Archive for the Sport Category

World Cup 2010

Posted in Culture, Sport on 13/07/2010 by nicka77

Well, that’s it for another 4 years….. all the hopes, dreams and false expectations dashed for another tournament. Except of course for the mighty and richly deserving Spanish, who plied their fabulous brand of artistry to the very last, against the thuggish, disreputable Dutch, to emerge as Champions of the World.

Spain were truly exceptional in my opinion, and have been for the last 4 years. Ever since they changed their ethos from the Raul-inspired egocentricity that currently rots the heart of both England and France, and adopted a true team ethic – all for one and one for all.

Of course, no change in philosophy can win the World Cup if the talent isn’t there, but with magicians in the midfield in the shape of Xavi, Iniesta and Alonso, rocks at the heart of their defence in Ramos, Piquet, and the inspirational Carlos Puyol, plus a rapier at the tip in Villa and a truly World Class Goalkeeper and Captain in Iker Casillas, their squad simply overflowed with talent of the very highest order. The fact that neither Fabregas, who was wonderful when he came on, or the mis-firing Torres, were first picks for Spain, demonstrates amply how richly blessed they are in this era.

Their opponents in the final, Holland, have a much richer international heritage, borne from the wonderful ‘total football’ ethos that made The Dutch everyone’s second team. My favourite team as I grew up was the AC Milan of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, and Frank Rijkaard… and of course I was well aware of the 1974 & 1978 finals that the Dutch cruelly lost, with Johan Cruyff as their leader and emblem.

However, Holland disgraced their heritage and their principles in this final, I am sad to say. Their functional route to the final rightly won plaudits, as they smothered opponents and then let the excellent Wesley Sneijder and the artful but highly effective Arjen Robben pick up the necessary goals to take them through.

But their descent into downright villainy and genuine thuggery was disappointing and saddening. Mark van Bommel is an anti-hero, an anti-footballer, and a pantomime villain. It is absolutely right that he will never wear a World Cup winners medal. It would have been a travesty if he had been on the winning team. To quote Johan Cruyff, “This ugly, vulgar, hard, hermetic, hardly eye-catching, hardly football style, yes it served the Dutch to unsettle Spain. If with this they got satisfaction, fine, but they ended up losing. They were playing anti-football.” Nuff said.

Anyway, moving on from the Dutch, we turn our attention to the most unedifying team of the tournament… no, not England. The French. They did an old school Dutch trick on us and imploded dramatically (finding it quite hard to move on from the Dutch evidently… they pop up everywhere!!)

But now let’s look at England. Frankly, they were a disgrace. A hugely disappointing campaign that simply left me befuddled. I had huge faith in Capello, and thought that he might, just might, bring out the best of Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard et al…. but no. £6m a year to get knocked out by (an admittedly very good) Germany 4-1. £6m to learn about the nuances of keeping spoilt, rich, self-centred young men focused and happy during tournament conditions.

Expectations once again outweighed reality, but I certainly expected some performances, even if it meant glorious defeat, rather than the damp squib nature of the four games that we played. There are rumours of rifts in the camp, namely between the self-appointed alpha-chav John Terry, and his replacement as captain Steven Gerrard. Whatever the truth, it was a typically stodgy and tawdry tournament display from the pampered millionaires from our green and pleasant lands.

But enough of all this soul searching and self-flagellation. It’s over. We were rubbish. Same old.

Interestingly, no-one who plays in the Premiership played well. At least I can’t think of anyone. Maybe there is something in the fact that we don’t rest up as much as the Spanish, Germans, French, Italians et al. But again, it’s excuses. And actually, none of the players we all expected to be the stars of the World Cup ever really got going.

Ronaldo never got a sniff. Kaka produced one moment of sublime skill in 4 games. The less said about Rooney the better. Messi didn’t score, although he did play quite well to be fair. But he certainly didn’t set the tournament alight or lift his Argentina team beyond their true worth, like his magnificently charismatic and wonderfully personable coach did in 1986.

Ahhh, the great Diego Maradona… a quite miraculous ability to re-invent himself from overweight, hospitalized drug-fiend to a suave, sophisticated international coach (well, some creative license please…). The tournament would have been a duller place without him and I hope he gets the chance to take Argentina to Brazil in 4 years’ time. Hopefully, by then, he will have learnt that leaving out players like Cambiasso and Zannetti doesn’t pay. You do need high quality, experienced defenders to win the World Cup. Playing Gutierrez (the Newcastle right winger) as a left back just isn’t going to cut it.

