Sunday, November 29, 2009

It IS Very Simple...

Just finished an article from The Times. A "What If..." predicted scenario which involves a minority Tory government falling under a no confidence motion, but through political manoeuvring, the monarch suspends Parliament for a short period. What shocked me the most, was not that this possibility is legal under the current 'constitution', but that people leave comments supporting the suspension of democracy. Why is it that, the Queen is deemed to have more rights as British citizen than anybody else? I continue to be dumbfounded by the total lack of desire to fully democratise the British system. Or to be more precise, to continue to subject ourselves to an UNELECTED head of state. It is complete lunacy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Next to Nothing (Again)

Fifa and Uefa both seem to operate under a code that shows no actual attachment to reality. This is nothing new, sporting bodies are nearly always reactive, hardly ever being brave enough to take the lead by instigating reforms in advance of obvious problems. Today Fifa took the low road once more by fining the Croatian FA a meager $28,000 for racist behaviour by their fans towards black English players at last months’ WCQ. 28 grand - yeh that will really help to stamp the problem out! Measures that actually censor fans footballing experience, such as banning fans from attending home games, playing offending nations home matches in outer Siberia, or actually doing something proactive like, I don’t know, expulsion from competition those countries that continually offend. But no, that sadly would be doing something; Fifa actually released this meaningless statement today: (you can hear the concealed laughter from the Croatian FA, their fans would sadly utter more offensive comments.)

"Racism has no place in football. Fifa is determined to continue broadcasting this message around the globe and deploying all of the means at its disposal to eliminate this form of discrimination."

I would like to advise Fifa (and Uefa) that the removal of racism with a paltry fine of $28,000 is nowhere near eliminating discrimination by all of the means possible. It is in fact, doing basically sod all.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Very English August: Golf Part 1

One of the pleasures of any return to England is the opportunity to play some golf, on an eclectic choice of courses, with a mate and crucially, whilst not spending a small fortune for the privilege. The contrast between how golf is played in Japan to England is at its widest when emptying the wallet in the clubhouse before the round. In Japan, it can be an ideal way to lighten to the load in your pocket, in England; you usually leave the course with a few notes still wedged in the leather.

The other big difference between the two experiences is how your legs feel at the end of 18 holes. In Japan it is almost universally the case that you are pampered with luxury, a buggy chauffeurs you to every shot, a mid-round break allows for the chance to eat some lunch, loll around and restore energy for the back 9. And finally, the glorious, emersion into a hot bath allows you to re-live/re-invent selected highlights of the day whilst soaking those weary limbs. In England, you don’t really get any of this, certainly not on the golf courses I often play. The up-side is you can squeeze 36 holes into one day, which is impossible in Japan. And that is usually where the problems start.

Due to such small trivialities such as my wedding, I have not had the chance to play much golf this year in Japan. It has hard to justify spending a week’s household on 18 holes when other more matrimonial costs are floating around. So once I had arranged the days with my English golfing mate, Tim, I was eager to plunge straight into a day of 36 holes as compensation for my year’s near total abstinence. This plan only had two small, almost insignificant problems: 1) The English summer weather would have made Noah feel at home and 2) My body is just not used to this kind of punishment. Golf on the Wii hardly prepares you for squelching through and in, an English golf course. By the end of the first day’s play I felt, and looked, as though I had just gone around Cape Horn in a holed dingy.

We had decided that our first day’s golf would be on an old favourite, Burgham Park GC near Morpeth in Northumberland. With a 2 fore 1 golf voucher to reduce the day’s play to 18 pounds each, it seemed a convenient way to begin the golfing part of my holiday. Unfortunately I was wrong. We got soaked; my joints stopped operating around the 22nd hole, my rainproof shoes leaked and eventually sank into the sodden course, and my score that after 6 holes was pretty damn hot, dissolved into the nether regions, only fleetingly being spotted in near earth orbit. Burgham is a beautiful parkland course which played like a Venice links course on wet day.

The next day, we thought we would head off to the coast in search of drier land. The conundrum of golf in England is that you have to choose between the following (Hobson’s) choice:

a)Play a links course, more likely to be drier because of the wind, and so even more likely you will be hitting into/out of/around a swirling coastal gale. End result - a difficult round.

b)Play a parkland course, more likely to have reduced wind, and so even more likely your underfoot will be marshland and your ball/feet/hope will sink two feet into each fairway. End result – a difficult round.

