Archives // sport

Let the Games Begin

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Today’s post is about two of my favourite sports to watch, football and tennis. With the exception of athletics (Track and Field to American readers) these are the two sports I enjoy watching the most.  Football is rightly known as the beautiful game and tennis’ perfect blend of skill and power makes it a great spectator sport. Now for the bad part.

Neither sport should be in the Olympics.

I love the Olympics, I really do. And now it has started I intend to spend the majority of the next couple of weeks gorging myself on the sporting feast that my country is currently playing host to. Not in person, I might add – only those who bought the equivalent of the winning lottery ticket or work for the sponsors actually get to go in person. If they decide to turn up. No, I will be enjoying the festivities from the comfort of my living room with coffee in hand and getting my money’s worth for my annual TV licence in the space of 12 days.

But I digress. The point of this post is to talk about tennis and football. You see, I just get a strange feeling watching the tennis and football that it just isn’t that important to those taking part. I’m sure Roger Federer is trying and everything, but I can’t help but think he’d rather be getting some training in for the upcoming US Open than playing a few pointless 3-setters at Wimbledon. I have no doubt that Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy are actively trying to lose or anything like that, but my gut instinct is that this is no more than a nice way to kill some time between seasons, whilst conveniently avoiding their clubs’ money-spinning pre season tours to Asia. All this is a far cry from the look of sheer joy and triumph on the face of Kim Un-Guk after winning the 62kg weightlifting class the other day. The 23 year old from North Korea was fist-pumping, jumping around and working the crowd and it was clear to see that the Olympics meant everything to him.

You see, I am of the belief that the Olympics should represent the pinnacle of achievement in a given sport and should be the highest thing a sportsperson can aspire to. In swimming, athletics, cycling and a whole range of other sports this is the case, but I would hazard a guess that given the choice between Olympic gold and a grand slam trophy or a world cup winner’s medal,  the latter would be the choice for most tennis players or footballers. The winner of the Olympics should be the best in the world and by excluding the majority of players this is not going to be the case in the football. If Messi and Ronaldo can’t play I’m not interested.

There’s also something about other sports that seems to reflect the true Olympic spirit. Fencing is basically sword fighting. I bet the ancient greeks loved a good sword fight.  Athletics is sport at its purest and not too far off what the original Olympics would have looked like: throwing your spear or rock further than anyone else, catapulting yourself over a bar or just trying to outrun or outjump your opponent. Weightlifting, swimming, rowing – keep them all. Hell, even horseriding earns its place. I know that eventing sounds more like a made up modern word like ‘tweeting’ ‘trending’ or ‘planking’ than a proper sport but whatever. Let the elite have their fun. At least they’re not hunting foxes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love tennis and I love football, but like golf and rugby there is no place for them in the Games.

Geezers Need Excitement

Friday 12th August 2011

Geezers need excitement. If their lives don’t provide them that they incite violence. Common sense. Simple common sense. – The Streets, Geezers Need Excitement

Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) is a talented musician, lyricist and poet but this lyric from nearly a decade ago seems strangely prophetic against the backdrop of the recent riots that have plagued England’s cities.

But wait; this is neither a music blog nor a politics blog, so why the focus on recent events? Well it is simple. Young people riot because they are bored. They riot because they lead unfulfilling lives. They riot because they are full of anger and unexpended energy. Now I appreciate that to say such things is to oversimply the incredibly complex set of conditions that caused the riots, and without trying to wash over the deep rooted social issues this nation faces at present, it is fair to say that today’s youth simply aren’t active enough.

I work as a teacher in a secondary school with a highly trained and hard working PE department who do a great job at motivating pupils and keeping them fit. But there just isn’t enough time allocated to it on the pupils’ timetables. Some pupils will always misbehave, lose focus and cause trouble, and I am not foolish enough to assert that a few laps of the athletics track would suddenly change this. However, most misbehaviour I witness stems from boredom and unspent energy manifesting itself in the classroom.

So here’s my suggestion. Every morning before lessons start, pupils do 45 to 60 minutes of a sport of their choice. It doesn’t even have to be the conventional football, rugby, hockey or netball. Why not offer others? Dance, aerobics, boxing (yes, I see the irony here), cycling and table tennis spring to mind. They then get changed and go to their lessons refreshed and focused. Schools could then be free to offer more structured and competitive sporting options after school or in PE lessons.

The positive effects of this would be twofold.

Firstly, the simple fact that children are active means that they are expending energy on something positive and don’t have much left for illegal and antisocial activities (smashing up the Adidas store and taking what they fancy, for instance). It also instills healthy habits in children from a young age, making healthier adults who contribute more to, and take less from society.

Secondly, a more subtle point. Namely that many young people suffer from a staggering lack of self esteem and confidence. I am convinced that a large number of those out on the streets of Manchester, Birmingham and London this week were young people lacking a purpose, a direction and a sense of worth. Learning and succeeding in a sport can help to change this. Not everyone taking part in sport has to become a world-class sportsman, but every young person should be made to feel like they have achieved something.

It’s not the solution but it’s a start.