November 11, 2012 § 4 Comments
Today’s Premiership clash between Chelsea and Liverpool provides a good opportunity for me to write about something about which I have been thinking for a long time – the controversy over racism in English football. Chelsea and Liverpool are the two clubs at the heart of that controversy. Earlier this year, Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Uruguayan forward, was banned for eight matches for calling Manchester United’s Patrice Evra a ‘negrito’. Suarez insisted that this was colloquial Spanish for ‘mate’. An FA disciplinary board found him guilty of racism. More recently Chelsea (and former England) captain John Terry was accused of racially abusing Queen’s Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand during a match. This time the police got involved. Terry was charged under the criminal law with using ‘abusive language’ but was acquitted in court. After that acquittal the FA charged him with the same offence and, with a lower burden of proof, found him guilty. Then last month, Chelsea accused a referee, Mark Clattenburg, of using ‘inappropriate’, and reportedly racist, language towards two of its players, a claim currently being investigated by both the police and the FA.
July 26, 2012 § 4 Comments
As an aspiring teenage middle distance runner I once dreamed of competing at the Olympics. I grew up in the golden age of British middle distance running in the 1970s and 1980s. My hero was Steve Ovett, the bad boy of British athletics, arch rival and arch contrast to Sebastian Coe, the smooth establishment figure, whose destiny it always was to become first a Conservative MP and then the organizer of the 2012 London games. I was never either good enough or dedicated enough to make the grade. But I have never lost either my love for athletics or my obsession with the Olympics. I have, over the years, watched the Games from afar. Next week I will finally attend an Olympics Games in person, not, alas, as a competitor, an aspiration which was always more mirage than dream, but at least as a spectator.
Even as the Games open in London, the debate about whether they are good or bad for the city, and the nation, continues unabated. From that moment in 2005 when London beat Paris to win the right to stage the 2012 Games – indeed, from even before then – there has emerged two kinds of responses to the ‘greatest show on Earth’. For some, the Games provide a means of solving many of London’s myriad social problems. For others, they exacerbate already existing problems, and create a battery of new ones. What has all too often been missing in this debate is what once fuelled my dreams, what burns in all athletes’ souls, what draws most spectators to the spectacle – the thrill of sporting contest. « Read the rest of this entry »