After just about avoiding trench-foot on Wednesday, a links course was agreed to be the more drier option. I had been itching to visit Seahouses GC on the Northumbrian coast for some time now. Seahouses, is a traditional Northumbrian seaside holiday town that is dominated by caravan parks, amusement arcades, biting winds, grey beaches, arctic seas and a lighthouse. It does, however have two saving graces, a magnificent array of high quality chippies (no this is not an oxymoron) and an old, short (in yards) par 67 links course. Just the job after the previous day’s treacle slopping…

The wind was as benign as it would ever be on a north-eastern summer’s day; the footing was reasonably dry and the course enjoyable to play. There were three highlights of the round:

1)Despite being given very clear instructions as to where to tee off for the 1st hole, neither Tim nor I could recall the conversation that had taken place only 2 minutes previously and, so we just teed off and hoped for the best. (I got par).

2)The 5th and 8th holes start parallel to each to each other, but to reach the correct green, you have to crisscross the other holes’ fairway. I stood on the 5th tee aimed left(ish) and was quite happy to be roughly in the same direction as the green. Tim aimed right. I reached the green in 3 and so did Tim, the only problem being he landed on the 8th green. He hadn’t realized that the holes were in fact not just two long straight holes…

3)The 10th is a shortish par 3 which involves hitting an exposed long iron over a pond and on a slightly sunken green. Tim went first and stopped his ball 6 feet from the hole. I followed and ended up 7 feet adrift. We only then noticed an old man had stopped to watch both are shots. For that brief moment, whoever he was, must have thought we knew what we doing on a course. We both missed birdie however…

Seahouses turned out be a great antidote from the previous day’s exasperation and so we headed off home confident that Wednesday’s woes was but a minor hiccup in the golfing week. Sadly I was wrong. Not just a tiny bit, but Betamax kind of wrong…

Entrance to Burgham Park GC

Tim teeing off on the 13th at Burgham Park.

The 18th at Burgham GC. Amazingly Tim and I played this hole well on both rounds!

The view from the 10th, just a long iron over the hidden pond. Seahouses GC

Two fine tee-shots! The 10th, Seahouses GC

The bunker-dominated 8th. Seahouses GC.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Very English August: Introduction

As an exiled (to be fair it is my own choice) Englishman, one has at times bristled and become sensitive about despairing remarks concerning the mother country's summer climate. Often, one has been forced to listen to crude terminology dismissing the English climate (food, sports teams, female attractiveness...) as something to be avoided like a lonely Yorkshire Moor pub on a moonlit night. These remarks have been spouted from various nationalities, American, Dutch, Canadian, Kiwi, Ozzie even the odd native has been known to offer a comment or two. Usually it is met with a withering (at least that is how my memory records such discourses) put down and a long winded defence extolling the excellence of the English summer climate that goes something like this:
It doesn't always f***ing rain you know!
Often this starts me off on a comprehensive rant about how Hollywood depicts dear olde England in its pictures. You know, every town has a red double-decker, old fashioned red telephone box, accents that are either Dick Van Dyke cockney or David Niven posh....I could go on, but I can already hear the sirens....
Sadly, and regrettably returning to my original point, my defence of the glorious English summer is about as accurate (and water-tight) as the national football team's back four. I have just returned to Hiroshima after spending four and a half weeks in the beautifully scenic North East of England and I saw the sun exactly twice - for about 15 minutes each. That was perhaps the coldest summer I have ever experienced, windy, gloomy and at times bloody chilly. The only saving grace was despite quite a bit of rain, my standard belief in the English climate was born out:
It didn't always f***ing rain!

The Result...(eventually)

The Result: 2-2
The Pitch: A dust ball
The Heat: Very uncomfortable
The O.M: He played about 15 minutes.
The 2nd O.M: He scored the first equaliser.
The Match: Enjoyable, end to end with plenty of chances.
The Final Analysis: A draw was a fair an just reflection of the action.
The Medical Report: Surprisingly the old body held up rather well, with few next day aches.
The Post Match Meal: Excellent, headed off to an izakaya/okonomiyaki - combo establishment.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Morning Before...

