Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The man with the golden touch: How South Africa's Chad Le Clos edged out Michael Phelps, the world's greatest Olympian

The man with the golden touch: South Africa's Chad Le Clos 

THERE will never be a more dramatic Olympic moment for South Africa than Chad Le Clos’s golden touch in the 200m butterfly at the glittering new London Aquatic Centre last night.
Sure, Cameron van der Burgh’s world record victory in the 100m backstroke was pretty special as he claimed Africa’s first medal of the 30th Olympiad on Sunday night.
But it was the sheer drama of Le Clos’s triumph 48 hours later which makes South Africa’s second gold medal so special, so historic – and put the Rainbow nation ahead of Australia and hosts Great Britain on the medal table.
Afterwards, the 20-year-old from Durban sobbed through the national anthem before gushing: “Michael Phelps is my hero. I love the guy. I just wanted to race him in the final and I've beaten him. I can't believe it.
“It's been a dream of mine ever since I was a little boy. This is the greatest moment of my life. To beat Phelps, I can't believe it. You don't understand what this means to me.”
And of course, that’s the point. Phelps was the big character here. The world’s greatest ever swimmer was bidding to became the first male to win the same individual event at three Olympics.
Though it was given precious little hype by the local broadcasters, it was one of THOSE finishes. The kind you’ll remember with a huge grin when you’re old and cynical.
There was the greatest swimmer of all time, soon to be the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps cruising out in front. This was the night he would equal the great Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina’s all-time record of 16 gold medals.
And Le Clos, the lad who matriculated from Westville Boys in 2009 was trailing in third after two lengths against the man famous for winning tight finishes.
But unlike compatriot Van Der Burgh who is unbeatable over 50m in the breast-stroke, Le Clos is a strong finisher in the 200m butterfly. As they came down the last, he was third. Then second… and the commentators told us: “It’s Phelps, on his way to history. He’s got the lead, but is it a winning lead.  
“It’s going to be close, Phelps is hanging on, he’s a winner… does he touch? He DOESN'T. Le Clos GETS THE TOUCH! Incredible. The greatest swimmer we’ve even seen makes a rookie mistake.”
All around the pool – and all around the world – incredulity reigned. “The man who doesn’t make mistakes has made a mistake,” they told us, unsure how to find the words, unsure what to say about Le Clos, who was described as French by Reuters and Russian by USA Today’s tweets.
At one point, the commentators on the global feed told us about “Phelps’ controversial defeat” as if the great man had been wronged - but of course there was nothing controversial about it. He simply got done on the line by a youngster who said before London that he was “just warming up for Rio in 2016”.
To be fair, the commentators did manage to drag themselves away from Phelps for brief seconds: “You don’t get a bigger scalp ever than Michael Phelps,” was one effort, while they also applauded the emergence of France and South Africa in the pool.
Still, with the SABC and SuperSport sticking to the global feeds, the social networks were awash with complaints. And it was a full hour before we saw Chad again… for the medal ceremony. No attempt was made to get a microphone to Le Clos, despite the myriad of reporters sent to England for the Olympics.
Le Clos sobbed throughout the second rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika in three nights, and Phelps managed to keep a smile on his face throughout.
Twenty minutes later, Phelps and the USA went on to win the 4x200m freestyle relay from France while South Africa, with Le Clos swimming a game third leg, finished seventh. And all the talk was of Phelps again, as he drew within a single gold of the all-time record and became, with 19, the leading medal winner of all time with 19 of all colours.
And speaking of colour, many twats on twitter began asking if Le Clos was white or coloured. As I told them: he’s not black, white or coloured. He’s simply pure gold.

Monday, 30 July 2012

When London 2012 belonged to South Africa: and where the next medal will come from

Making his point: Cameron van der Burgh after winning Africa's first gold

SPINE-TINGLING moments are rare for South African Olympians. But for an all-too-brief 15 minutes on Sunday night, London 2012 belonged to the Rainbow Nation.
After two days of agony which saw cycling road race contenders Daryll Impey and Asleigh Moolman finish empty-handed and the women’s footballers Banyana Banyana knocked-out after defeats against Sweden and Japan, the promised land of 12 medals looked unobtainable.
Charl Crous (men’s 100m backstroke) and Wendy Trott (women’s 400m freestyle) finished last in their heats and when our much-hyped hockey girls were thumped 7-1 by Argentina, the social networks were abuzz with complaints from patriotic South Africans watching the games of the 30th Olympiad.
My reply was simply to point the twittering cynics towards a better time, a better place. Specifically 9.11pm at the sparkling new Aqua Centre in Olympic Park.
The night before, Van der Burgh left defending Beijing champion Kosuke Kitajima of Japan in his wake with an Olympic record 58.83secs in the 100m breaststroke semi-final. He went to London with the world’s fifth-fastest time but went in to the final as the fastest qualifier.
There was never any doubt that Van der Burgh – allegedly stronger over the non-Olympic 50m than he is over two lengths – would be South Africa’s first medallist in London. And there was no doubt he would reach the turn at the front of the field.
The surprises came with his enduring pace over the final length, the ease with which he won gold, and that world record finishing time of 58.46secs which left a stunned favourite Kitajima 1.33secs behind in fifth place with Australia’s Christian Sprenger taking silver and Brendan Hansen of the US in third.
The commentator screamed: “Van der Burgh is tiring, he’s a one-length specialist” but the truth was the 24-year-old had simply blown the rest of the world away and Australia’s Brenton Rickard was left trailing in sixth-place as his global mark was shattered by 0.12secs.
Afterwards the Crawford College old boy gasped: “The world record doesn’t matter. Just to be an Olympian, an Olympic champion, puts you in a club which nobody can take away from you.”
The beauty of Van der Burgh’s triumph lies in the fact that, unlike so many other South African swimmers, he is home-schooled. Cameron does his training at the University of Pretoria, as part of an academy which also saw AmaTuks graduate to the Premier Soccer League last season as well as producing top class tennis players and golfers.
In less than a minute, Cameron had won Africa’s first medal and improved on the entire South African medal haul from Beijing four years ago, where long-jumper Khotso Mokoena won a single silver in a bleak Chinese fortnight.
For the first time in eight years, Nkosi Sikelel’ iAFrika boomed out across an Olympic venue, and Van Der Burgh could barely keep his composure, taking huge breaths to keep the tears from overwhelming him.
Holding his emotions in check, he grinned: “I chose just the right time to swim the perfect race. That’s what I’ll be able to tell my children.”
Van der Burgh, who started swimming seriously at 11, confesses: “I love what I do and never feel like I’m actually working. Playing in the pool all day isn’t so bad.”
And now for further medals – 11 of them, if Sascoc are to maintain their optimistic schedule in London.
Cameron’s fellow swimmer Chad Le Clos, the 20-year-old from Durban, has chances after finishing an impressive fifth in the 400m individual medley behind American giant Ryan Lochte.
But even if Le Clos misses out in his favourite 200m butterfly tonight or the 200m medley on Friday, there’s always the men’s lightweight four in the rowing at Eton Dorney on Thursday where Lawrence Ndlovu, John Smith, Matthew Brittain and James Thomson are hoping to build on their second-place finish at the World Cup in Lucerne earlier this year.
But for real bullion, we need only look to today’s triathlon in the London docklands for medal-hungry South Africans.
That’s where South Africa have real medal hopes, centring on Richard Murray, the 23-year-old from Cape Town, who won the swim-cycle-run World Cup event in Hamburg on the Saturday before the Olympics, over-shadowed by Hashim Amla’s 311 not out and Ernie Els’ Open triumph.
By the time the athletics starts – with javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, 800m champion Caster Semenya, Mokoena, the 4x400m men’s relay and 400m hurdler LJ Van Zyl all medal contenders – South Africa may well have a few more medals in the bag before Burry Stander’s mountain biking on the final Sunday of London 2012.
And as I write this column remember this: South Africa are currently leading hosts Great Britain in the medals table – Lewis Hamilton was the only British winner of the weekend. And his Grand Prix triumph came a distant 1 500km away in Hungary.

