself. Twice. He’s not ashamed to admit: “I felt I had no purpose any more, I had nothing to get up for.”

Like Gary Speed, the former Wales manager who hanged himself in his garage in November, Windass is 42. He retired from football two years ago. And he simply can’t handle it.

Though South Africa has no detailed history of former sports stars attempting suicide, the British are awash with them. Frank Bruno, the former world heavyweight champion, tried it. So did Paul Gascoigne, perhaps the greatest footballer of his ­time. Two of England’s most popular sportsmen – yet nothing was done.

Windass admitted to the Sunday People’s Katie Hind (who kindly gave me her permission to reprint the quotes): “Just over a week ago I hit rock-bottom and decided to end it all. I took an overdose first – and when that didn’t work tried to hang myself.

“I have cried every day for the last two years since retiring. People outside football think we have it all. I felt so alone and believed I had nothing to live for. I was in a hole that I didn’t know how to get out of.

“I need to sort myself out which is why I’m speaking out now.”

This week Windass attempted to seek counselling at the Sporting Chance Clinic, run by former Arsenal and England star Tony Adams, who also suffers from depression.

But Windass was told he cannot check in until next month for therapy sessions because the centre in London is fully booked with other former sportsmen and women who desperately need help for a range of problems.

In a statement which may resonate with former sports stars in South Africa, he says: “I hope by speaking out it may help anyone else who is feeling as desperate as I was and that the PFA or FA can help. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, it is my fault, but hopefully it will help some people like me who are out there.”

Windass admits he had it all after his Wembley play-off winning goal in May 2008 against Bristol City which sent his hometown club Hull City into the Premier League for the first time in their 104-year history.

That goal alone was estimated to be worth £60 million (R720 million) in TV revenue. He played at the top for 19 years with Middlesbrough, Sheffield United, Bradford City and Aberdeen as well as Hull.

He admits: “I wasn’t in the superstar bracket but I was pulling in well over half a million pounds a year, so money was no object. Harvey Nichols was my middle name. I would buy £200 shirts, I’d live in D&G and Prada. Every time a new car came out, Audi or BMW, I would buy it. Top-of-the-range cars were my thing.

“I had a big family house in Leeds worth over a million. I was treated ­like a superstar wherever I went. Now I am living off what little savings I have but they are running out. I did some work for Sky Sports which I loved but that came to an end.

“I’ve tried really hard to get a job. I did all of my coaching qualifications while I was playing. I put my CV into loads of clubs for a coach­ing job but you don’t hear anything back.”

Windass, a rugged, no-nonsense player with a ­nose for goals and entertainment, shrugs: “People have this image of me as this big strong man who can take anything life throws at him. But I’m not ashamed to say I wanted to end it.”

After his retirement as a player at Hull two years ago, Dean turned to booze, often downing 10 to 15 pints of lager and lime. His 18-year marriage to Helen, a 45-year-old police officer, fell apart. He was estranged from his sons Josh, 18, and Jordan, 12.

He admits: “I was aggressive, I’d smash glasses and Helen had had enough which was understandable.

“There were arguments and arguments and then I went off with some­one else. I met her in Hull in a pub. I moved into her house. I split up with her last week.”

And that was when he hit his low­est point. He explained: “Just days ago, alone and drunk at my home in Hull, I swallowed a load of tablets – I think they were painkillers.

“Luckily a friend turned up and made me throw up. I knew I’d been a fool but I couldn’t shake off the depress­ion.

“The next day another dark cloud emerged so I drowned my sorrows with half a bottle of amaretto liqueur.

“I was just over an hour’s drive away from my wife and family in Leeds but it felt like the other side of the world. I thought ‘I don’t want to be in this world any more’.

“I tried to use a bedsheet to hang myself and tied it to a handrail at the top of the stairs but it was too long.

“I was quite drunk and couldn’t get it to work so I got a belt instead. At that point another friend came round so I couldn’t go through with it. Now I’m trying to get better, get back on track. I don’t want to be miserable every day.”

Windass admits the death of Speed, a rival on the pitch, had impact. He said: “He must have been feeling in a similar way to me. When I heard the news I thought that could be me and I continued down that dark corridor of depression.”

“People outside football think we have it all, but we don’t. Look at Stan Collymore (a former England striker, now a radio presenter) and what he’s been through with depression. There’s this assumption ‘he’s a footballer, he’s all right’.

“Everyone thinks that Dean Windass is a laugh and a joke and a kid blah blah blah, and got loads of money and his ­wife and kids are lovely. But that’s all a mask. I was in piec­es, I couldn’t stop drinking or crying. I’ve cried every day for the last two years.