And so, apart from the excellent Joachim Low’s youthful, counter-attacking Germany, and Dunga’s disappointingly dull Brazilians, that about sums it up for me… oh, of course there were the Africans who were generally poor, except for Ghana. Poor, poor Ghana. Cheated out of a first ever semi-final for their continent by Suarez in heart-breaking fashion. But Uruguay lived up to their billing as the skulldugerous South Americans, and were a whisper away from reaching the final. Fair play to them, and fair play to Forlan for being voted the Player of the Tournament.

So, here is my team of the Tournament (4-2-3-1):

Very honourable mentions go to Sneijder, Schweinsteiger, Maicon, Mascherano, Lucio, and (against my better wishes) Arjen Robben.

That’s that then.

See you in 4 years.

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Wimbledon 09 – history beckons

Posted in Inspirational People, Sport on 26/06/2009 by nicka77

With Nadal out due to his dodgy knees, and Murray cruising through the first two rounds, it looks as though we may have a historic Wimbledon final to savour.

If the QF’s & SF’s go to form, it will be Federer v Murray, the final that every Brit is hoping for.

Can Murray become the first male Briton to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936? He has the talent and, now, the maturity and physical presence to make the final an epic encounter.

But Federer is on track to become the most successful player of all time… after his historic Roland Garros victory, he now stands on the threshold of true greatness, of tennis immortality…. hoping that his 6th Wimbledon title will be his 15th Grand Slam, taking him beyond the all time record set by Pete Sampras.

The Fed is a legend in his own lifetime, conquering everyone who crossed his path with grace, style, finesse and power…. until Rafa came along, that is.

However, the problem with Rafael Nadal (as with Ronaldo, the Brazilian) is that his body is simply too powerful for his knees…. it may be that his style of play has already worn the joints beyond their peak, and that Rafa will never again reach the heights that have seen him challenge Federer’s hegemony (Nadal has won 6 Grand Slams at the age of 23, beating Federer 13 times in the 20 games they have played against each other). I certainly hope he can come back, but then I always hoped Ronaldo would be able to re-produce the magic of his days at Barcelona… depressingly, it never happened.

But back to this year’s Championship…. Murray is not in the same league as Federer or Nadal yet… he can’t be considered in their class because he has yet to win a major… but he is the first male Brit in over 60 years to have a genuine chance of reaching the final and actually winning it (Henman definitely doesn’t count).

On the day, if Murray can channel the pressure from the crowd positively, if he can play his peak game, and if Federer lets the pressure of winning No.15 get to him, it could be a famous day in the history of British tennis.

I am definitely jumping the gun here, and there are numerous others who could make the final – Leyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Davydenko are all in Murray’s half of the draw, so the route to the final will be anything but easy. Additionally, there is the always dangerous Djokovic who looks like he may be regaining some of his old form.

But I can dream…. a Federer v Murray final would be absolutely phenomenal… and whoever won, we would be witnessing history being written before our eyes.

Lions 2009 – team for the first test

Posted in Sport on 08/06/2009 by nicka77

The British & Irish Lions have been solid in two of the three games they’ve played so far, and outstanding in one. I have only caught one match live, and watched highlights of the rest, as out here in Bali the pubs prefer showing Aussie Rules (?!?!?) than Rugby Union (which is not surprising as there are Aussies everywhere, but still….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the basis of what I’ve seen, my team for the first test against South Africa on June 20th is as follows:

 

1. Andrew Sheridan (England)

2. Lee Mears (England)

3. Gethin Jenkins (Wales)

4. Paul O’Connell (Ireland) (Captain)

5. Alun Wyn-Jones (Wales)

6. Stephen Ferris (Ireland)

7. David Wallace (Ireland)

8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

9. Mike Phillips (Wales)

10. Stephen Jones (Wales)

11. Ugo Monye (England)

12. Jamie Roberts (Wales)

13. Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)

15. Lee Byrne (Wales)

 

Pretty powerful team if you ask me – and 2/3 of the team picks itself to be honest.

Just hope we can bring the level of intensity necessary to the game, as SA will be on fire. Hopefully they won’t resort to any filthy behaviour like the NZ spear tackle on O’Driscoll last time out.

Whoever’s in the team, I cannot wait for the tests to start… they are going to be huge!!