Friday, 27 July 2012

London 2012: what you can expect from tonight's Opening Ceremony

Breaking barriers: Roger Bannister

TONIGHT’S London 2012 Opening Ceremony gets underway at 9pm in Great Britain – 10pm in South Africa – with Danny Boyle’s lavish £27m production shrouded in secrecy.
Despite numerous rehearsals each witnessed by 60,000 people, the great event – and the identity of the torch-lighter – has been kept under wraps with those in the know proudly tweeting coded references with the hash-tag #keepthesurprise.
But utter secrecy cannot be ensured in the modern age of social networking when gossip crosses oceans faster than it used to cross the street. Especially when you have hundreds of nurses involved.
What we can say is that the ceremony will be packed with British cultural references which will completely bemuse those in South Africa and beyond.
There will be no jet-packed Ironman from Los Angeles 1984, nor the wall-running Superman from Beijing, the superheroes on show feature James Bond and Mary Poppins - though the visual effects from the superb South African 2010 World Cup opening will come in to play.
The production will start with Boyle, something of an anti-estblishment figure, dressing up the 65,000 capacity Stratford Stadium as England’s “green and pleasant land”. The grass and oak tree, plus traditional English rain clouds, are already in place. A 27-ton bell will get proceedings underway just hours after Big Ben five miles away bonged for ages to herald the games’ arrival.
We will see 12 horses, three cows, 70 sheep, three sheepdogs and a horse-drawn plough if the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals doesn’t get involved. Despite rumours from New Zealand, the wooly, four-legged types won’t actually be competing in the 30th edition of the modern Olympiad.
The “green and pleasant bit” also features families having picnics, milkmaids and, ironically considering it's not an Olympic event, a village cricket game with players in caps and braces.
All this will please the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall not to mention another 120 world leaders including Michelle Obama, Americans' first lady.
We were expecting to see invasions from horn-helmeted Scandinavian Vikings and Romans as Boyle takes us rapidly through a pastiche of British history… culminating in the 17th Century Industrial Revolution. All the while, expect to see pretty young things dancing around the traditional pagan maypole with ribbons.
At one end of the stadium we’ll see an oak tree on a hill representing the history Glastonbury Tor, at the other end, something from Last Night of the Proms with musical backing featuring The Jam’s Going Underground and Vangelis’s classic sporting anthem, Chariots of Fire.
The transition from medieval Shakespeare (some of the early bits are based on a passage called Isles of Wonder from The Tempest) to Frankensteinian dark Satanic mills will shake up the crowd as we hit modern times, the bit the Conservatives in the current UK coalition government are most worried about.
At this point, expect labouring weavers, miners, steel workers and engineers backed by Lionel Bart’s Food Glorious Food, the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction, and the Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant. Yes, the Sex Pistols. Punk rock, remember that?
The final segment revolves around two young girls going “out on the town” for a traditional Saturday night together. An army of real nurses – who have been rehearsing in a “Guantanamo-style” facility in dodgy Dagenham down the road – will lead a celebration of Britain’s National Health Service.
Then the iconic British references hit us hard and fast. Paul McCartney will sing “Hey Jude”, the great Beatles hit from the 60s, then the equally ancient pop group Mud will blast out Tiger Feet.
Expect to hear Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and the late Amy Winehouse’s Valerie. And then witness “about 40” Mary Poppins figures, using umbrellas for parachutes, drop in to take on Harry Potter’s evil enemy Voldemort. Daniel Craig, who will be in the stadium, has pre-recorded a James Bond sequence for the Olympics, though there are some who believe David Beckham will leap out of the Bond-style helicopter live in the stadium.
The torch-lighting itself – which I believe will be carried about by Sir Roger Bannister, the 83-year-old who first broke the four-minute barrier for the mile in 1957 – involves a complex “fuse” mechanism which will burn a path along the hoardings to the permanent flame, which will be housed on the rim of the stadium roof at Stratford for the duration of both the Olympics and Paralympics for the next month.
Bookmakers stopped taking bets on Bannister blazing his octogenarian trail, though Queen Elizabeth II, King David of Los Angeles, decathlete Daley Thompson and Britain’s most successful ever Olympian Sir Steve Redgrave are also hovering hopefully with those boxes of very long matches.
And then, finally, the athletes enter. Caster Semenya will carry the flag for South Africa and Maria Sharapova will lead Russia as the 205 nations and most of their 100,000 athletes are encouraged to move swiftly around the track by a high-tempo march by Underworld, who featured on Boyle’s Trainspotting soundtrack. They've been politely asked NOT to delay proceedings by over-use of smart phones. Greece will lead the nations in, then everyone will be in alphabetical order until the hosts, Great Britain, enter last.
And, apart from a couple of speeches from International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and London 2012 chairman Seb Coe, will be that.
The real start of the Olympics, the winning of the first goal medal, will take place tomorrow on The Mall, where the men’s roadrace ends after 250km involving multiple climbs of Boxhill in Surrey. Among the favourites? Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Darryl Impey of South Africa, both fresh from the Tour de France.
Let the Games begin!

13 good reasons to back Kaizer Chiefs against Orlando Pirates in the first big Soweto derby tomorrow

Discarded: Lucas Thwala takes on Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009

I HAVE 13 good reasons for hoping Kaizer Chiefs win the first Soweto Derby of the new season against arch-rival Orlando Pirates at Soccer City tomorrow night.
That’s how many players – many of them loyal members of the squads responsible for winning two successive trebles – the Buccaneers have forced to walk the plank before the much-maligned Carling Black Label Cup live on SABC1 at 7.15pm tomorrow night.
Though pre-season has been with us for nearly a month now, coach Augusto Palacios and his Iron Duke Irvin Khoza decided to release the names of the essentially unwanted on Thursday. Read through them. Mashele, Boubacar, Mabalane, Ngidi… a list of lads who were promised fame and fortune, lured from smaller clubs by the famous skull-and-crossbones badge, praying they would be forever revered by the Ghost.
Those hopes now lie in tatters, and just like free-spending Mamelodi Sundowns, we are handed another band of talented players left to see out their careers dreaming of what might have been.
And it appears Tokelo Rantie, such a vibrant young foil to veteran Benni McCarthy, has been discarded too, but more of that later. Let's concentrate on Thursday's ill-timed clear-out.
First Khoza transfer-listed six players, long after the real wheeler-dealing for the new season has been done:
•             Dikgang Mabalane
•             Lizo Mjempu
•             Talatou Boubacar
•             Njabulo Ntusi
•             Chiukepo Msowoya
•             Njabulo Manqana
Then, the Buccaneers told us, another six can be released on loan though most PSL teams now have their squads in place:
•             Hlabane Kutumela
•             Patrick Ngidi
•             Patrick Mashele
•             Benjamin Nthete
•             Aubrey Ngoma
•             Thabo Rakhale
And the final blow? Lucas Thwala has been told he is simply not needed with the club revealing they spoke to loyal servant Thwala on Thursday morning to explain he was surplus to requirements. And to help him on his way, this brief comment: “Lucas Thwala has been a loyal servant of Orlando Pirates for many years and the club would like to wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
Chiefs, Sundowns – and most other members of the currently sponsor-free PSL – made such decisions over a fortnight ago, releasing players who were surplus to requirements when rival clubs were jostling for new blood. For an unlucky 13 Buccaneers, suddenly the future is bleak.
Tomorrow, after the usual votes from the fans, Orlando Pirates will be represented at Soccer City by Josephs,  Lekgwathi, Matlaba, Mahamutsa, Sangweni, Myeni, Mayambela, Jali, Manyisa, Mbuyane and McCarthy.
And Kaizer Chiefs will go with: Khune, Gaxa, Jambo, Mashamaite, Gould, Letsholonyane, Nale, Dladla, Lebese, Majoro and Parker. The Amakhosi millions have seen fit not to team up the newly-signed Bafana pairing of Tower Mathoho and Morgan Gould which laid the foundations for last week’s Gauteng Challenge triumph over Moroka Swallows and Wits.
Before tomorrow’s game, Kaizer Chiefs goalkeeper and captain Itumeleng Khune, the man responsible for sending his penalty over the bar at the Carling Cup last season and gifting the first trophy to Pirates, says: “We don’t want to lose this competition two years in a row. We want to set the tone for the rest of the season.
“It is really only a friendly, but pride is at stake. Chiefs used to  be known as the cup kings. We want cups to come to our cabinet this season.”
With Khune’s failed penalty attempt last year probably still orbiting the earth, the Bafana No1 grinned: “I don’t think this one will be decided by penalties but if it happens, we are ready for it.”
Oupa Manyisa, who starts for Pirates tomorrow, says: “We can beat Chiefs. We will transform what we have been doing in training.”
And he’s probably right. McCarthy has apparently lost the “love handles” and slimmed down ready for the new season having impressed when it mattered in the title race last season. Strike-partner Tokelo Rantie was apparently considered to expensive to sign permanently - he flies back to IFK Hassleholm in Sweden on Sunday - but Zimbabwe striker Takesure Chinyama is named in their squad for next season, listed below. He won’t start tomorrow in a match many consider to be an unfair advantage for the big two in South African football, with the whole edifice struggling for sponsors right now.
There are other highlights tomorrow of course. You could watch the much-hyped all-South African Super 15 rugby semi-final between the Sharks and Stormers at Newlands kicking off at 8.30pm on SuperSport1 or Banyana Banyana’s second Olympic game against Canada in Coventry on SABC1 at 3.45pm.
But everyone knows the Soweto derby, “friendly” or not, will be the big one tomorrow. And Pirates have to be favourites to deliver the first major blow of the new season.
NOTE: I am NOT a Kaizer Chiefs fan. I have thrown my considerable weight behind AmaZulu, my rivals when I followed Umlazi Bush Buck in the early 80s.
As a special favour to the Ghost, I’ve listed the full 31-man Orlando Pirates squad for the season…. with shirt numbers. The double-treble winners remain favourites for the PSL crown… no matter who sponsors it for how much.
Moeneeb Josephs – 16
Senzo Meyiwa – 1
Brighton Mhlongo – 41
Ntando Nkala – 44
Rooi Mahamutsa – 28
Lucky Lekgwathi – 14
Siyabonga Sangweni – 21
Mbongeni Gumede – 33
Robyn Johannes – 30
Happy Jele – 4
Bheki Nzunga – 19
Thabo Matlaba – 8
Patrick Phungwayo – 3
Ayanda Gcaba – 2
Oupa Manyisa – 20
Manti Moholo – 35
Thendani Ntshumayelo – 6
Andile Jali – 15
Onyekachi Onkonkwo – 5
Mpho Makola – 27
Mark Mayambela – 12
Daine Klate – 7
Sifiso Myeni – 11
Khethowakhe Masuku – 24
Tlou Segolela – 23
Rudolf Bester – 25
Thulasizwe Mbuyane – 18
Bongani Ndulula – 9
Ndumiso Mabena – 26
Benni McCarthy – 17
Takesure Chinyama – 34

Thursday, 26 July 2012

As London 2012's opening ceremony looms, what price Durban 2024?