“With no job I’d get up, go for a run and hit the pub. I could still play the big guy because everyone knew me and wanted to buy me a drink.

“But after necking pint after pint I’d take my frustrations out on the family. The follow­ing day I’d repeat the same pattern and tell my wife I was popping out to buy a paper. I couldn’t get work anywhere and blew nearly all my savings. I couldn’t even afford to pay for my son’s motor insurance.

“I scored the winning goal at Wembley to get Hull into the Premiership and foolishly thought I was made for life.

“After I finished playing for Hull I got an assistant manager job at non-league Darlington with Colin Todd which was my dream but we got sacked. It wasn’t a lot of money but it wasn’t about that. I wanted to coach – I wanted to manage.

“That ended and I became increasingly depressed.”

Now Windass is appealing to football’s governing body: “The Professional Footballers’ Association or FA need to help us.”

With great candour, he confesses: “Footballers? We’re not the brightest but you play football all your life.”

This story ran in South Africa's new Sunday tabloid Scoop! last Sunday, along with a long list of sporting suicides and a contact number for local sportsmen who have been where Dean was. For further information see www.scoopnews.co.za.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Why always me? Here's why Mario, we just don't know what to make of your particular talents

"The boy should have been off. Balotelli has kicked Scott Parker in the head . He's back-heeled him in the head. He does it a lot, I've seen it. What does Scottie think? He thinks he kicked him in the head. I don't know why you would do that on a football pitch. Have a look at it on your machines. It's there for everybody to see."
With those words from Harry Redknapp, Mario Balotelli's place right at the forefront of our footballing headlines were assured.
By then, the experts in the Premier League's international studio had already assured us that the Ghanian-born Italian's graceless stomping on the prone Parker were deliberate.
Andy Townsend insisted "the FA should take another look at that" while Alan Curbishley had "no doubts about it". The first stagger, where a foot cracked Parker as Balotelli came down from an attempted shot, looked like an accident. But the second, a wicked stab of the heel, looked pretty damning.
But of course, the reason Balotelli stays at the forefront of our minds is that he doesn't stop at petulance and nastiness. He also throws in a dose of good football. And in this case, that meant going down in injury time for the vital Manchester City winner.
And then getting up to stick the penalty past Brad Friedel, the oldest and best in the Premier League, though you wouldn't think so if he passed you in the street dressed in a suit.
While the travelling Spurs fans and Redknapp vented their fury at the injustice of it all, they might have considered the greatest unfairness of all. That Jermain Defoe is only 5ft 6ins high. I've stood next to him. Knee high to the proverbial Zurich Grasshopper.
When Gareth Bale, scorer of an excellent leveller to make it 2-2 after nine frantic second half minutes featuring four goals, crossed the ball shortly before the Balotelli penalty, Defoe looked nailed on to score.
But his little legs just weren't long enough, the toe cap put the ball wide and City went up the other end to finish the challenge of the cheeky North Londonders forever.
Harry, after adding a few more choice Balotelli comments (unless I'm mistaken, he accused him of serial stomping), said: ''We had a great chance when Gareth laid it across to Jermain, we were all up on our seats thinking it was 3-2. It proves we're as good as anyone, they weren't better than us today but they nicked it in the 94th minute.
''We had a bad two or three minutes and conceded the two goals but we showed great character to come back and I could see us winning from there.'
Harry might consider the fate of Ledley King after this. Spurs had never lost with their perpectually injured centreback in the team. He barely trains due to an ongoing battle of the wounded knees. But he looked knackered for that last-gasp City foray into Tottenham's box. The foul on Balotelli was a nailed on penalty. The King is due for usurping with the pipe and slippers.
With Arsenal being completely outplayed by chasing Manchester United, it was another bad day for North London against the Mancunians. Back in August, when Arsenal lost 8-2 to United and Spurs were done 5-1 by City, it amounted to 13-3 in favour of the northerners.
It won't be as bad this time - Arsenal went down 2-1 despite yet another Robin van Persie goal - but the result is the same. Capital punishment. This title will be decided in Manchester.
For Arsenal, with two wins in seven games, the more worrying aspect of their defeat against United came with the crowd's response to the subsitution of the excellent young Southampton signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With the out-of-sorts Andrei Arshavin coming on and a bumbling Theo Walcott looking embarrassed not to be replaced, the boos rang around the Emirates.
A few minutes later Danny Wellbeck won the game with Arshavin - featuring prominently on the box - failing to make a tackle.
Can Arsene Wenger survive another long-term assault from the critics?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The face of the man who could bring cricket to its knees: England's first convicted match fixer faces jail

