Start The Samba Early

Having just watched England comfortably beat Moldova 5-0 in the first qualifying match for the World cup finals in Brazil 2014 its time to Que the hopes and expectations, the dare to dream and mutter the words “we could win the World cup”. There is only one problem with this? I said this for the World cups in South Africa, Germany, Japan and South Korea and probably France in 1998. So why should this qualifying and World cup be any different? Or will it be the usual that we qualify scrape through to the quarter finals and eventually get knocked out on penalties (and probably to the Germans).

Well the facts speak for themselves. At this very moment in time England lie third in the Fifa World rankings, The highest we have ever reached since Fifa rankings began. We have an English manager in Roy Hodgson, The only English manager who has taken over the national team with actual international managerial experience, and yet to be beaten in 90 minutes of play as England manager. England also have a balance in the team with experience and youth. The old guard of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole who were once described as “past it” in the middle of last season by some media critics went on to show that they still have a lot to offer by winning the Champions league with Chelsea. This experience can offer a lot to the new talent braking through into the team with Tom Cleverley and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain making a claim to be in the starting eleven and none more so then their performance in Moldova. Having both started the game due to squad injuries they knew this could be their chance to show the manager what they had to offer in a competitive match and they did exactly that from kick off. The pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain on the wing and attacking threat of Cleverley playing just behind Jermaine Defoe was more then enough to spring a new life into the the England style of play. This was backed up Frank Lampard a real professional in the centre of the park who had this to say after the game. “They’re are brilliant, of course they’re are good enough.’ he told ITV1 “Tom is a pleasure to play with and with him being such a young age, he’s going to be right in the middle of the team for years to come.” He also had this to say on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain “Alex was brilliant. He lit up the first half and it’s great to see players like that coming through.”

As we all know Moldova are not the power house in international football and being ranked only 141 in the world behind St Vincent and the Grenadines actually puts things into perspective. As the qualifying period continues we will be playing a harder standard of football, with the likes of Poland and Ukraine in our group but as you can only beat what is in front of you and the England team did exactly that. With the ground only having a 10.500 capacity and the pitch not exactly being up to the Wembley standard the stage was set for a shock upset. With that in mind England had the perfect start when they were awarded a penalty after only three minutes for a handball which Frank Lampard converted to settle down the enthusiastic home crowd. Then on 29 minutes Lampard got his and England’s second and with Defoe adding a third just minutes later it was safe to say the game was won by half time. With James Milner and a very deflected free kick form Everton’s Leighton Baines adding to the scoreline in the second half, it was certainly a great start to kick off the group stages. So we now look towards the game Tuesday night at home against Ukraine which i will be attending and which i have no doubt will be a sterner test for England, the objectives will still be the same. With an expectant 90.000 England fans at Wembley and Roy Hodgson still being judged on every match if the squad can put on another impressive and attacking performance and with a clean sheet then there is no reason why England cant stay top of group H before the next round of games take place.

Im not saying we will win every group game and that every performance will be top draw. This is England we don’t do things the easy way, but if we can build up a winning mentality and qualify comfortably for the finals in Brazil then it will certainly give us an edge as the team come up against the best in world football. Of course if England do these things and do get through the group easily then the pressure will be on England to transfer those performances and win the World cup. That is a stigma that is attached to every England team weather it is the World Cup or European Championships, but this is because we are an expectant sporting nation with football being our national sport with world class English players and in truth 1966 was too long ago. So lets just say the England world cup winning wagon is setting off and i am first on board and there is plenty of room if you want to jump on board and join me.

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Dating in Football Season (Why Bother!)

Football season has started yet again, did it ever finish I hear you say?  That’s because it lasts from August to May every year!  With minor breaks for Christmas and New Years it would seem.  Of course any guy who is into football becomes overtly excited as football season approaches.  The fact that they have had a 3 whole months without a snifter of football (we all know that’s a lie) there are always random games on which mean nothing to us.  Apparently a ‘friendly’ is still classed as real game.  But what happens to all the WAGS out there when the dreaded football season starts again?  For all those die hard football fans who think that missing a game between Wigan and Scunthorpe is like missing the eclipse of the sun.  Where were you when Scunthorpe drew 2 – 0?


We get cast aside, well for the first few months at least anyway, until the excitement has died down and the realisation that MOTD (Match of the day for anyone who has a life out there) can be sky plus-ed.  Mid-week Wednesday’s date night to the local Italian is replaced with a trip to The Albion to sample the local Artios on offer.  Double house vodka it is then, after the third the smell of paint stripper dies down.  If questioned then why you’re not going to the restaurant, a simple ‘we’re out aren’t we babe’, we can go to a restaurant any time but it’s the Champions league’.  You have no idea if it’s the Champions league or what this even means but you suspect that its just a ploy to keep you quiet.  You order another vodka and finish your game of Candy Crush propped up on a stool.