Lord of the Rings: Durban's Moses Mabhida stadium
AS the hours to London’s top-secret opening ceremony in Stratford tick by, talk of a South African Olympic bid are sure to surface once more as the 30th Olympic Games gets ready to rumble.
Thoughts will go back to Cape Town’s failed bid for the 2004 games, which eventually went to the Olympians’ spiritual home in Athens. But anybody who has attended a couple of Olympiads will tell you the Mother’s City’s upstart coastal rival Durban is THE perfect Olympic venue – and I can reveal that the International Olympic Committee are eager to put the City of Bananas forward as potential hosts for 2024 or 2028.
But before we get too carried away, let me tell the full story of this potentially disastrous move.
Back in 2009, when I was covering the England cricket tour for the London Evening Standard, I visited the not-quite-complete Moses Mabhida Stadium a couple of days before the Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead.
And there it all was. An Olympics waiting to happen in South Africa. One look at the sparkling new 70,000-capacity football stadium (built with provision for an athletics track if needed), standing barely 400m from the established 60,000-capacity Kings Park rugby stadium wasn’t enough on its own.
As somebody who knew Durban well from my four-year stint on the Natal Mercury and Daily News in the early 1980s, having an athletics stadium next to a major venue for the Olympic soccer was just the beginning. It wasn’t hard to pick out the nearby aquatic centre with indoor and outdoor pools and diving facilities and small-scale athletics track, a perfect warm-up venue next to Kings Park.
Barely a mile away on the other side of the perfectly-positioned railway station, there was Kingsmead, like Lord’s in London, begging to be used for archery, handball or show-jumping.
And of course, the walkway to the north beaches from the Moses Mabhida was under construction. Cue sailing, beach volleyball and triathlon along the old Marine Parade. And for rowing and outdoor swimming? Midmar Dam the other side of Pietermaritzburg. Plus an Olympic marathon stretching halfway along the famous Comrades route. We could talk too of the impressive ICC conference centre next to the Hilton Hotel and Kingsmead for table tennis, badminton and other smaller events.
Up on the Berea the old Sugarbowl tennis complex could be remodelled and across the city, Queensmead offered a purpose-built hockey facility begging to be enlarged.
On top of that, the climate in Durban around this time of year is perfect for sport. And the region offers a vast range of accommodation as an established holiday resort, drawing tourists to it’s warm, sub-tropical climate for decades. And we had the brand new King Shaka airport about to open for the World Cup too.
My vision was soon put in to print and picked up by Sunday Tribune journalist Matthew Savides. Excitement was growing before the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and it wasn’t hard to imagine a first African Olympics would follow a the continent’s first tilt at football’s greatest show on earth.
But then came these quotes from veteran British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, who has written extensively on corruption in the IOC and Fifa: “Nobody can afford the Games. The budgets are always pitched low by local boosters, then soar.
“The only solution is to build an Olympic venue and keep the games there every four years, in the same city. But if that happened, the IOC would have no international clout and their backsides would not be kissed by monarchs, presidents and prime ministers. And there would be no kickbacks from the construction industry.”
The hype nearly developed in to a bid for 2020, but not quite. As the host cities gathered for 2011, government spokesman Jimmy Manyi revealed the cabinet had decided to "prioritise service delivery" over putting up a bid to host the games, which would have cost around R350m.
He explained: "The government decided it was better for the country to consolidate the gains of last year's World Cup for now and focus attention on the delivery of basic services. If any money is going to be spent, it's going to be on basic service delivery."
Though the bid had support from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc), local tourism, the eThekwini municpality and the KwaZulu-Natal government, there would be no bid.
But when the 123rd International Olympic Committee met in Durban in July, 2011 the gods of Olympus witnessed for themselves Durban’s potential, as did the delegates who flew in later last year for the COP17 climate change conference.
Sascoc president Gideon Sam remains eager to put Durban forward for 2024 and 2028, while President Jacob Zuma is a known supporter.
But before we get too excited, consider this.
Montreal, the Canadian hosts in 1976, are still struggling to overcome their “Olympic legacy” more than 30 years after their bash at the Games. Sydney, hosts to the most successful Olympiad in modern times in 2000, are struggling to keep their Homebush venues in working order. And the cost of Athens 2004 helped Greece to slide in to the financial mire the Hellenic nation is currently failing to deal with.
London, like Sydney, developed the run-down Stratford area for their Olympics. At the moment it’s all smiles. But the costs of hosting a modern Olympics are ridiculous.
Though Durban has the makings of a perfect host city, conservative estimates hover near the R50bn mark if they are to host a successful games.
As Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid jostle for the right to host 2020, Rio de Janeiro and Brazil are struggling to cope with the upcoming 2014 World Cup, let alone the 2016 Olympics.
The thought of an Olympics in Durban is a truly inspiring one. A major boost for South Africa and the whole continent. But can any nation, given the current global recession, really spend that much money on a sporting event?

Read my first blog on this subject, written in 2009: http://www.nealcollins.co.uk/blog/2009/12/cooks-bland-recipe-for-ton-of-success.html

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

South Africa's medal-winning schedule for London 2012. Hopefully.

The spear: Sunette Viljoen is a contender in the javelin

After a sensational weekend which saw Ernie Els, Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Richard Murray and even Ajax Cape Town hailed as world-beaters around the globe, it's time to turn our attention to the London Olympics.
Though the top-secret opening ceremony (which will, I can reveal, may feature David Beckham as James Bond) is only on Friday, South Africa's campaign gets underway tomorrow with the football girls Banyana Banyana playing Sweden.
Though Banyana are unlikely to create an upset and take a medal, I reckon South Africa has SEVEN big medal chances, most significantly in the pool, though they may yet reach Sports Minister Fikile Mbulula's hoped-for haul of 12.
Below I've listed all the dates when South Africa can expect to claim silverware (bronzeware or even goldware).
With the swimming starting on Saturday, Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Bergh are both ranked in the world's top ten in several different events, with Le Clos likely to reach the final in both medley events (featuring all four strokes) and Van der Bergh strong in the breast-stroke over 100m and 200m.
The athletics doesn't get underway until August 3, with Caster Semenya, Khotso Mokoena, Sunette Viljoen and men’s 4x400m our most likely medalists. Semenya will have to improve significantly on her 800m times so far this year where she falls outside the world's top ten, but she has done this before, peaking out of the blue. She is predicted to win gold by the athletics bible, Track and Field Weekly.
Long-jumper Mokoena, our only medal-winner in Beijing four years ago, is an almost certain finalist, along with javelinist Viljoen and the men's 4x400m team, which might include Oscar "Bladerunner" Pistorius, who ran in the qualifiers when the team won silver at the World Championships. Pistorius, the first amputee to compete in an Olympics, admits "a strong semi-final" is as far as he's going to get in the individual 400m.
Keep an eye out too for LJ Van Zyl, the one-lap relay specialist who is also an outside hope in the men's 400m hurdles.
After his first world triathlon triumph in Hamburg last Saturday, Richard Murray, the 23-year-old from Cape Town, could big news on Tuesday, August 7 when the men take to the water, bike and trainers.
The three big team events (women’s football and men’s and women’ hockey) offer outside hopes too, particularly women's hockey, though all three teams are ranked outside the podium places.
Cycling could be another rich source of valuable metal for South Africa. Mountain-biker Burry Stander, a World Cup winner in Pietermaritzburg last season, is listed on my schedule of potential medal winners below, along with women’s road race contender Ashleigh Moolman and BMX hopeful Sifiso Nhlapo, so unlucky in Beijing.
I'm told Bridgitte Hartley could also medal in K1 500 canoeing among the blazing paddles at Dorney, and the men's coxless lightweight four came second in the last World Cup in Lucerne. There are other outside chances, but I’ve listed all the above below, featuring only Le Clos and Vd Bergh's strongest events. South Africa could also feature in the men's relay finals, Le Clos is entered for a record SEVEN events at the brand new aquadome.