This is the little-known face of the cheat who could bring cricket to its knees. Essex paceman Mervyn Westfield faces jail after becoming the first Englishman convicted of match-fixing.
He will be sentenced on 10 February but – with three Pakistani cricketers jailed in England last year over similar charges – the 23-year-old is expected to name further fixers in the game as he bids to get his sentence reduced.
Westfield was warned by Judge Anthony Morris: “Mr Westfield, I hold out no promises but it is open to the court to pass an immediate custodial sentence.”
Morris also promised to name the “well-known” cricketing character who paid Westfield. The ECB announced an amnesty on match-fixers last Friday in an attempt to get further corruption out in the open – but Cricket South Africa refused to accept the need for something similar in this country despite the shadow of the late Hansie Cronjé’s match-fixing, exposed in 2000.
One CSA spokesman told Scoop! last Friday: “Nobody in South Africa is under suspicion.” But Herschelle Gibbs, who admitted to trying to fix an innings in India in 2000 and still plays for the Cobras, received only a six-month ban from cricket.
Westfield, once considered a Test contender, effectively threw his career away for £6 000 (R72 000) when he promised to allow 12 runs to be scored off the first over of a Pro40 match against Durham in September 2009.
Though he bowled a wide, only 10 runs were conceded. Westfield’s legal team argued their client had not gone through with the fix, but the judge said he found it “difficult to accept”that he would not have been paid.
The game was broadcast live on Sky across India and Pakistan, making it eminently fixable. Westfield conceded 60 runs from his seven overs but Essex went on to win by seven wickets.
Born in Romford near London, Westfield boasted about his ill-gotten earnings to col¬leagues, who blew the whistle.
Westfield’s conviction is a huge embarrassment for English cricket, coming three months after Pakistan stars Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were jailed for spot-fixing.
This story first appeared in Scoop! South Africa's new Sunday tabloid. See www.scoopnews.co.za

Sunday, 15 January 2012

It is never pleasant being attacked by a swan. Ask Arsene Wenger

Up the Swanny: Arsenal beaten 3-2
I was attacked by a swan once, circa 1999. When I invaded his island with my son Kriss on the Misbourne River in Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire. His name was King Tut. Hit me with his wing, left a mark like a baseball bat on my back. Still have nightmares, falling face first in the river, nearly unconscious.

And it felt like that watching Arsenal play the Swans yesterday. Hit by a baseball bat. Drowning in mediocrity. De Ja-bloody-vu it was.  A nerve-jangling, devastating 3-2 defeat to follow the appalling reverse against Fulham, the hopeless draw against Wolves. And Manchester United to come to the Emirates next week. Oh, God, no.

Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers, the former Chelsea youth boss who struggled in charge at Reading, is loving his life of freedom at the Liberty Stadium. They actually outplayed Arsenal, out-passed them. Afterwards he said: "We have a great belief that we can play and pass. Some of our ball retention today was incredible. It's always going to be a fantastic football game against Arsenal. Strictly come passing! They've been doing it for years, we're only beginning. It's great to win such a game."

Predictably, Arsene Wenger kicked-off his post-match comments insisting "it was never a penalty" and said: "We missed some great chances at 3-2, and at this level we cannot afford that. We made massive mistakes on the third goal. It's difficult to explain. We'd just come back to 2-2 we knew we had what it takes to score the third goal.

"It's a bit down to the fact we shuffled the defence around, some players do not play in that position. But in the last two games we have given away cheap goals.

"They played well, they're a good side. They had a lot of possession in their half. But it's just a side like ours. At 1-0 up and 2-2 we don't want to make mistakes like we did.

"I feel we can still make a strong bid for the top four. But today and at Fulham, we lost the game. And we cannot afford that."

The start was predictable enough,. Robin van Persie, as ever, got the early goal, a personal best 18 for the season. It's going to be a record for the Dutch master. I bite the coffee table, snog the cat... and the security in my fingerprinted estate in Centurion on the Hennops River in South Africa (where there are many, many swans, black and white) was called to investigate the screams.

Then what happens?

The only Welsh side in the Premier League gets one back. The softest of penalties as Aaron Ramsey - yes, a Welshman - touches a home player. Nathan Dyer, superb yesterday, collapsed like the Dying Swan, but without the balletic grace.
Dyer said afterwards: "What a massive confidence boost. We passed it around well, played them at their own game. We've got the same philosophy as they have. It was a great game of football for the neutrals."

On the penalty, he said: "He kicked my foot, I just went over. Look, we're just enjoying playing in the Premier League. Every game, luckily for us we're doing well. We've got a good work ethic."

Scott Sinclair - five from five from the spot this season - tucks away the penalty, Sche... Swech... the Polish keeper can't get to it and it's 1-1. Swansea are holding the ball like Arsenal used to when they had Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere (remember him? Me Neither) and then Van Persie gets another sight of goal... and fails to beat Michel Vorm with a much easier chance than his first.