COME ON YOU LIONS!!!

IPL – Cricket in India

Posted in Culture, Sport, Travel on 05/05/2009 by nicka77

I’ve always known that cricket on the sub-continent was huge, but i had never expected the whole place to be so utterly, insanely mad about it.

There are entire cable channels dedicated to cricket, and mainstream terrestrial stations that dedicate every second of primetime to the sport.

And this is during the elections. The politicians can hardly get a look in.

Admittedly, it is the IPL right now (that’s the Indian Premier League for those who don’t know), and money definitely talks.

The new, hugely popular 20-20 version of the sport comes complete with big money international stars, bigger money auctions, US-style dancing girls, ‘strategic’ breaks to cram more adverts in, and the stars of Bollywood & Indian business. All of these elements  come together in an explosion of fame, fanaticism and fanfare to create what can only be described as ‘fantasy cricket’ for the modern era.

I have to say I’m loving it – being out here while it’s going on has given me an insight into the tournament and the passions that surround it. Everyone on the streets talks about it and its a great way to spark up conversations in a bar. I am now officially a Mumbai Indians fan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s such a massive pity that the tournament itself isn’t here in India. As you may already know, due to the security concerns surrounding the elections (particularly in light of the terrorist attacks 2 months ago), the Indian Govt simply couldn’t guarantee the security of fans or players, and the organisers had no choice but to move the tournament or cancel it completely.

So, it’s taking place in South Africa. But what this has done, in my opinion, is created an incredibly interesting experiment for domestic sporting tournaments that have global reach (like, for example, the Premier League, La Liga, the NBA, the NFL, etc etc etc).

By demonstrating that a tournament can take place anywhere, as long as it has the right players, the right global sponsorship deals, and the fans still come in droves to create the right atmosphere, then a match can feasibly take place anywhere. Just look at the way the NFL now play one official points-scoring game a year at Wembley.

The problem with this is that it plays into Richard Scudamore’s hands for his ridiculous 39th Game in the Premier League. I’m not against games abroad per se (although they would have to prove that no team were disadvantaged by the arrangement), but to have a 39th game creates statistical anomalies that would render the league a farce. So let’s hope he never gets that one off the ground.

Anyway, I have digressed massively from the point.

Attached is a commercial by JWT from 2007 for Nike that I believe captures the spirit of India and its passionate love of cricket. I also think this TVC does a great job of portraying the energy and vibrancy of Mumbai, where I was last week, and will be returning to in a few days.

I was lucky enough to spend some time with Agnello Dias (or Aggy), the creative director behind this work, who has recently set up his own agency – TapRoot India. I’m meeting him again next week when he has agreed to take me around the ‘real’ Bombay, to see the places where he has grown up and lived throughout his life. Should be brilliant.

I also met up with Colvyn Harris, CEO JWT India, and I’ll be talking about those conversations, and the others I’ve had in India, on my blog on campaignlive.com 

However, I have once again digressed – the point of the this post is that cricket creates an almost religious fanatacism over here, and it’s a joy to be here while the IPL is on – come on Mumbai Indians!!!! 

Ireland – Grand Slam Champions

Posted in Sport on 28/03/2009 by nicka77

Wonderful. Phenomenal. Incredible.

 

What a match. What a tournament. Thank God that final Welsh kick died and fell short….. 

Since 1948 the Irish rugby team have failed to regain the 5/6 Nations Grand Slam, and now they have done it again… i’m emotionally charged and i am but a youngster, in comparison to my dad, and my uncles, who have spent their entire lives waiting for this moment…. the champagne and guinness were flowing (not together) and there were even a few jaeger-bombs thrown in for good measure.

Check this out – 

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=62214973990&ref=mf

 

Sensational.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The highlight of the tournament for me was our family visit to Rome for the Italy v Ireland match – not a great game in itself but how fantastic that we were there in a Grand Slam year…. and after the heartache of being in Paris when the French beat us in the last minute in 2008. The agonies that have been endured makes this Grand Slam victory all the sweeter.

In reality though, the two toughest games were against England & Wales – both hard fought encounters that were won by an Irish team led by Brian O’Driscoll that knew they had one last chance to make history – one last chance to fulfil their potential.

Nike Freestyle

Posted in Advertising, Music, Sport on 12/02/2009 by nicka77

As good as it gets – incredible advertising from Wieden & Kennedy