SA medal winning Olympic schedule (* marks medal chance):
Wednesday, 25: Women’s football kicks off tomorrow with Banyana Banyana v Sweden
Friday, 27: Opening ceremony, watch out for Vikings and Romans
Saturday 28: Banyana Banyana second game
*Sunday 29: Women’s road race cycling: Ashleigh Moolman
*Sunday 29: Men’s 100m breast-stroke: Cameron vd Bergh
*Tuesday, 31: Men's 200m Butterfly: Chad Le Clos
*Thursday 2: Rowing: Men's lightweight four: Brittain, Ndlovu, Smith, Thompson
*Friday 3: Men's 100m Butterfly: Chad Le Clos
*Saturday 4: Men’s long jump final: Khotso Mokoena
*Sunday 5: Men’s 100m final: Usain Bolt etc and women’s marathon with strong SA team
*Tuesday 7: Men’s triathlon: Richard Murray
*Thursday 9: Women’s K1 500: Bridgitte Hartley
*Thursday 9: Women’s javelin final, Sunette Viljoen.
*Friday 10: Men’s BMX final: Sifiso Nhlapo
*Friday 10: Men’s 4x400m relay: Oscar Pistorius, Van Zyl, Fredericks, Ofentse Mogawane, Willie de Beer and Shaun de Jager.
Friday 10: Women’s hockey final
Saturday 11: Men’s hockey final
*Saturday 11: Final of women’s 800m: Caster Semenya
*Sunday 12: Men's mountain biking: Burry Stander

Monday, 23 July 2012

From Hash to Hamburg: the weekend South African sportsmen rocked the world

Bearded wonder: Hashim Amla at The Oval

THERE is simply no better way to warm-up for Friday’s Olympic opening ceremony in London than South Africa’s drama-soaked weekend of global conquest.
At The Oval, Durban’s Hashim Amla became the first ever South African to score a triple century as the Proteas crushed England by an innings at The Oval.
At Royal Lytham at St Anne’s, Kempton Park’s Ernie Els produced the most dramatic of finishes to win his second Open Championship ten years after his first.
In Cape Town, our local club Ajax came within seconds of beating mighty Manchester United in front of a full-house, denied only by a last-gasp Bebe equaliser.
In Paris, as the Tour de France saga finished along the Champs Elysees, there was South African-raised Chris Froome, the former St John’s schoolboy from Johannesburg, ushering yellow-shirted winner Bradley Wiggins to an historic one-two finish for the British.
In, Hamburg, with no great fuss, Cape Town’s Richard Murray, 23, won his first world series triathlon, out-sprinting double world champion Javier Gomez of Spain to set himself up as a serious medal contender in London.
And Down Under in Brisbane, the Sharks roared in to an all-South African Super15 semi-final against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday with an emphatic 30-17 win over the reigning Reds.
Amla’s is the greatest of these sporting fairy-tales. His unbeaten 311 came on top of centuries for captain Graeme Smith in his 100th Test and a mighty 182 not out from ageless all-rounder Jacques Kallis.
They eventually declared on 637-2 after two record partnerships and the most comprehensive deconstruction of a home bowling attack in the 145-year history of Test cricket.
On day five, Dale Steyn took five wickets as England succumbed to an innings defeat on a ground where they had never previously lost to South Africa.
In his typically modest, bearded way, Amla, 29, said: “The runs are not as important as the team position. We are in a good place. With my scoring rate, 300 is usually a very long journey.
"I have a firm belief that everyone who has played a part in my career should have a share in whatever success I had. If we could divide the 300 runs up, they would all get a piece.
“I don’t deserve to be compared to Brian Lara. Whatever runs you get, I’m just grateful for it.”
Fikile Mbulula, in London for Friday’s torch-lighting after giving Biff a South Africa flag before his landmark 100th Test at the ground renamed The Ou Wil in honour of the Proteas, was all smiles.
The Minister of Sport said: "This is a sign of good things to happen on the British soil. This can only symbolize more glory for us as a country in July and August.
"The standing ovation the Big Easy received comes at the time when we prepare to compete with nations of the world during the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games.
“But words can't express how I feel about Hashim Amla. He just keeps creating waves and moving mountains."
A decade after his historic win at Muirfield, Ernie said: “I’ve got to thank President Nelson Mandela, who’s been such an influence in our country, we are truly blessed to have a man like that to take us through a very difficult time. We can see the success of our country now thanks to Madiba.
“The President has been very much in my thoughts. I was lying this morning watching the cricket. And the thought came to me. If I win, I have to thank President Mandela. I grew up in the Apartheid era. Right after the change, I was the first one to win a major. There’s a lot of significance there… he got on a telephone to me in Pittsburgh. We intertwine together in a crazy way.
“I haven’t been in this position for ten years. Crazy, crazy, crazy. To make up all those shots, I just felt good. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain. I just knew I was going to feel good about this. I’ve been in such a negative mode for such a long time.
“I don’t think I missed a shot on the back nine. I feel comfortable here – and had a lot of help from the crowd.
“But I really feel for my buddy Adam Scott, I’ve been there before, blown majors before. I hope Scotty doesn’t take it as hard as I did.”
Now thoughts turn to the Olympics. To our women footballers, Banyana Banyana, who begin their campaign tomorrow, and the athletes – particularly Sunette Viljoen and Caster Semenya – and the swimmers, Cameron van den Burgh and Chad Le Clos, not forgetting the two hockey teams.
The target is 12 medals. Many doubt Team South Africa can reach that mark after the single medal disappointment of Beijing four years ago. But given the events of the weekend, perhaps we can expect a few outstanding surprises…

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Pietersen's snub and Smith's pregnancy: the two big issues before cricket's super series starts today

Suffering Saffas: Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen
TWO huge issues loom over cricket’s series of the season when England take on South Africa in the three-match, 15-day battle for global domination at The Oval today.
I’m not talking about the bail-inflicted eye injury in Somerset which sent the veteran Proteas wicketkeeper Mark Boucher in to premature retirement a fortnight ago. Nor the back injury which has seen young Titans paceman Marchant de Lange return home.
We could discuss stand-in wicketkeeper AB de Villiers’ secret back spasms too, or the battle for a Test starting spot among England’s pace battery. Or even the possibility of a great series between the world’s No1 and No3 ranked nations being ruined by the wettest British summer on record.
No, the two key issues lie away from today’s first Test.
Kevin Pietersen’s snub
The first problem is well-known and typically topical. England’s master batsman Kevin Pietersen was yesterday left out of the 30-man provisional squad to defend the World T20 in Sri Lanka this September amid much wrangling.
Pietersen, born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, had offered to resume his limited-over duties after “retiring” in May – on condition he was allowed to play a full (highly lucrative) IPL tournament and miss the two (less lucrative) Tests against New Zealand May next year.
Unsurprisingly, with coach Andy Flower pulling the strings, Pietersen’s offer of compromise was summarily rejected. Cape Town-born Flower played for Zimbabwe during his playing days and perhaps harbours resentment towards KP for the path his career took after he turned his back on the nation of his birth (he made his England debut against Zimbabwe in 2004).
Flower told the Mail on Sunday: "I think it's sad for a player in his batting prime not to be playing all forms of international cricket, something that a lot of the guys work very hard for but are also very lucky to have the opportunity to do.
"I would hate for him to get to the end of his career and look back and think, 'Oh damn, I wish I hadn't missed the World T20 or the 2015 World Cup'.
"Maybe he won't. Maybe he's a very... well he is a very different person to me, so he might not think that way at all."
That’s no way for a coach to speak about his most valuable player. Some think Pietersen will be inspired by his T20 snub, others suggest he will spend the next five days sulking as he will now be offered reduced “Test only” terms by the ECB when his central contract is up for review in August.
The one good thing about the Pietersen debacle? It will leave Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales (my 23-year-old Godson, but that’s not relevant here) to open for England in T20 after his swashbuckling 99 against the West Indies last month.
Graeme Smith’s pregnancy
The second key issue is less publicised. Graeme Smith, not Pietersen’s greatest fan, will start his 100th Test today with his Irish wife Morgan Deane about to give birth to their first child.
On twitter this week, Morgan – described as a singer, song-writer and fashion guru in her profile – explained the pain of being separated from her husband as she builds up to the big day.
She said: “Being without my husband the last two weeks of my first pregnancy is not the easiest thing I’ve done… I’ll take that medal now please. Cheers.”
Morgan, who started the “Penisgate” storm last month when she tweeted about buying a book called “Living With A Big Penis”, added: “Let’s hope baby stays comfy and ain’t in a hurry. Early labour is NOT an option! Fingers crossed baba waits for dada!”
Smith will be hoping to be there for the birth in Cape Town in the gap between the first and second Tests, when the tourists are scheduled to play Worcestershire in a tour match. That leaves “Biff” a gap from the end of The Oval on Monday until Headingley, which starts on August 2.
For the two biggest names in this series, Pietersen and Smith will be battling to keep their off-field concerns out of the game.
For all his legendary focus, Smith may find that difficult. Though they have been married less than a year, Morgan has already suffered a miscarriage and told IOL’s Laura Butler in April: “I haven’t spoken about the miscarriage until now as mentally I wasn’t ready to, but since it happened to me and I’ve spoken to people about it, I realise how common it actually is.
“Whether you miscarry at three weeks or three months, it’s one of the most emotionally painful things to go through. It almost feels like Mother Nature is playing a horrific joke on you.
“I had a “missed miscarriage” which means I didn’t miscarry the regular way. So at the time it was very bizarre to get my head around the fact that there was no blood, but still they had to go in and remove the pregnancy.
“But it brought me extremely close to my husband and we only began the healing process really once I fell pregnant again two months later.
“The one thing about miscarrying on the first pregnancy was bringing about the realisation that we wanted this baby more than anything.
“I’ve put on the extra pounds because I’d been instructed not to exercise throughout this pregnancy and we didn’t want to take any risks. We are not taking one day of this for granted.
 “We can’t wait to meet our baby and become parents.”
So if Morgan calls Graeme on the mobile and says she’s gone in to labour over the next five days, what will happen? Can Biff put it all to one side? Time will tell.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The feel Goodison factor: Steven Pienaar ready to go back where he belongs