Dyer flashes a shot in, 40 minutes gone, this time Scze... Schew... the Polish keeper gets to it. But it's only a matter of time. Like the devastating Fulham defeat, Arsenal have the lead but can't hold it. Can't even hold the ball.

Half-time. Level at 1-1. The agony is just beginning. Surely not a defeat against the promoted Swans? Not this weekend when Spurs dropped two points at Wolves and fourth place remains a realistic hope? Lose this and we're four behind Chelsea in the last Champions League spot.

On the Premier League's international programme we watch here on SuperSport in SA, Andy Townsend says he can't see a touch by Ramsey on Dyer. Alan Curbishley says he can. All I can see is Ramsey doing the splits, barely brushing Dyer. The Arsenal man is lucky to escape injury. Dyer is lucky to escape an Oscar.

But it matters not. As we shall see very soon, this Arsenal side is far too fragile. They are not Champions League material, though they have qualified to face AC Milan in the knock-out stages next month. This will be their last European Cup campaign for a while.

After 56 of those agonising minutes, Wojciech Szczesny (yes, that's the Polish keeper, with the J, W, Y and two Zs in all the right places) is beaten again. Nathan, the Dyer Swan, capitalises after yet another stray pass from Andrei Arshavin, the bloke who once said he qualified as a fashion designer at home in St Petersburg.

Go back to the needlework, Meerkat. It's only fair. Your species may scare snakes, but these Swans were entirely impervious to your threat. Off he went, past Wenger, substituted without even an apology to the baying Gooners so desperate for a sniff of a trophy after six lean years.

On the hour mark, the bearded wonder arrives. Thierry Henry. Scorer of the only goal on his comeback debut on loan from the New York Red Bulls. Will this be a repeat of the 2-1 defeat at Fulham or the 1-0 FA Cup win over Leeds?

It’s going to be neither. First Theo Walcott levels, a brilliant finish for once from the man we all hoped for so much from. But within 45 seconds, David Graham has the Swans back in front. Per Mertesacker fails to see the run. Inexplicably, he stops. Szczesny gets his angles all wrong.  That's the 25th goal conceded away from home for a ramshackle team of supposed title contenders.

On Twitter, the world explodes. Virtual roars, oaths and despair. Incredible. Dramatic. Conceding in seconds. Never seen anything like it.

Oh yes we have. Remember the 4-0 lead against Newcastle that became a 4-4 draw? Remember Fulham a couple of weeks ago? That’s when we saw it. Arsenal fans are used to it. We can’t defend a lead. Not even four goals.

I can see King Tut coming down the river at me, framed by weeping willows. Swans are dangerous. Especially on their own territory. I said it at half-time, it was back to haunt us all, we Gooners.

Mertesacker misses a chance to level from a corner, then he is removed by Wenger, who is going for broke. Apparently the German has an illness. But he appears to have been off-colour since January when he made his surprising arrival in North London. Sick as a bloody parrot he's been.

I've seen better centre-backs in South Africa... try Erick "Tower" Mathoho at Bloemfontein Celtic, Arsene. Or perhaps you could approach rivals Spurs and ask if you could have Bongani Khumalo, the cool Bafana Bafana centrehalf, currently not being used on loan by Reading.

As a Ramsey header thumps in to Vorm's chest, we have seven minutes left. Manchester United to come next weekend, and Arsenal are 3-2 down to Swansea, who have been creating chances at the other end. Appalling.

Tomas Rosicky has two late chances, Koscielny has another, Vorm repels them comfortably. Van Persie wriggles and writhes in injury time, but nothing can save them. For the sixth time this season, the travelling Goonners fall silent.

Swans? They're a bloody nightmare.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Spurs reject QPR bid for Bafana captain Pienaar... but that's only half the story