For the first time this season, DEH FC will be playing a night game, which considering the brutality of the summer heat and humidity that has embraced this part of Japan in the last few weeks seems to be a blessing from the schedulers. So as the legs continue to get older , the limbs heavier and the team-mates younger, thoughts do progress to the day when I will be unable to do this, for this team at least. There have been some noticeable players who have turned out into their 50s, Nagai-san for Oasis/Palladium/Mollys and are current team-mate Hurley, who is enjoying his mid-40s and makes his first start of the season tonight. It seems very unlikely that I will reach that age of playing, there does come a time when one must just accept that observing has become the prominant detail of a person's relationship with the simple game. An acceptance that an England call has maybe just slipped down the path of unfullfilled dreams. Yet the day of ends has not yet arrived, so Capello can call on my services if the desire ever takes him to watch games from the Hiroshima City League Division B and see an ageing striker, with a bit of goal-scoring nous still hovering about him who could fill in now and again.
DEH FC vs Mazda A&T

Friday, June 27, 2008

Substance Not Symbolism

In the horror and destruction that has engulfed Zimbabwe and its people over the last few years the condemnation of that country’s leadership has been loud and clear, at least amongst the Western democracies. Political and economic sanctions have been imposed, perhaps justifiably, as its citizens are subjected to a continued onslaught of brutality.

As the reports cascade out of Zimbabwe reporting murder, rape, torture and a general imposition of destruction of a once healthy, economically structured nation. Opposition from outside has swung from the (failed) gentle nudging of South Africa to the more (failed ) confrontational approach of the EU and USA. Today’s election is clearly nothing but another oxymoronic addition to those gerrymandered and corrupt elections witnessed the world over.

So with the reek of fear, death and a bleak future, at least in the short term, how does the British Government respond, what meaningful sign of Britain’s determination to stand up for the people of Zimbabwe is declared? The Queen announced that HE President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe will be stripped of his honorary knighthood. Is that all the British Government has got?

What seems even more shameful is that this motion was discussed and debated in the House of Commons. Surely, a person of the most simplistic humanity could declare that there are far more effective sanctions that can be imposed by the 5th largest economy in the world. It is meaningless and an embarrassing statement of Britain’s opaque foresight in world affairs.

Modern Britain is burdened, somewhat unjustly, with alleged sins of empire. Any former British colony, especially one that has fought a divisive civil war against a racist and minority government, is bound to be sensitive to British involvement in internal affairs. But the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe has gone beyond colonial sensitivity. Britain, the European Union and the wider world should be more aggressive in their condemnation of human rights abuses. An Iraqi life, an Afghani life, a Jewish life, an African life, a European life and an American life is not worth more than a human life. Real intervention is required, peacefully by all means possible, decisively when required and with humanitarian ideas at all times. The people of Zimbabwe deserve more than an empty symbolic gesture of an outdated relic by its colonial rulers. Blood is still more expensive than oil.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two on the Trot

In five seasons of playing for DEH FC never have we started the season as well as this year, played 2 won 2, scored 3 conceded 1, 6pts from 6. Remarkably we are currently only 1pt shy of our total for last season and have already outscored the previous season (our “relegation” one) by 4pts. Things are looking on the up!

Our 2nd game was played at the same venue as our 1st, out in the wilds of Hiroshima state. Whenever it takes more than one hour to get to a ground, spirits are usually not too high, but with the missus driving and with an adventurous air we managed to arrive at our destination in good spirits.

I managed to get to the ground 5 minutes before kickoff comfortable in the knowledge that games always start later than scheduled, and thankfully I was not too be disappointed as I ambled up to be the 12th and last man of the lineup.

Missing from our last game were our new manager and regular keeper to be replaced by our irregular, and freakishly tall sticks-man from the last couple of years. In fact we seemed to be missing a few other bodies from May, but during the warm-up (obviously mine consisted of kicking the ball against the wall a bit) they seemed to be pretty good.

The game itself was a close, end to end affair with DEH dominating the scoring chances and even though Honkawa FC shaded the midfield with two rather robust players not afraid to put the boot in. I hovered around the front line providing support and allowing my partner to zigzag dynamically across the pitch, like a fevered terrier. It worked as we went in at half-time 1-0 up.