Supreme being: Steven Pienaar scores against Man U

Steven Pienaar’s frustrating 18 months at Tottenham Hotspur will end this week as South Africa’s iconic midfielder returns to Everton for a fee in the region of £5m (R60m).
While top players like Eleazar Rodgers change hands for a maximum of  a mere £550,000 (R7m) in the land of his birth, Goodison Park’s notoriously thrifty supremo Bill Kenwright is prepared to break the bank for Schilla, the Westbury wizard whose return to Everton on loan from Spurs revived the Toffees’ season last January.
With the side languishing in 12th position before the loan danger’s arrival, Pienaar’s four goals and club-best six assists saw David Moyes’ side finish in seventh position – four points clear of neighbours Liverpool – and Moyes himself accepts: “Stevie just fits with Everton. My job is to get Pienaar back, I’ve been working at that for some time now. I know he’d like to be here.”
According to my sources, after an uncertain summer both clubs believe Pienaar will be playing for Everton when they kick-off the new Premier League season against Manchester United – who landed for their South African tour yesterday – at Goodison Park on August 20.
It was Pienaar’s £3m (R36m) cut-price move from Everton to Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham in January 2011 which led to my fall-out with South Africa’s “superagent” Rob Moore.
At the time, I said on SuperSport’s Thursday Night Live with Robert Marawa that it was a poor move. Moore called me from Barcelona and insisted I apologise for that statement but anybody could have told him Harry had enough midfielders on board in North London, with transformed Welsh full-back Gareth Bale having just made Pienaar’s left-of-midfield channel his own.
Now 30, Pienaar said at the time he was going to Spurs for Champions League football. Sadly, Tottenham fell just short of the top four in 2011 and were forced out when Chelsea won the trophy this year. And he made few friends among the notoriously fickle Spurs fans when he tweeted “well done Chelsea” after their rivals’ shock penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich that clinched the final European berth.
Pienaar’s contract was coming to an end at Goodison and with compatriot Bongani Khumalo also bound for Spurs at the time, it may have looked an attractive option. Less than two years later, Khumalo finds himself shipped out to Greek outfit PAOK Thessaloniki and Pienaar is “not needed” by new Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas.
The South African pair are not alone in leaving White Hart Lane – England midfielder Jermaine Jenas, French veteran William Gallas, England striker Jermain Defoe and Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes are among a long list of not-so-Hotspurs with “for sale” written across their foreheads.
Croatian Luca Modric, set to be sold to Real Madrid before the transfer window closes, may open up a space in midfield, but with Bale, Rafa van der Vaart, Scott Parker and Aaron Lennon staying put as the new boys Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were unveiled last week, there is apparently no room for Pienaar despite his form for Everton last season.
The Bafana Bafana captain – who may yet the armband taken from him by new coach Gordon Igesund – was not included in the 25-strong picture of the Spurs squad in their new kit last week.

The Pienaar effect:
Before Pienaar’s return, Everton were 14th in the Premier League.
After his arrival they were transformed in to the third-best side in the league.
Everton won 43% of their games with Pienaar, 37.5% without him.
Without Pienaar, Everton scored just 24 in 24 games. With him, they scored 26 in 14.
Pienaar played just 14 times for Everton but ended the season with the most assists, six.
In his half-season, Pienaar created 32 chances, third best among Everton players.
He also led the way in passes, pass accuracy and through balls.
For more of Pienaar’s incredible stats:

My previous blogs concerning Steve Pienaar, Everton, Spurs and Rob Moore (note his comments):
http://www.neal-collins.blogspot.com/2012/02/curious-tale-of-steven-pienaars-year-at.htmlSteven Pienaar’s frustrating 18 months at Tottenham Hotspur will end this week as South Africa’s iconic midfielder returns to Everton for a fee in the region of £5m (R60m).
While top players like Eleazar Rodgers change hands for a maximum of  a mere £550,000 (R7m) in the land of his birth, Goodison Park’s notoriously thrifty supremo Bill Kenwright is prepared to break the bank for Schilla, the Westbury wizard whose return to Everton on loan from Spurs revived the Toffees’ season last January.
With the side languishing in 12th position before the loan danger’s arrival, Pienaar’s four goals and club-best six assists saw David Moyes’ side finish in seventh position – four points clear of neighbours Liverpool – and Moyes himself accepts: “Stevie just fits with Everton. My job is to get Pienaar back, I’ve been working at that for some time now. I know he’d like to be here.”
According to my sources, after an uncertain summer both clubs believe Pienaar will be playing for Everton when they kick-off the new Premier League season against Manchester United – who landed for their South African tour yesterday – at Goodison Park on August 20.
It was Pienaar’s £3m (R36m) cut-price move from Everton to Harry Redknapp’s Tottenham in January 2011 which led to my fall-out with South Africa’s “superagent” Rob Moore.
At the time, I said on SuperSport’s Thursday Night Live with Robert Marawa that it was a poor move. Moore called me from Barcelona and insisted I apologise for that statement but anybody could have told him Harry had enough midfielders on board in North London, with transformed Welsh full-back Gareth Bale having just made Pienaar’s left-of-midfield channel his own.
Now 30, Pienaar said at the time he was going to Spurs for Champions League football. Sadly, Tottenham fell just short of the top four in 2011 and were forced out when Chelsea won the trophy this year. And he made few friends among the notoriously fickle Spurs fans when he tweeted “well done Chelsea” after their rivals’ shock penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich that clinched the final European berth.
Pienaar’s contract was coming to an end at Goodison and with compatriot Bongani Khumalo also bound for Spurs at the time, it may have looked an attractive option. Less than two years later, Khumalo finds himself shipped out to Greek outfit PAOK Thessaloniki and Pienaar is “not needed” by new Spurs boss Andre Villas Boas.
The South African pair are not alone in leaving White Hart Lane – England midfielder Jermaine Jenas, French veteran William Gallas, England striker Jermain Defoe and Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes are among a long list of not-so-Hotspurs with “for sale” written across their foreheads.
Croatian Luca Modric, set to be sold to Real Madrid before the transfer window closes, may open up a space in midfield, but with Bale, Rafa van der Vaart, Scott Parker and Aaron Lennon staying put as the new boys Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen were unveiled last week, there is apparently no room for Pienaar despite his form for Everton last season.
The Bafana Bafana captain – who may yet the armband taken from him by new coach Gordon Igesund – was not included in the 25-strong picture of the Spurs squad in their new kit last week.