SPURS rejected the first of an expected avalanche of bids for Steve Pienaar on Friday when new Queens Park Rangers boss Mark Hughes approached Harry Redknapp for the under-used South African captain.
Pienaar, brought up in the tough Westbury area of Johannesburg, has played just five times for in-form Tottenham this season - but his appearances have been limited to Carling Cup and Europe League outings.
His bargain  £2m move from Everton in January 2011 was engineered by manager Rob Moore after a new contract went unsigned at Goodison Park.
Hughes is believed to have offered around the same price for Pienaar, but will up the bid to  £3m in an attempted to make Pienaar his first signing since taking over from Neil Warnock at Loftus Road.
Pienaar, injured in pre-season, finds himself unable to get beyond Gareth Bale on the left of Harry Redknapp's title-chasing midfield - a minor fact overlooked (but mentioned here) when he snubbed Chelsea for Spurs a year ago.
Pienaar, 29, and agent Moore insisted the move was all about playing Champions League football but Spurs failed to finish in the top four last season and missed out on Europe's premier competition.
Everton are also believed to be interested in ending Pienaar's misery, offering to take him back on loan to the club where he won the fans's player of the season award in 2009. Pienaar is also being watched by Scottish giants Celtic and Spurs' injury-ravaged neighbours Arsenal.
Spurs boss Redknapp is believed to be persuadable on the issue of Pienaar's departure but publicly he said: "I wouldn't want to let him go. He is a good player," Redknapp said. "I brought him on for the last 10 minutes against Everton on Wednesday and he didn't give the ball away. I don't have any need to weaken the squad. I would rather have a good squad for last 18 matches of the season than let one or two go who could play a part in the run-in."

But surely the point is, if Redknapp really didn't want Pienaar to go, how did knowledge of QPR's bid emerge in all the English newspapers simulataneously. Harry, though he denies it, is a wheeler dealer in the market. My belief is he "leaked" news of the bid, along with quotes saying he still wanted Pienaar. That way, he gets to keep Pienaar happy while stoking a bidding war for his talented but largely redundant South African.
Pienaar's Spurs career started promisingly, the South African slotting in to the team after an injury to Gareth Bale. He started the Londoners' Champions League second-round game away to Milan but a series of injuries meant that he saw little first-team action. He suffered a concussion after clashing heads with a team-mate, Bongani Khumalo, during training in February and he picked up a groin problem towards the end of the season.
Pienaar was confident that the groin problem had gone away, but it flared up again in pre-season and he had to undergo surgery, ruling him out until mid-September. Another two setbacks kept him out until November.
My experience tells me the Hughes bid was leaked to the British press in an attempt to "make a market" for Pienaar, with bigger and better bids coming soon. But Pienaar should hold firm. The transfer window still has a fortnight to run. And Bale could yet suffer an injury which could tranform Schillo's Spurs fortunes.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Sout Appeal: how YOU feel about the South Africans who opt for England

SPORTS fans on the social networking sites responded with some gusto when asked how they felt about the migration to England of a galaxy of South African sports stars.
The story was sparked by a simple twitter from a sportsmad follower called Ben Wessels on Twitter.
He lamented the selection of Brad Barritt for England this week. Durban-born centre Brad captained Kearsney College’s first XV in 2004 and played for the Sharks before joining Saracens and getting called-up by England’s new coach Stuart Lancaster for next month’s Six Nations championship.
In an article for Sunday’s Scoop!, South Africa’s new Sunday newspaper, I asked:
Do you have strong feelings about the number of South African stars stolen by England? Brad Barritt the latest rugby player, six in England cricket squad, even Andrew Surman of Norwich... is it fair?
We focused on the decision of ten South African-born stars to play for England, including “Saffacens” trio Barritt, Mouritz Botha and Matt Stevens plus cricket captain Andrew Strauss (though he left aged six), Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior, Craig Kieswetter and Jade Dernbach.
Norwich City midfielder Andrew Surman also opted to play for the England Under 21s last year after the Johannesburg-born midfielder’s pleas for a place in Bafana Bafana’s World Cup squad in 2010 were ignored.
 Here’s a selection of your responses which will be published in Scoop! (available at all respectable street corners in Gauteng and KZN) on Sunday along with a super graphic from our image specialist Johan Smith. Don’t miss it!
@Zaakirinho (Zaakir Hoosen): The problem is, many countries are unable to stop the leak. Who is the winner, Brit talent is overshadowed as well? I believe if a player represents his birth-country at a junior level he should then NOT be allowed to represent another country?
@daneherbst (Dane Herbst): To be honest I’m going to have to make sure I miss Barritt in Durban when I throw my oranges at the likes of Ashton, Haskell, Armitage and Tindall
@manqoba89 (Xolani Sibeko): The question should be, how are the English feeling about being represented by South Africans? Don’t they have talent there
@mashabanebasil (Basil Mashabane): I see it as just a career move, same with all ex-pats in the UK. They all remain South Africans  at heart. @kevinpp24 (Kevin Pietersen) is an example
@ben_wessels (Ben Wessels): Yes it pisses us off, well it does me at least. More than I like to admit actually. You can keep KP though!
@hamishfs (Hamish Scott): Wish Brad well but Boks are blessed with centres like JdV, Fourien de Jongh, Butch, Lambie and Frans. No way through.
@Sihleb6 (Sihle Blose): I will not blame England if the South African national coaches do not call up the players. What must they do if someone else is calling?
@daveycha (David Rees): It says more about South Africa than it does about England.
Pal Mabelane: Don’t mind at all, it’s testimony in how competitive South African cricket is. I just hate losing against them!
Tebogo Mokoana: This is always a bit tricky, looking at Andrew Surman even though people were raving about him Pitso never paid attention. I mean that boy is playing in the biggest league and Pitso was asked first what he thinks of him! Davide Somma (Leeds) had to be trafted into the team because of the media pressure.
Tshilidzi Thame: Its not fair but good for the game, especially cricket. We have enough capacity and why not share…
Tera Twetwa: Its great to see the non-white players like Vernon Philander and Lonwabo Tsotsobe proving that they are selected on merit. It would be sad to lose quality players because of the quota-system like we did with Pietersen.
Andrew Moumakwe Jnr: Neal, South Africa’s selection system is really shocking at times. Especially soccer and cricket. No continuity. For me it’s a fair deal.
Sakhe Zamela: Are we losing Surman? This sucks big time sir
Dan Webb: You can have Jade Dernbach back!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Just how will twittering bad boy Joey Barton get on with Mark Hughes?