Saturday nights are taken up with ‘just as important games’ and either coming home at 7:30 pm or going out at 10 pm.  I find leaving the house at 10 pm after a whole bottle of Sauvignon whilst feigning interest in the Spurs match, be wholly detrimental for your night out.  Spurs have lost, and you’re drunk before you’ve even left the flat it’s a loose, loose situation.  Its 2 cocktails and home by midnight after only 2 hours out.

God forbid u go on holiday while FS is still on, suddenly it seems even more important to watch the game while your holidaying in the Algarve just because were ‘lucky enough’ to have it shown over there.

The way to get through this is to amuse yourself, call your girlfriends and have a wild night out while he stays in a dingy pub with his equally sad, equally football mad buddies.  Wear that figure hugging dress when you leave the house and see if that gets his attention.  Chances are it won’t and you will receive more affection from your bottle of Sav.  Just remember ladies its only 9 months out of the year….

The Day Justice Became a Reality

The the 15th of April 1989 became the day that sport did not matter. It became the day headlines being prepared on the back page of a newspaper which would only reiterate what was being prepared for the front page. It became the day 96 people left their homes for a football match only never to return. It became the day only to be known as the Hillsborough disaster. So why on the 12th of September 2012 a staggering 23 years after that tragic day has the truth and documents of what really happened only just being released to the world? Probably because it was the biggest blunder and cover up in police history.

Hillsborough Memorial

In this article I will be dealing in truth and truth only of the findings of the Hillsborough independent panel which were set up in December 2009 to oversee “full public disclosure of relevant governmant  and local information within the limited constraints set out in the disclosure protocol” and “consult with Hillsborough families to ensure that the views of those most affected by the disaster are taken into account” For 23 years family, friends work colleagues and strangers have fought to over tern the verdict of accidental death, the fact that Liverpool fans were to blame and that the death toll of 96 could have been vastly reduced had more then just a single ambulance being allowed on the pitch do deal with the casualties. The panel had read over 400.000 documents which covered everything from police statements and paramedic statements to eye witnesses accounts and survivor stories. The world were expecting some findings to emerge, but what the world actually found out can only be described as astonishing.

The panel had come to the conclusion that “Up to 41 of the 96 fans who tragically died might have survived had emergency services’ reactions and co-ordination been improved” Just take the number of 41 in for a minute, it means that up 41 lives could have been saved from the terrible day, 41 families would not have to of buried fathers, mothers,sons or daughters and 41 people could have continued their precious life. The conclusion of 41 fans possibly being saved is based on post mortem examinations which found some victims may have had heart, lung or blood circulation function after being removed from the crush. Following on from that the report also came to the conclusion that placing fans who were “merely unconscious” on their backs would have resulted in their death. If that was not enough from the report,  also to be concluded was that fact that no Liverpool fans were responsible in any way for the disaster, and that the main cause of the disaster was “lack of police of control” The idea of Liverpool supporters being liable for their fellow supporters deaths has been a stigma which has followed them around for 23 years, especially as just days after Hillsborough a “”well known” red top tabloid had printed lies in which stated fans had “beat up a PC giving the kiss of life” and “drunken fans viciously attacked rescue workers as they tried to revive victims”. The  Liverpool fans now had the truth they had so tirelessly fought for to clear their names from a disgusting and vile smear campaign that tried to see them blamed for this tragedy. When in fact in fans were actually seen pulling fellow supporters to safety and using advertising hoardings as stretchers for other injured fans. All though a shocking reason behind the idea of liverpool fans being responsible for Hillsborough were being spearheaded by the South Yorkshire Police.

The Panel had found that South Yorkshire police and other emergency services had made a “strenuous attempt” to deflect blame from them onto Liverpool supporters. The very police force that were there to protect the public and offer an honest and caring service were actually creating the biggest cover up ever to protect them selves and not even consider taking into the account the feelings of the grieving families who were being led to believe their own loved ones could have been responsible for the deaths of others. This was not clearly just one person lying, this was a cover up on epic proportion which would include perjury and preventing the course of justice. 164 witness statements were amended and 116 had statements removed which were “unfavourable to South Yorkshire police, but the smear campaign to do stop there. Probably the most disgusting findings to emerge from the report was South Yorkshire police carried out blood and alcohol readings on victims in which some of them were children just as so they could then blame the fans by saying they were drunk and not in control of their actions. While mothers were grieving their children were being used as a subject of a cover up and if that was not enough computer checks were also being run on victims on the police national database in an attempt to “impugn their reputation”. Every attempt was being made by the police to hide their responsibility for the events of that terrible day and for 23 years it had worked, but not anymore.