The Pienaar effect:
Before Pienaar’s return, Everton were 14th in the Premier League.
After his arrival they were transformed in to the third-best side in the league.
Everton won 43% of their games with Pienaar, 37.5% without him.
Without Pienaar, Everton scored just 24 in 24 games. With him, they scored 26 in 14.
Pienaar played just 14 times for Everton but ended the season with the most assists, six.
In his half-season, Pienaar created 32 chances, third best among Everton players.
He also led the way in passes, pass accuracy and through balls.
For more of Pienaar’s incredible stats:

My previous blogs concerning Steve Pienaar, Everton, Spurs and Rob Moore (note his comments):

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Explained: The classic British choc-ice... and classic British justice: how John Terry verdict is tearing football apart

At odds: Ashley Cole and Rio Ferdinand

After global fury over John Terry's "not guilty" verdict on Friday, English football is threatening to dissolve in to civil war over racism.
The Terry camp, cockahoop after magistrate Howard Riddle decided the words "f***ing black *c**t" were not insulting, now insist Rio Ferdinand is a racist for agreeing that Ashley Cole is a "choc-ice".
Manchester United star Rio, brother of Terry's victim Anton, insists he was simply being "sarcastic" but Chelsea left-back Cole's lawyers have now produced a statement on their client's behalf.
Cole acted as a "corroborative but not compelling" defence witness for pal Terry according to Riddle's bizarre judgement on Friday.
A "choc ice" is a popular ice-cream in England which is, of course "brown on the outside, cold and white inside".
Rio, who has over three MILLION followers on Twitter, received this tweet: "Looks like Ashley Cole's going to be their choc-ice. Then again he's always been a sell out. Shame on him." 
To which Ferdinand responded: "I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic! hahahahahahha!!"
Rio added: "And if I want to laugh at something someone tweets....I will! Hahahahaha! Now stop getting ya knickers in a twist!"
As the storm grew, Rio tweeted an explanation yesterday saying: "What I said yesterday is not a racist term. Its a type of slang/term used by many for someone who is being fake. So there." 
In South Africa, where incredulity over Friday's judgement may lead to a boycott of watching the popular English Premier League, sympathy is generally with Rio who arrives on tour with United this week for friendlies in Durban and Cape Town.
My appearances on eNews, SupersportBlitz and radio stations 702 and Cape Talk on Friday night rubbishing Riddle's judgement appeared to suggest huge anger against Terry and the British justice system on the local social networks.
Ironically, Rio, Cole and Terry have frequently made up three of England's back-four in recent years but sympathy for Terry - and Cole - is hard to find outside of Chelsea circles.
Cole's lawyers said: "Ashley Cole has been made aware of the discussion following comments appearing on Twitter and wishes to make it clear that he and Rio Ferdinand are good friends and Ashley has no intention of making any sort of complaint. Ashley appreciates that tweeting is so quick it often results in off-hand and stray comments."
Cole has yet to comment on Ferdinand's latest tweet.
Terry - and Anton Ferdinand, who admitted to taunting his rival over past affairs - will now face Football Association charges as I suggested on Friday.
Given that Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for eight games and fined £40,000 (R480,000) with far less evidence, the FA are now compelled to punish Terry for words which were clearly uttered on YouTube footage when Chelsea played QPR last October.
Unlike a criminal case, the FA have to prove Terry guilty on "a balance of probabilities" not "beyond reasonable doubt".
Herman Ouseley, chair of the anti-racism group Kick It Out, told the Observer in England yesterday: "I am worried that this is a defining moment for the FA, to show it is a governing body prepared to keep to a high standard on the racism issue.
"If this incident, and the racial element of it, is not seen to be dealt with properly, there is the potential for black players to lose confidence in the authorities and withdraw their support for anti-racism campaigns."

Friday, 13 July 2012

The full John Terry judgement: I haven't changed a word. Just highlighted salient points in red. The verdict is a DISGRACE