JOEY BARTON became a father for the first time last week at the age of 29. He also scored an 11th-minute goal for QPR against Norwich last Monday afternoon. And after 36 minutes, he got sent-off for the faintest of head-butts on Bradley Johnson, who may even now be considering a career on stage. After seeing his side beaten 2-1 following his dismissal, Barton called for referees to be sued for making mistakes, twittering his 1,040,204 followers: “I wonder how long it is before a football club sues a referee for making a bad decision?” QPR's hastily arranged appeal against the red card failed and Barton is currently suspended for three games. Entirely ignoring the fact he got Arsenal’s Gervinho sent off in very similar circumstances last season, Barton ranted and tweeted all week before his club drew their FA Cup tie at MK Dons last Saturday without him. That was boss Neil Warnock's last game in charge. Curiously, on Friday, Barton was involved in a training ground bust-up with Warnock and his coaching staff. Though suspended, he railed against having to train alone, yelling: "You lot are not going to be here much longer." By Monday this week, Warnock had gone with his promoted side slipping down the table and with suspicious haste, former Wales, Manchester City and Fulham boss Mark Hughes took over yesterday. Some might say Barton played his part in Warnock's dismissal and you could certainly say Joseph Athony Barton is not your average footballer, even in these Premier League days of excess. For a start, his brother Michael Barton is serving a life sentence for the “racially motivated murder” of Anthony Walker in 2005. In May of the same year, Joey broke a 35-year-old pedestrian's leg while driving his car through Liverpool city centre at 2am. He lists world-beating boxer Ricky Hatton and Oasis singer Noel Gallagher among his close friends. He owns a race-horse called “Crying Lightning” and just last week named his newborn son Cassius. On Twitter, he quotes anybody from Friedrich Nietzsche to George Orwell but insists he is not a member of the right-wing English Defence League after an apparently damning picture with one of their leaders. Brought up in the tough Liverpool neighbourhood of Huyton by his father living in his grandparents’ home, he kicked-off his career at Manchester City and earned his first England cap while he was playing in light blue in 2007. Things began to go wrong when, on 20 May 2008 he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for common assault and affray during an incident outside a McDonald's restaurant in Liverpool. He served 77 days. While he was inside, in July 2008, he was handed a four-month suspended sentence after admitting to assaulting team-mate Ousmane Dabo at the City training ground. Other incidents of a similar kind went unpunished. At that point, Newcastle stepped in to end his City nightmare, paying £5.8 million for him in July 2007. After four controversial years with the Magpies, he joined his current club Queens Park Rangers in August 2011. And the arguments rage on. While his side prepared for their FA Cup tie he stuck to his twitter guns, tweeting: “Those 3 points against Norwich could be difference between Premier League survival and not. That equates to a lot of money. “Someone has to set the precedent to stop the game from being ruined, maybe I'll be the first one. Can players sue referees? #Canofwormsopen. “Or a player sues another player for play-acting. Which is basically a lie and that is actionable. Whats the difference?” That was followed by a demand for a resumption of fox hunting after he spotted four of the innocent creatures during a walk in a nearby west London park. And he had time for a quick twitter war with a certain Piers Morgan. This week, Barton says, he is going to take a break from Twitter saying "it's boring the tits off me now" and worrying about "withdrawal systems". I don't expect it to last. It's too much fun for him, for us journalists, and the social networkers. Carry on Joey. But don’t expect any sympathy from rival fans, referees… or the notoriously sparky Hughes. There may be (more) trouble ahead.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

All white on the night: New racism row for Liverpool as Oldham kid is abused by Anfield fan

