Viva Espana – una victoria para el futbol!
July 12, 2010

Viva Espana!

Spain, already European Champions, justly won the biggest prize of all at the Soccer City Stadium in Jo’burg last night; an historic win for Spain but an even bigger victory for football.

There can be no argument that the tap pass  footballers of Spain deserved  their victory against the Dutch cloggers, and nobody more so than their diminutive goal scorer, Andres Iniesta, who so exemplifies the Spanish style of play.

Last night the memory of total football which Holland revealed to the world in consecutive 1970s finals, creating a legacy which subsequent Oranje teams have always striven to live up to, was tainted by the cynical pragmatists of 2010.     

There will be many in the Netherlands who will be devastated, not that they lost, but by the manner of their defeat. In a pre match interview we got a hint of what might be expected from the Dutch Master himself, Johan Cruyff.

Cruyff, an architect of the 1974 side, as well as a former player and coach with Barcelona, suggested he was less than impressed with the current Holland team’s style, commenting, “I am Dutch but I will always defend the football Spain play.”   

From the first whistle, Spain were the only team attempting to play football and assertions by Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk, in his post match interview, that, “ it’s not our style to play ‘ugly’ or commit horrible fouls” and, “ I don’t think the referee controlled the match well,” do him little or no credit.

English referee, Howard Webb, must have wondered what he had let himself in for. It was not his fault that he had to assume such a high-profile role in proceedings. The players from both sides, but particularly the Dutch, did not make it at all easy for him.

The previous highest total of yellow cards in a World Cup Final had been six. Webb reached into his top pocket for 13 yellows and finally, in extra time, a red for Holland’s John Heitinga.   

Holland could hardly complain. Arguably, they should have been down to nine men by half time. The chest high kick on Xabi Alonso by Nigel De Jong would almost certainly have been a sending off in any other game but a final!

Mark Van Bommel, who has been cruising for a bruising throughout the tournament, was also lucky to remain after he scythed down Iniesta.   

The Dutch tactics were uncompromising but unambitious. Press up on the Spanish, get in their faces, prevent them from settling into their usual metronomic passing game, pinch the ball and catch them on the counter attack through speedster Ayen Robben.

They needn’t have bothered though, the final result had been pre-ordained by the mystic mollusc. Was it Puyol or Paul the octopus who wrapped a restraining tentacle around Robben as he bore down on goal?

The tentacled tipster maintained his 100% record, correctly predicting 8/8 – a perfect octet of results for the octopus, who can now take early retirement squids in!   

En la familia Aldridge casa, the vuvuzela sounded its final celebratory blast of the tournament as captain Iker Casillas lifted the golden globe and the Spanish squad celebrated.

It was a victory for football purists everywhere and for a much relieved daughter who texted during extra time, “my nerves can’t take this any longer”. She should try watching Nottingham Forest some time!  

Enjoy your sweepstake winnings Gem – the San Migs are on you next time we meet!

Back to the Future! Will it be Orange?
July 6, 2010

It’s 25 years since ‘Doc’, Dr Emmett Brown, built his DeLorean time machine and as he said to Marty McFly at the time, “The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style?”   

Yesterday the internet was alive with reports that we had reached the first target date, July 5th 2010, set by Doc in the first Back to the Future movie. It was even backed up with what appeared to be a screenshot of the DeLorean time control panel, taken from the film.

Unfortunately it all turned out to be a hoax and we will have to wait another 5 years to celebrate what is now being called ‘Future Day’. That will be on October 21st 2015, which is where the main characters find themselves when Back to the Future 2 opens. Pencil it in your diary now!         

I wonder what Doc and Marty would have made of the following news stories from July 5th 2010?

‘A Miserable Little Compromise’

Following yesterday’s grand announcement of the electoral reform referendum, Jack Straw rained on Cleggy’s parade by reminding him that just a few short weeks ago, before the election, he had described the proposed AV voting system as ‘a miserable little compromise’. What, Jack the giant slayer asked, had changed his mind? MPs joined in the pantomime by chorusing the answer, ‘POWER!’    

The Times projected that, if the last election had been run according to the AV system, the Lib Dems would have gained 22 seats and Labour 4 with the Tories down by 26. This is why DC is insisting on including constituency changes as part of the package, as it is expected they would off-set the AV effect.    

Ronaldo’s Little Dribbler!

Now we know why Real Madrid  galactica Cristiano Ronaldo was off his game for Portugal at the World Cup. He’s just become a Dad! The Portugal national daily, Diaro de Noticias, has announced that Ronaldo will have ‘exclusive guardianship’ of the child who was apparently conceived through surrogacy, in San Diego, and will be named after his father.

I wonder if Ronaldo junior will dribble as well as Dad!    

 

Stig is top of the Dump!

BBC Worldwide have announced that ‘Top Gear’, presented by Clarkson, Hammond, May and the mystery racing driver Stig has generated more revenue than any other show. This amounts to around £30 million and includes proceeds from  selling the series to foreign broadcasters, an international live tour and a whole range of merchandise including Top Gear Scalextric!   

Perhaps the Stig could road test Doc’s DeLorean, through time and space, in a Back to the Future Top Gear special!  

Back to the Future Education ?

I’m not sure what Doc and Marty would make of education secretary Michael Gove’s announcement that he has scrapped Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme, axing at a single stroke 715 planned rebuilds and refurbishments. Labour might have dug a ‘black hole’ but at least their investment in schools and hospitals helped improve public services, whilst creating jobs and property assets.

Gove, seen above struggling with some big words, has also announced a review of  A levels. This would seem to be a good call.  For too long our public examination system has been kicked around like  a political football. Time and again hard-working students achieving ‘A’ grades have had the wind taken out of their sails, caught between successive governments maintaining standards have gone up whilst top universities and employers claim they have dropped.

I agree it is high time A levels were returned to their ‘gold standard’ status and a full review involving secondary schools, universities and employers needs to be carried out. But I have an uneasy feeling that everything will be tailored to the  needs of Oxbridge, and the already advantaged pupils from their independent ‘feeder schools’.  

I would add I’m not anti Oxbridge. One of my daughters is a Cambridge graduate but she did get there via our local comprehensive school!

Blazing Saddles        

I profess to knowing very little about cycling but I do love the three-week soap-opera which crosses our screens every July, Le Tour! It’s only the third stage today and they haven’t actually reached France, yet the controversy, complaints and protests have already started.

The usual question marks around le dopage, particularly with regard to seven times winner Lance Armstrong, were raised before the event pushed off, in Rotterdam, with the prologue time trial on Saturday. This has been swiftly followed by a series of calamitous crashes in stages one and two, with our very own Mark Cavendish cast as villain of the piece after Sunday’s pile-up. Belgian TV called him the ‘assassin’ whilst the French paper L’Equipe labelled him a ‘pyromaniac’.

I’ve heard of ‘Blazing Saddles’ but that’s going a bit far!   

Will the Future be Orange? 

Could it also be back to the future for Dutch football team?  Holland are forever revered for the total football philosophy that took them to successive World Cup Finals in 1974 and 1978. But everyone’s favourites lost on both occasions, even with the sublime skills of Johan Cruyff and co on display. Will the current crop of talented, but more prosaic, players put the record straight – will the future World Champions be wearing orange? We’ll have a better idea after tonight’s semi final against ‘dark horses’ Uruguay.