13 JULY 2012 

John Terry faces one allegation. It is said that on the 23rd
 October 2011 at 
Loftus Road Stadium London, W12 he used threatening, abusive or insulting 
words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a 
person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress and the offence was 
racially aggravated in accordance with  section 28 of the Crime and Disorder 
Act 1998, contrary to Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 and section 
31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. 
The case was prosecuted on behalf of the crown by Mr Penny, and defended by 
Mr Carter-Stephenson QC leading Mr Daw. I heard evidence over three days 
and submissions yesterday. 
The Crown alleges that the offence occurred towards the end of a Premier
League football match between Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea on the 23rd
October 2011. The match was televised live and the recordings form a central
part of the evidence. There was an initial dispute between the defendant, John Terry (Chelsea) and
Anton Ferdinand (QPR), inside the QPR penalty box. Shortly afterwards Mr
Terry returned to the Chelsea half of the pitch and turned to face the
opposition. At that stage Mr Ferdinand made what was described as a fist
pumping gesture towards the defendant, accompanied by abuse.
The Crown say that Mr Terry responded by aiming the words “fuck off, fuck
off, yeah, yeah and you fucking black cunt, fucking knobhead”, and possibly
one or more other words, at Mr Ferdinand.
The defendant does not deny that he used the words, “fuck off, fuck off”, 
“fucking black cunt” or “fucking knobhead”. His case is that his words were 
not uttered by way of abuse or insult nor were they intended to be abusive or 
He says they were used after a perceived false accusation made by Mr
Ferdinand, the accusation being to the effect that the defendant had used the
term “black cunt” during their exchanges with each other.  [The defence do
not say whether Mr Ferdinand actually believed the defendant had used that
expression or merely made the accusation in order to elicit a reaction.]
Alternatively the case advanced on the defendant’s behalf is that although Mr
Terry genuinely believes that Mr Ferdinand made a false allegation against
him, nevertheless this could be a misunderstanding.      
[It may be worth mentioning here that the issue for this court to decide is not
whether Mr Terry is a racist, in the broadest sense of the word. I have received
a substantial volume of unchallenged evidence from witnesses, both in person
and in writing, to confirm that he is not. I understand why Mr Terry wants to
make this point. His reputation is at stake. Although I am grateful to all those
witnesses who have taken the trouble to provide information on this point, it
does not help me in reaching a verdict. It is not relevant to the issue I must
2 The issue between the defendant and the Crown is whether Mr Terry uttered 
the words “fucking black cunt” by way of insult. If he did then the offence is 
made out, regardless of what may have motivated him. 
It is not in dispute that if the facts are as alleged by the Crown then the offence
is  made  out.  There  is  also  no  dispute  that  John  Terry  directed  the  words
“black cunt” in the direction of Anton Ferdinand. If he did that to insult or
abuse him then he is guilty of the offence.
The question for me is whether I am sure that the words were used as an
insult, or whether it is possible, as the defence assert, that he was, or believed
he was, merely repeating an allegation made to him, and dismissing it.
The starting point for the evidence is the television coverage. From that
coverage it seems plain, and indeed is not in dispute, that John Terry directed
the words “black cunt” in the direction of Anton Ferdinand. It is equally clear,
and equally not in dispute, that he also directed the words “fucking knobhead”
at Anton Ferdinand. Other words appear to be spoken.  Both parties have
agreed that expert evidence from lip  readers is necessary to say what those
words are. It is axiomatic that expert evidence is not called unless a particular
expertise is needed to give an opinion to the court which the court cannot
readily form itself. Mr Penny points out, correctly, that the duty of an expert
witness is to furnish the court with the necessary scientific criteria for testing
the accuracy of their conclusions, so as to enable the court to form its own
independent judgement by the application of those criteria to the facts proved
in evidence. In deciding what weight to attach to the evidence of an expert, the
court should take into account the extent to which that evidence is based on
other established facts.
At least one of the lip readers thought that an expert is necessary to determine
body language. She was not prepared to assess body language herself. That
may well be an entirely professional approach for a lip reader to take, and
certainly I do not in any way criticize that view. However Mr Penny is
undoubtedly correct that this court can form a view about demeanour from
3 the TV clips themselves. It is obvious, and again not in dispute, that at the
time that John Terry said “black cunt” and “fucking knobhead” he was angry.
There is then the evidence of the lip readers. Both the lip reader instructed by
the prosecution, Susan Whitewood, and the lip reader instructed by the
defence, Laraine Callow, are clearly experts in their field. Nobody doubted
their expertise. Helpfully they met together before the hearing and prepared a
joint expert report. I can summarise the position, I hope not over-simply, in
this way. Ms Whitewood is of the opinion that the words spoken by John Terry
are “Yeah and I [obstruction] you/ya fucking black cunt (pause) fucking
knobhead”.  Ms  Callow  is  of  the  same  opinion. However both experts agree
that there is the possibility that they are mistaken and in particular that
“you/ya” may be “a” or indeed a number of other similar sounds. It is
common ground that a lip reader is unable to comment on “tone of voice” or
how words are said. In this context the experts cannot say whether the words
observed were in a question form. Both experts agreed on the limitations of lip
reading spelt out in Appendix 2 of Laraine Callow’s report, with “extremely
minor differences”. In her appendix Ms Callow says, among other things, that
“There is therefore a fundamental unreliability in being able to interpret
speech visually with any certainty: it is an art rather than a precise skill. ... Lip
reading in any given situation comprises a large measure of guesswork: ...
words cannot be easily predicted by the person lip reading if they are not
already known to him/her. ... A key factor in lip reading is grasping the
conversational context: knowing what the other person is talking about. ... if
there are sudden changes of topic within a conversation – and this is quite
usual in all situations – the person lip reading is posed with great difficulty.”
In her summary of the reliability of this type of evidence Ms Callow says she
remains very sceptical in general terms about the reliability of lip read
evidence and: “Even if it is to be presented, I am concerned about whether
those who must take decisions on the basis of lip read evidence will
understand the full force of its unreliability.”
As Mr Penny points out, the evidence of the lip readers is to a very large extent
validated by the evidence of Mr Terry himself. In cross-examination he
4 accepted that he appears to use the word “and” and as a result the only
difference between the prosecution and the defence is that the Crown alleged
he says “you/ya fucking black cunt” whereas the defence case is that he said “a
fucking black cunt?” There are missing words, and I have not been prepared to
speculate as to what they may be,
There is then the evidence of Anton Ferdinand that he at no stage accused
John Terry of calling him a black cunt. He gave detailed evidence about what
happened on the pitch, and about what happened in the Chelsea dressing
room afterwards and then about how he learned about the footage posted that
evening on YouTube. I make the following comments about that evidence. (I
will not set out in detail the evidence of this witness, or indeed of any other
As Mr Carter-Stephenson points out, there are a number of discrepancies
between this witness’s evidence and other evidence. Specifically he points to
the film evidence showing a challenge in the penalty box. This shows that Mr
Ferdinand’s account is wrong and that Mr Terry was not blameworthy for
claiming a foul and therefore a penalty. He points out that the evidence
suggests that Mr Ferdinand himself lost control by following Mr Terry, angry,
and insulting him over and over again. He points to the discrepancy between
the witness’s memory of what he is shouting (at an earlier stage) and the lip
reading evidence There are discrepancies between the evidence of Mr Cole and
Mr Ferdinand. In cross-examination Mr Ferdinand at first appeared to deny
that Mr Terry said, in the dressing room, “do you think I called you are
fucking black cunt?” In fact this was in his statement as one of two
alternatives. There is another piece of significant evidence, namely that he did
not in his statement provide full and accurate details of the words he used to
Mr Terry shortly before the comments at the centre of this trial. It is clear that
he was offered the opportunity to add to his statement by the police, but
declined. This is an important fact and I will return to it later.
Although these defence points are well made, they do not undermine the
central evidence of this witness that on the pitch he did not accuse the
5 defendant of racially abusing him. In his final submissions Mr Penny
describes Mr Ferdinand as “brave” for giving evidence. I think this is a
reasonable description. I am satisfied that he would have preferred not to be
involved in this trial at all. I am satisfied that there was little or no good
reason for him to lie about the central issue in this case. Mr Penny provides
good reasons for that conclusion. While there are indeed discrepancies in his
evidence I think it is unlikely that on the central point he is lying. I have no
significant doubts about his integrity. There are doubts about what he said at
the time of the second fist pumping gesture. He may easily have
misremembered. I also have a doubt when  he  says  he  was  unaware  of  the
crucial comment made to him by John Terry. They were directed at him. He
had had eye contact with Mr Terry and may well have been looking for a
reaction from him. I accept his evidence about this may well be true, as he
turned his attention back to the game. However, I cannot discount the
possibility that he was aware of the comments directed at him, and found it
easier to say that he wasn’t. If that is the case it would be wrong of him, but
understandable. To make it clear, I am not saying he was aware, just that he
may have been, despite his evidence to the contrary. I consider this point
again, later.
To summarize:
 There is no doubt the words “Fucking black cunt” were directed at Mr 
 Overall I found Anton Ferdinand to be a believable witness on the 
central issue.
 It  is  inherently  unlikely  that  he  should  firstly  accuse  John  Terry  of
calling him a black cunt, then shortly after the match completely deny
that he had made such a comment, and then maintain that false
account throughout the police investigation and throughout this trial.
There is no history of animosity between the two men. The supposed
motivation is slight.
 Mr Terry’s explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic 
examination, unlikely. It is not  the most obvious response. It is 
sandwiched between other undoubted insults. 
 I believe that he is an unwilling witness, and would have preferred that
this matter not come to court.
6   There were discrepancies in his evidence. To a large extent this is what
you would expect from a truthful witness. Much of what happened;
happened in a brief period of time, in circumstances where the result of
the game was more important than  any individual argument between
two players. I will return later to the discrepancies.
Adding these facts together it is clear that the prosecution has built a
strong case. I had no hesitation in  refusing a submission of no case to
answer based on those facts.
So the question for me now is whether there is a doubt that the offence is
made out. In all criminal courts in this country a defendant is found guilty
only if the court, be it a jury, magistrate, or a judge, is sure of guilt. If there
is a reasonable doubt then the defendant is entitled to be acquitted.
Certainly there is doubt about some of the individual facts.
As far as the precise words that were spoken is concerned, the experts
agree that there is a doubt about the word “you”. Similarly they both make
it clear that lip-reading is unable  to identify whether the statement was
made as a question or in what tone of voice it was said.
There is then the fact that nobody (apart from John Terry) has given
evidence about hearing what was said. Either nobody heard it, or nobody
was prepared to come to court and tell me what they heard. Anton
Ferdinand says he did not hear it. The defence pointed out that this is
surprising as the words were clearly directed at him at a time when he was
facing John Terry and involved in an exchange of insults with him. I bear
in mind the significant distance between the two men at the time; the
noise; and the evidence of Mr Cole that he could not hear what was said by
either person.
There are a number of possible explanations for this. The first is that with
the ball once again coming into play, Anton Ferdinand concentrated on the
game rather than on the exchange. So he missed the words. Another
7 possibility, and this is a possibility suggested to me by the defence, is that
he did indeed accuse John Terry of calling him a black cunt, knows
perfectly well that the words observed on the TV footage were in response
to that comment, and is lying about it. I think that is unlikely. Another
explanation, not one advanced by either party but which certainly crossed
my mind, is that Anton Ferdinand did hear the words, did not want to take
it any further, agreed in the changing room that he had heard nothing and
stuck by that account. In short he may initially have wanted simply to
move on, and as things snowballed found it expedient to stick with that
Another doubt about the facts is what was said by Anton Ferdinand at the
time of his obscene gesture to John Terry, shortly before the words “black
cunt” were spoken. His initial account does not refer to any words being
spoken  at  that  stage.  This  is  even  though,  as  was  put  to  him  in  crossexamination and he appeared to accept, he knew by the time that he made