LIVERPOOL found themselves in the midst of another racist row on Friday night when Oldham’s young defender Tom Adeyemi was left in tears by an abusive supporter at Anfield.
Liverpool released a statement saying they “will continue to work with the police to establish the details of what happened.”
The incident comes two days after Liverpool forward Luis Suarez issued a partial public apology following his eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
On their own website, Liverpool fans have started a thread asking why Glenn Johnson is the sole black player in their squad under Kenny Dalglish this season - and Johnson did not play on Friday night.
Full-back Adeyemi, 20, was consoled by Latics team-mates and Liverpool players 10 minutes from the end of the Fmatch after a comment shouted from the Kop.
Adeyemi was walking back into position after a tackle when a supporter wearing a Luis Suarez T-shirt is alleged to have shouted his disgusting racist insults.
An eye witness told police he heard a single voice shout: “You f****** black b******.”
Adeyemi, on loan from Norwich, also gave a statement to police before departing on the team bus. It is understood he also claimed he had been called a “black c***.”
A police spokesman told the BBC: “We can confirm no one has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated behaviour.
”However, the Force and Liverpool FC are investigating following an incident that occurred during the second half.
”The aim of the investigation is to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident to ascertain if any action needs to be taken.”
Oldham boss Paul Dickov said: “I know Tom and something has been said. He is a placid boy who has been well educated and has a fantastic temperament.
”So for him to react like that, it’s obvious that something has been said.”

This is just one of my stories for Scoop! tomorrow: you can also read about Bakkies Botha eating children, Cape Town worried about 2013 Grand Prix, Joey Barton the nutty professional, Tiger out of the woods and  Federer rodgered... not to mention Bafana getting battered in Bata... see www.scoopnews.co.za and pick up a copy on Sunday from supermarkets, newsagents and street corners.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Don't panic: Sir Alex Ferguson goes all Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on us

IN many of the less relaxed football clubs on the Inner Rim of the Footballing Galaxy, Sir Alex Ferguson has already supplanted the great Sir Alf Ramsey as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for he scores over the older, more pedestrian (and now dead) manager in two important respects.
First, Sir Alex is Scottish; and secondly he now has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on his forehead.
After earth-shaking Festive season defeats against rock-bottom Blackburn Rovers (3-2) and Newcastle United (3-0), the Manchester United boss goes in to today’s FA Cup third round clash against neighbours City with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy mantra firmly in mind.
Sir Alex, who turned 70 on December 31, said: “We have the experience to cope, we need to get the show on the road.
”It’s not a time for panic. Losing a game at this time of the year can sometimes happen.”
The Scot, not averse to the odd Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (the effect is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick, according to the Guide), is only too aware of Roberto Mancini’s last outing: a universally acclaimed 3-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.
He said: ”Advantage to them, of course.”
Sir Alex, who could do with a towel (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus Ⅴ, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal - a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you, daft as a bush like Joey Barton, but ravenous; you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough, but that's enough about towels) and a few goals from returning Boxing Day Gargle Blaster Wayne Rooney at The Etihad Stadium on Sunday (live on SuperSports 3, 5pm South African time) adds a few words for arch-rivals Liverpool, who rank alongside Vogon Constructor Fleets in Mancunian affections.
Under pressure to ease tensions over the racist abused heaped on United full back Patrice Evra by Uruguayan Luis Suarez, Sir Alex growled: “It is nice of Liverpool to call for peace talks through the press. You would have thought they would come to Manchester United first.
”I do not see why there is any need for it. I have nothing to say about it.”
Suarez has been banned for eight games after using the N-word nine times and telling Evra “I’m Spanish I don’t speak to blacks”.
Ironically, his return from suspension is likely to fall at Old Trafford on February 11 where the Uruguayan will be about as welcome as an appearance from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.
As for reports of Chelsea's unhappy Frank Lampard moving to Old Trafford, you might have well as suggested Zaphod Beeblebrox was planning a move to Manchester. Sir Alex grunted: "Do you really believe that? There is no foundation to it. We won't get the players that we would like. What can you get in January? What do you do? Do you take a second-rate player? No, of course you don't."
So if not Lamps, then what exactly IS the answer for gloomy United as the transfer window opens? That's easy. 42.
For this and more stories like it, read South Africa's new Sunday tabloid SCOOP! this Sunday, available from all good newsagents, supermarkets and street vendors. See www.scoopnews.co.za.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Here they are: The top ten goals of the year and guess who's Number One?

The Premier League's top ten goals of the season so far, as chosen by Alan Curbishley and Andy Townsend on the New Year's Day show:
10: Sergio Aguero for Manchester City, his second on debut as sub against Swansea.