The goal had been coming, only minutes before a great move was only just thwarted by the out-rushing keeping getting some part of his anatomy to deflect the goal bound shot. When finally DEH did find the back of the net, it was a well worked move, a fast zipping cross into the D of the box which was volleyed first time by Jaime, saved acrobatically and then rolled into the back of the net by my terrier like partner. Coming only a few minutes before the break Jaime pattered himself on the back and was content that he could be substituted at HT having contributed towards our lead. Except….

After telling Yuiji, our skipper, that the old legs needed a blow in the summer heat and a wonder off to sit in the cool shade of the veranda to peruse the 2nd half in comfort would be ideal, I was somewhat shocked to be told that our “12th” man was a defender and didn’t need know how to attack. Well I resisted the temptation to suggest that I wasn’t exactly knowledgeable in the department either – turkeys don’t volunteer for Christmas. So as the whistle blew, I strolled on hoping the noggin wouldn’t get too burnt from the sun…

The 2nd half was another tight affair, with DEH wasting two glorious opportunities to make the game safe. The team did resort back to some bad old days of “pussyfooting around” (as my mother likes to condemn any team who pass the ball without an end result) whilst not actually shooting much. Still, as the final whistle blew and I could still move my lower limbs without pain, a very satisfactory feeling embraced the whole team.

I strolled off to find the missus, who had spent the game time eating and cleaning the car, rejecting the opportunity to watch her other half tutor the younger team members in the art of preserving energy on a football pitch.

On the journey home we spotted a sign advertising a Sri Lankan restaurant, which seemed too good an opportunity to reject. We still suspected we would be presented with a Japanese interpretation of Sri Lankan cooking, but to a great surprise, there plopped in the middle of nowhere was pucker Sri Lankan chef, who was very pleasant. He was also an excellent cook and the food was both outstandingly tasty and ridiculously cheap. Another visit is planned.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Some Random Thoughts

To revel in someone else’s misfortune does not seem a rather gentlemanly occupation to partake in. And yet, I must admit to a degree of satisfaction whilst watching Italy lose on penalties to Spain in the QF in Euro 2008. I have no real grudge against Italy, indeed I am rather fond of their wine, food and history. However, I do have a personal enmity towards a certain Italian football player who should have been banned for a long time after his brutal attack against the USA’s Brian McBride in the 2006 World Cup. Due to FIFA weakness an initial 5 match ban was reduced to 4 games allowing the miscreant the opportunity to play, and score a penalty that helped Italy become world champions.

So it was with a contented grin that Daniele De Rossi missed a penalty that contributed towards Italy’s elimination from Euro 2008. In the ways of karma I suppose it doesn’t quite balance out, but nonetheless maybe a small act of the Gods applying a degree of retribution for that savage injury.

It should perhaps be noted that Brian McBride, who to this days suffers from nerve damage in his face publicly called De Rossi a “classy” guy for apologizing to him after the match. I think it perhaps says more about the class of McBride than anything else.

The Euros (and by the way, when did that moniker start being applied?) have been entertaining in a distant sort of way. I don’t buy in to either of the approaches being adopted by exiled England fans and pundits. Firstly, it is not “more relaxing” because we don’t have to suffer the ineptitude of 11 Englishman trying to find each other win a football before crashing out in a penalty shoot-out. Nor do I wholly accept that “it is short term pain for long term gain”. Yes England have a smart, tactically aware, star non-obsessed (and Italian) coach, but look at the small print – 34% of the Premier League are English qualified. It is just painfully embarrassing that England are unable to qualify for a major championships – winning it may be beyond us, but hell qualifying? Richest league in the world - not in English talent it isn’t. But I have beat that drum many times before…

So Cristiano Ronaldo is off to Real Madrid in a “world record fee”. I am torn, he has been a great player for my beloved United, but if he really wants to go to Real then take as much money as you can get and re-eneregise the team with the cash. Then again, why should United acquiesce to a player and a club (Madrid) that have acted beyond the pale? This, considering we are talking about modern football, is concluding quite a lot! Say no to his increasingly petulant demands and tell him not to instigate a move 6 months after signing a 5 year contract. Sadly, the inevitable seems, well inevitable and he will be off, but it is a gamble for the player, Real are hardly the most stable environment to grow as a person and player. Ronaldo could yet regret his haste in moving, even if his hangers-on, agent and bank manager disagree.

Monday, May 26, 2008

2008 Team Photo

Deh FC May 25th 2008: FC 180 1-2 Deh FC

The Away Shirts are on the ground...