his statement that John Terry was saying that his words were in response
to something said by Anton Ferdinand. In fact the camera shots show
reasonably clearly that he was saying something. In evidence he said that
he was continuing his taunts about John Terry’s affair with a team-mate’s
wife. I accept the defence argument that it is surprising that this was not
made explicit in his initial statement. An initial statement, made shortly
after events, is usually a witness’s best recollection. This witness had his
memory refreshed by TV footage. However, so long after the event it seems
to me unlikely that he would remember the exact words that he spoke
when these had not been recorded closer to the time.
A related point is the way that Mr Terry’s facial expression changed at the
moment he uttered the words “black cunt”. He tells me, and I accept, that
he has received countless taunts, from players and spectators, about an
alleged relationship with a team-mate’s wife. By the time of this match the
taunts had occurred over an 18 month period. He had learned to live with
them. They did not anger him. Later I heard evidence from Mr Buck and
Mr Wilkins about his unusual qualities of self-control and leadership. I
8 also heard about his disciplinary record. He has been sent off four times in
600 matches, and never for abuse. There can be little doubt from this, and
from other evidence that I need not repeat here, that Mr Terry has, over
the years, been subjected to the most unpleasant personal abuse and has
had to learn to keep calm and continue to play football. On the account
given by Anton Ferdinand, there is no obvious reason why John Terry
should suddenly become annoyed by the  repetition of this taunt. He had
heard it before many times. He did not react angrily the first time Anton
Ferdinand said it, nor did he immediately react angrily when the obscene
gesture was made. Despite his general self-discipline, it could have been a
sudden loss of self-control. Almost  everyone can snap sometimes. Mr
Penny demonstrated to me from the television clips that the defendant did
indeed react to later incidents involving other players, notably the QPR
goal keeper. On the other hand the footage of Mr Terry as he says “black
cunt” adds credence to the defence account that something of a different
order had just been said to him, something altogether more insulting. Most
of us will agree that being accused of racism and making racist comments
is shocking and offensive. Society does not tolerate racist comments, nor
do England football players, nor does the law. Any ordinary person
wrongly accused of making a racist comment would be shocked and
There is then the evidence of John  Terry himself. He was expertly and
forcefully cross-examined. He maintained his account. Moreover he has
been fully cooperative with the process throughout. He gave a detailed
account to the FA five days after the game. He answered every question,
and having heard the tape of that interview it is clear that he did so without
prevarication. He then further co-operated with the police enquiry. I
suspect that the decision to present a prepared statement was not his idea,
but he cannot be blamed for taking advice. Once again he answered all the
questions asked, even when his lawyer appeared to be suggesting that the
questions were not relevant. As  I have mentioned earlier, some
inconsistencies are to be expected in any witness’s recollection. As time
goes by, recollections change. It is not only that people misremember. All
9 experienced criminal lawyers have come across honest witnesses whose
initial tentative evidence turns into a firm belief over our period of time. A
good example is the one mentioned by Mr Carter-Stephenson. Tentative
identification at an identification parade can become certain identification
by the time of trial. There are reasons for this, but here I need only record
that it happens. In everyday life misremembering and becoming more
certain happens to us all. In this case Mr Terry has had the advantage of
contemporaneous film coverage to assist his memory with what happened
on the pitch.
The prosecution point out that in the FA interview Mr Terry was asked 
“can you remember exactly what you said back to him?” and replied [page 
65] “I think it was something along the lines of, “You black cunt, you’re a 
fucking knobhead”. The Crown say that this represents a true statement. It 
was a slip by Mr Terry. It is evidence  of his guilt. Certainly it is a very
significant statement. It may well represent the truth. On the other hand it
is qualified by the words “I think it was something along the lines of” and
followed by the words “so I’m repeating, basically, what he’s said to me, or
what I think he is said to me.” In the context of the interview as a whole the
defendant puts his case clearly on a number of occasions. In context there
can be no doubt that his answer on page 65 is in relation to his response to
the  allegation  he  was  saying  had  been  made  by  Mr  Ferdinand.  Overall  I
assess his evidence as appropriately consistent and, with the possible
exception of the answer on page 65, where there are minor inconsistencies
they are of no significance.
I will mention briefly the evidence of Mr Cole. He is a friend and teammate  of  the  defendant.  He  says  he  is  also  a  friend  of  Mr  Ferdinand  and  
more especially Mr Ferdinand’s brother. Although he was courteous to the 
court, he clearly would have preferred not to be here. He was more 
tentative in his evidence than the other witnesses. Nevertheless, he did
confirm Mr Terry’s own evidence that  he had been told during the final
minutes of the game that Mr Ferdinand had accused him of racial abuse.
He also gives evidence of what he thought he saw Mr Ferdinand say at the
10 crucial time. He didn’t hear the words spoken but saw them. There was a
word that looked like Bridges or black. There was another word that looked
like cunt (and indeed this was a word Mr Ferdinand agreed he used on a
number of occasions). This evidence later enabled the defence to argue
that there may have been a misunderstanding about the words used by Mr
Ferdinand. Mr Cole also gave evidence about what happened later in the
dressing room, and I will discuss the effect of the dressing room evidence
There is then the fact that on the evening of the match, 23rd
  October 2011,
Mr  Terry  made  a  press  statement.  I  have  not  been  told  what  was  in  that
statement, save that it contains the basic defence in this case, namely that
he was responding to something said to him (in the prosecution bundle
there is a copy of a report in The Daily Telegraph the following day). I do
think this is an important point. Mr Terry tells me that he was advised to
wait until all the television footage was available before making a
statement.  I  am  satisfied  he  is  likely  to  have  received  that  advice.  A
cautious adviser would not have wanted a client to be tied to an account
that could later be controverted by other evidence. Mr Penny is right to put
the question that it is important in a PR world to meet a high profile
allegation with an immediate response. However it is a high risk strategy if
there is a possibility that contradictory evidence will later appear. We
know, as Mr Terry will have known,  that there would be a number of
recordings of the match from different angles. Overall, the fact that he
made an immediate statement, and has maintained that account in detail
and co-operatively throughout this process, without significant
contradiction to his evidence, is undoubtedly a factor in favour of the
What happened in the dressing room? It is agreed that John Terry
summonsed Anton Ferdinand to the Chelsea changing room and that there
was a conversation between them that also involved Ashley Cole. The
prosecution rely on this incident as  evidence that the defendant realised
there might be trouble about his comments, and took the opportunity to
11 “square” Anton Ferdinand. The defence on the other hand say the incident
showed that Mr Terry had been angered by the allegation on the pitch and
wanted to confront it as soon as practicable after the match. There are
different accounts of the words used. This is not in the least surprising,
even if all three witnesses are doing their best to recall accurately what was
said. It is an everyday experience,  familiar to all of us but perhaps
particularly to those who practise in the criminal courts, that even the best
and most accurate witness is unable to recall a conversation with complete
accuracy, even shortly after it has occurred. Usually people remember the
general content of a conversation, but not the exact words spoken or the
exact sequence of the words. All that is clear about this incident is that Mr
Terry wanted to see and speak to Mr Ferdinand. They had a conversation
about what was said on the pitch. Mr Ferdinand denied that he had heard
any racial abuse or made any allegation of racial abuse.
There is evidence from Mr Cooper that clips of the incident were first
posted online on YouTube on 23rd
 October. At one stage it appeared to be
the Crown’s case that Mr Terry would have known of the YouTube footage
before seeing Mr Ferdinand, and that this was the reason for asking to see
him. Although timings for the material on YouTube have been provided, I
cannot conclude that Mr Terry would have had the opportunity to see or
hear of that material before he asked to see Mr Ferdinand. There is no
evidence as to exactly when it was first viewed. Certainly Mr Ferdinand,
and one assumes the QPR team, had not seen it by the time of the dressing
room conversation. The evidence of the coach driver casts doubt on
whether there was sufficient time between the clip becoming “viral” and
Mr Terry boarding the coach for the defendant to summons Mr Ferdinand
and for the conversation to take place. Mr Ferdinand’s own evidence about
the time of the dressing room conversation is just an estimate, may be
wrong, and carries significantly less weight than the evidence of the coach
driver, David Richardson, who has gone back to tachograph evidence to
give him the exact time that the coach left the ground. Mr Cole cast doubt
on whether electronic devices can even pick up a signal in the away
dressing room and certainly there is no evidence that they can.
12 There are a number of possible alternatives for what was said in the
dressing room, and the reasons for the conversation. One explanation is
that  Mr  Terry  realised  that  what  happened  on  the  pitch  could  cause  him
serious difficulties. He wanted to head that off by a conversation with Mr
Ferdinand. Mr Ferdinand either was or wasn’t aware of the comment,
either from him or from Mr Terry. Either way he did not want to make
anything of it and wanted to put the incident behind him. This seems to be
the most plausible account of what happened, but it is not an account
given by any of the parties and, as I have said, there are a number of other
possible alternatives. On the evidence I have heard from the three
witnesses I cannot say, even on the balance of probabilities, what
happened and what was said. In short the dressing room evidence is
largely neutral.
The prosecution has presented a strong case. There is no doubt that John 
Terry uttered the words “fucking black cunt” at Anton Ferdinand. When he 
did so he was angry. Mr Ferdinand says that he did not precipitate this 
comment by himself accusing Mr Terry of calling him a black cunt. 
Even with all the help the court has received from television footage,
expert lip readers, witnesses and indeed counsel, it is impossible to be sure
exactly what were the words spoken by Mr Terry at the relevant time. It is
impossible to be sure exactly what was said to him at the relevant time by
Mr Ferdinand.
It is not only that all of this happened in a matter of seconds. For a small
part of the relevant time the camera’s view of Mr Terry was obstructed. We
do not have a clear camera view of Mr Ferdinand, sufficient to pick up
exactly what he said. No matter how serious the incident looks now, and
how crucial the exact wording is now, at the time it was secondary to the
key witnesses. They are professional footballers in the final minutes of a
13 game where the result mattered to them both. They would naturally
concentrate on the game more than on exactly what had been said to them
or by them. There was the noise of the crowd. There is the fact that towards
the end of a game players are not only physically tired (as Mr CarterStephenson pointed out) they are also mentally tired. I don’t need evidence
to tell me that.
It is a crucial fact that nobody has given evidence that they heard what Mr
Terry said or more importantly how he said it. He has given effectively the
same account throughout. Insofar as there are discrepancies in his
account, they are understandable and natural. He says that he was himself
wrongly accused by Mr Ferdinand on the pitch of calling him a black cunt.
He has maintained that from the beginning. Mr Ashley Cole has
corroborated that it was mentioned to him during the game. There is no
doubt that reasonably soon after the game he made the accusation to Mr
Ferdinand. He confirmed that basic account in a statement on the evening
of the match. He gave a very detailed account to the FA and later to the
police. He gave evidence to that effect in this court. There have been minor
discrepancies in the account. It seems  likely that his belief that he was
wrongly accused on the pitch has strengthened as time goes by, and I have
discussed that above. However, his account has been subject to the most
searching and thorough questioning on at least three occasions. Nobody
has  been  able  to  show  that  he  is  lying. The lip readers do not provide
evidence that categorically contradicts his account. What may at first sight
have seemed clear to the non-expert, is less clear now. There are
limitations to lip reading, even by an expert. I have assessed John Terry as
a credible witness.
Weighing all the evidence together, I think it is highly unlikely that Mr 
Ferdinand accused Mr Terry on the pitch of calling him a black cunt. 
However I accept that it is possible that Mr Terry believed at the time, and
believes now, that such an accusation was made. The prosecution evidence 
as to what was said by Mr Ferdinand at this point is not strong. Mr Cole 
gives corroborating (although far from compelling corroborating) evidence 
14 on this point. It is therefore possible that what he said was not intended as
an insult, but rather as a challenge to what he believed had been said to
In those circumstances, there being a doubt, the only verdict the court can
record is one of not guilty.
Howard Riddle
Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate)
13 July 2012