9: City team-mate David Silva against QPR, touch forward and hit with left foot.

8: Bryan Ruiz for Fulham against Everton, lobs Tim Howard.

7: Gareth Bale's surging run and finish against Norwich the day after Boxing Day.

6: Spurs again, Luca Modric’s beautiful bending right footer against Liverpool.

5: Swansea's long build-up to score against Blackburn, 18 passes before Leroy Lita’s header.

4: Carlos Tevez's brilliant free-kick against Stoke. Remember him

3: Robin van Persie's cracking volley against Everton, one of 35 scored in 2011.

2: Tiote's unbelievable volley to complete Newcastle's 4-0 comeback against Gunners

1: Wayne Rooney (remember him?) with his overhead strike against neighbours City

Peter Roebuck: Is this the final, damning truth? Can it be any clearer?

Sadly, the one of my New Year's resolutions is falling down around my years as I write. I promised last night to leave the Peter Roebuck situation alone, not to harp on about the sad suicide of a fine cricket writer with a dark side.
But my twitter mate Arthur Matebula (www.twitter.com/@bossarthur) changed all that when he sent me a link to Adam Shand's piece on Roebuck, printed in the New Year's Day edition of the Melbourne Age in Australia.
On the day of his death, and given the circumstances surrounding his plunge from a sixth floor hotel window, I watched all the glowing eulogies drop. What a great man Roebuck was, they said, waxing lyrical about how he was never scared to tell the truth. Bollocks. So I wrote http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011/11/peter-roebuck-eulogy-nobody-will-have.html, tagged "The Eulogy Nobody Will Have the Courage to Publish".
I also took the time to warn the Johannesburg Star's chief sports writer Kevin McCallum not to eulogise too glowingly about a man convicted of abusing three South African teenagers. He chose to ignore my advice and told readers of his once-respectable tome to wear black armbands at The Wanderers for Roebuck when the second Test between South Africa took place a few days later.
The response to my blog and subsequent warnings was immediate and overwhelming.
McCallum blocked me on Twitter, the rest of the cricket writers, Australian and South African, accused me of homophobia and bitterness. Go to the blog now. Read the 200 comments that came in. Many of them were disgusting but delivered from behind the coward's shield of anonymity.
Most were from cricket lovers, some were from transparently sent by cricket writers I have frequently shared a press box - and a drink - with.
The truth is contained, emphatically, in Shand's lengthy, carefully researched piece http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/the-roebuck-tragedy-a-tale-of-love-beatings-and-blackmail-20111231-1pgmk.html
You hope for apologies in these situations. When you get it right and everybody else gets it so badly wrong. You hope people will appreciate the courage it took to write that blog that day. And you hope that they will finally recognise the logic behind it.
How can we eulogise about a cricket writer who preyed on young men, using his status as an international globe-trotter to attract young men? I'd always suspected it, but the manner of his death was final confirmation. And I couldn't have been the only person who realised that.
A man who set up charities and a home near Pietermaritzburg to further his warped, perverted habits, so clearly revealed by Shand's piece had to be exposed.
But no. Apologies are scarce. Instead, the great and the good of cricket held a major commemoration of Roebuck's death at Sydney last month before the Test match against New Zealand.
His estranged family in England have used the alarming silence on Roebuck's true nature to launch an anti-South African tirade, suggesting the police were in some way responsible for his death. I must question their motives.
And just today, Luke Alfred writes a piece in the South African Sunday Times, completely missing the point and lauding Roebuck for his attack on Zimbabwe and their president Robert Mugabe.
Of course, those attacks were motivated by Roebuck's need to impress his young, penniless Zimbabwean students at Straw Hat farm in Pietermaritzburg, an attempt to further his perverted empire.
Roebuck got away with masquerading as a kindly old buffer for years, as the Age proves today. His mates in the cricket-writing clique chose to ignore his procilivities, choosing to see them as mere eccentricities.
A former public school boy with a penchant for handing out hidings? No. More than that. The bloke was a predator, a manipulator of helpless youngsters who depended on him.
That's the truth. I'm glad I wrote it. Ashamed of those who chose to ignore the evidence, preferring to eulogise about his undeniable cricket writing skills.
So to Howard Donaldson, Malcolm Conn, Kevin McCallum and the rest, read http://neal-collins.blogspot.com/2011/11/peter-roebuck-eulogy-nobody-will-have.html and http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/the-roebuck-tragedy-a-tale-of-love-beatings-and-blackmail-20111231-1pgmk.html.
Then tell me if I was right. And apologise. You can find a link to do just that immediately below this blog. And don't hide behind the anonymous tag to have another blast. Nobody should stoop so low.