After 23 years the families, supporters, the media and the world have finally reached the end of the truth but have now created the begenning for justice. The priority for all involved now is to overturn the inquest verdicts of accidental death as attorney general Dominic Grieve is urged to open a new investigation and also start to consider criminal proceedings for those responsible for not only the tragedy but also the shocking cover up. This will not be a quick process, if this is to run its full course then this could possibly takes years for the out come and the right people be brought to justice. If it has to take years then you can believe the Liverpool fans will be fighting every day and every step of the way. They have fought for 23 years for justice for the 96 and they in no way intend to give up now.

This article is dedicated to the 96 Liverpool fans for justice is now finally being achieved.

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Clever Tweets or Silly Twits?

Ashley Cole’s Twitter rant raised a few eyebrows!

With Ashley Cole becoming the latest in a long line of sports stars to apologise for their outburst on Twitter, today I will examine the questions: “Do sports stars really need Twitter to become closer to their fans?” and “Is it really worth running the risk of a fine or charge by their respected sports authorities?”

Gone were the days where you would write to your favourite sports idol asking for a signed photo and a short message back, or wait outside the ground  maybe for hours after a football match to get your programme signed by the players. Now it is all about sending them a tweet and receiving one back. Welcome to the autograph of the 21st century.

The boom of social networking in the world now means we can find what celebrities are doing in their day to day life, what film they are going to watch at the cinema, we can even find out what they had for breakfast. So the interaction of a fan and their idol becomes ever closer as they can send a tweet and receive one back in return in the matter of seconds, or maybe congratulate them on a great game. In practise that sounds perfect but as we know in life things are never that simple. It is no significance in life that online abuse has grown 300% in the past year with most of the abuse being used in the way of tweets.

Tom Daley, Rebecca Adlington Darron Gibson are just a few of many sports stars that have received untold amounts of abuse on Twitter from so called “trolls” from followers on their respected accounts. Abuse on Twitter does not just stem from criticism for a bad performance in their sport it also is sadly falling into much darker depths of life as the amount of racial abuse being tweeted has grown 10 fold over the past 18 months with Ashley young, Carlton Cole and Micah Richards all reporting cases of racial abuse to the police.

This month has seen the latest apology from a footballer after a foul-mouthed tweet from Ashley Cole not only got him in trouble with the FA but also running the risk of jeopardising his England career. Ashley Cole became outraged after he was accused of  “evolving” his statement supporting John Terry’s defence against a proven charge that he racially abused Queens Park Rangers player Anton Ferdinand. Cole took straight to Twitter  and wrote “Hahahahaa, well done #fa i lied did I, #BUNCHOFT***.’ Chelsea defender Cole later deleted the tweet and apologised saying “I was really upset and tweeted my feelings in the heat of the moment. I apologise unreservedly for my comment about the FA.” All though the apology was not enough to get him out of hot water with his domestic club as Chelsea will still fine him two weeks’ wages after breaking their social media policy which will cost him in excess of £200,000. Quite an expensive risk for losing your cool.

Ashley Cole is no means on his own in being fined for an outburst on Twitter, in fact he is just the latest in a long line of stars. Arsenal’s Emmanuel Frimpong was fined £6,000 by the Football Association after comments he made on Twitter to a Tottenham fan. Frimpong was charged with improper conduct which included a reference to faith. Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 by the Football Association over a comment posted on twitter. Ferdinand was charged after appearing to endorse a tweet by another user of the social network site which described Chelsea defender Ashley Cole, as a “choc ice,” a term understood to mean someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside.  This after Cole had given evidence the day before the tweet in the John Terry Anton Ferdinand. The list of footballers getting into trouble with comments posted on twitter goes on with Paddy Kenny and Joey Barton to name just a few more and with the ever growing trend of footballers taking to Twitter, it is only a matter of time before another footballer finds himself up on an FA charge.

Football Clubs have tried to curb what their players say on the social networking site and many are taking up the opportunity to bring in a policy where players will be fined if they are found to be disrespecting their club or be found to be acting in an inappropriate way over Twitter and with some players having nearly 5 million followers it goes to show every tweet will be watched and scrutinised by the public. Not everyone has brought into the social network phenomenon with Sir Alex Ferguson  many times airing his views on the site, “Twitter; i do not understand it, i don’t know why anybody can be bothered with it, but it is there and as a club we haven given instructions to the players that they cannot talk about Manchester United.” Of course many sports stars and their followers not have any problem in the way they use Twitter and often is a great way to interact with their fans after a specific sport and not more so then after London 2012 when Gold medalists Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah took straight to Twitter to express their delight after winning gold and then to thank their followers for continued support and in return then were sent thousands of tweets congratulating them on their achievements.

So going back to the original question: clever tweets or silly twits? Well like everything in life if  Twitter is used in the correct way and Tweeters think before typing then there is no issue and they will not have to face  the risk of a fine or charge by their respected authorities but maybe if they are angry and annoyed about a certain decision or situation in their sport then maybe Twitter is not the best way to air then views. This in turn goes for their followers who if are seen to be sending vile or racist tweets then should be banned from Twitter and them selves face a police charge. Although I can’t help but think it is only a matter of time sports stars will be in the news for Twitter but for the wrong reasons.

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Alex Ruffell Memorial Fund

Looking out from my seat into the African bush I can see Buffalo, Zebra and too many Impala to count. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for all day; the breathtaking experience earlier of viewing Victoria Falls for the first time drained all the energy out of me not to mention the six-kilometre walk in 40°C heat.

Now leaning back into my chair at the Stanley and Livingston hotel, rubbing my sunburn and watching African wildlife with my mosquito repellant and a bottle of local lager, I look back over my Zimbabwean experience with a smile.

One of the main reasons for me visiting Zimbabwe was to observe the charity work that has gone on in Chidobe primary school which was founded eleven years ago, after the sad and sudden death of Alex Ruffell, by his mother Sue Ford and step father Graham Ford. Alex died in 1998 at the age of 16 and was 2 years older than me at Friends School Saffron Walden, although I didn’t know him well at school, I know he was much loved by his friends and family, and the amazing results of this charity keeps Alex’s name alive for ever and helps hundreds of the Chidobe people. Everyone in this rural community will speak of Alex almost everyday, as there is a classroom built in his memory as well as the outdoor sports centre. The charity has provided drinking water, toilets, school uniforms, books and electricity which is not only used by the school but the rest of the community, this is to name but a few as the list seems to go on and on.

At Alex’s funeral, £5,000 of donations was kindly given to Sue and Graham; this was used to build the classroom in his memory. Since then more people have donated to the Alex Ruffell memorial fund, many of which from the Saffron Walden area, these generous people are kept informed of any development at the school.

Alfred Mpofu, the village head was diagnosed with HIV 4 years ago and certainly would have died if the charity didn’t supply the drugs he needed. Rural communities in Africa have very complicated politics, and rely on influential figures such as Alfred.

Graham and Sue Ford organize the charity back in the UK, which involves the time consuming role of collecting all the generously donated money, clothes, shoes and other items back to their family home. Once everything has been collected their container makes the long sea voyage to Durban in South Africa, and then the slow journey by rail to the city of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, then on to Victoria Falls, before being loaded onto a truck and then delivered to the school. This can sometimes take months as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) can be very difficult, everything in the shipment has to be proven that it has come from a donated charity or duty has to be paid on every item. Graham and Sue visit the country twice a year making sure that the shipment has reached its final destination and distributed correctly.

When I visited the school I witnessed the shipment being delivered, and was amazed at the number of people who turned up, 500 in total, 350 of which were school children and the rest were teachers, village heads, friends and family. It was a huge party with lots of singing and dancing, the charity supplied food and drink for every person.

Chidobe village football team with Sue Ford, Alfred Mpofu & William

After everyone had eaten and the entertainment finished, a game of football started on the school pitch. Brand new kit and boots were supplied to Ford United the local Chidobe football team, (this is another reminder of the respect Sue and Graham receive here). Previously I’d mentioned that I’d played football for my school team at Friends and was immediately placed at left midfield, I think more out of politeness me being a visitor than my ability to play. The whistle blew after the longest 90 minutes I’d ever experienced; it was time for the clothes to be distributed to the village. As I limped over to the queue of people I noticed young children wearing a very familiar school blazer with huge smiles on their faces, I couldn’t help but put one on and have my photo taken with them. The whole day was a complete success and everyone seemed very happy.

The people of Chidobe have really shown me this amazing will to survive, as every day can be a struggle, especially over the last four years. It didn’t take long for me to be accepted into the community, and they were keen to show me their way of life, smiling faces are everywhere you look. This African hospitality is evident all over the country.

I want to thank the people of Chidobe village who I’ll remember forever.

Image courtesy of William Addison-Atkinson