Monday 29 December 2014

Off The Ball: Rio harking back to Fergie days should anger Moyes

Off the Ball - Getting inside the Game

Joe Molloy, Diarmuid Lyng, Donny Mahoney

Published 11/12/2013 | 23:31

David Moyes is feeling the heat at Old Trafford at the moment
David Moyes is feeling the heat at Old Trafford at the moment

Things are bad right now for David Moyes. Numerous teams are winning at Old Trafford for the first time in decades. Home fans are leaving early at 0-1. The Dutch fitness coach is criticising the club over Robin van Persie's injury woes.

Wilfried Zaha is tweeting denials he really shouldn't be. Roberto Martinez is working wonders at Everton. But most serious of all, by a distance, are the comments of Rio Ferdinand.

Rio has revealed that under Alex Ferguson, the players knew well in advance of games if they were in the team or not. Moyes announces his teams much closer to kick-off, which causes Rio to waste 'nervous energy' worrying about his inclusion.

The particulars of the argument are inconsequential. It doesn't matter if Rio thinks the coffee was better during the Ferguson era. An experienced United player harking back to things being better under Fergie should anger Moyes the most.

JM

 

Immortal World Cup win opened eyes of Justice

South African joy at Mandela-inspired triumph proved the positive power of sport

Justice Bekebeke exclaimed on his release from his Pretorian prison cell in 1992 that the only justice he could see was a mass killing spree of Afrikaans who had wrongfully held him captive.

The abolition of apartheid, the first proper democratic elections, the rise to power of the ANC and many more revolutionary changes initiated by the fledgling 'Rainbow Coalition' government in South Africa in the mid-'90s failed to dim the vitriol that flowed through Bekebeke's blood, as head of the condemned Upington 25.

The South African political activist and former death-row inmate had no love for Nelson Mandela. Yes, he was his leader, and yes, Mandela had saved his life on death-row, but pure hatred drove him through his every waking moment. Mandela was selling out.

Years before, around the time the world began to sit up and take notice of the realities of apartheid, his hatred was beginning to build. When the people of New Zealand rioted to ensure white South Africa suffered, by ejecting them from competitive sport on the world stage, his hatred continued to grow. His hatred understandably grew when he was incarcerated.

The fall of the Nationalist Party and the subsequent release of Nelson Mandela failed to stem the rising tide.

The abolition of the death penalty ensuring his survival was not enough either. But then came Mandela's election as leader of the New South Africa, and his promise to the Afrikaans of a South African Rugby World Cup in 1995. The Springbok as the team's symbol and the power it carried. And so it unfolded: the unbeaten Aussies. Chester Williams' 21 points against Samoa. The opening of the heavens before the French game in the semi-final. The try that never was. Jonah Lomu and the All Blacks. Food poisoning. Francois Pienaar. Joel Stranksy. Joost Van der Westhuizen. Blacks beside whites, momentarily united behind the vision of one man.

A cataclysm of events that coincided and collided, that, surely, had one ingredient being changed, the vision would never have been realised.

And despite it all, the hatred grew. It had grown inside Justice Bekebeke for so long that it owned him. Tortured him. Tormented him. So much so, that when Stransky delivered the purest of drop goals, a purity reserved for moments of clarity that underlie the basic nature of sport, Justice was out on the street in Upington, on the same streets a black police officer was murdered years before by a group of locals in response to him firing into a crowd of black protesters, or so the story goes.

In that moment, he turned and saw no one. For no one was on the street that day. They were united, indoors, watching a man fulfil the destiny of a nation through sport. In that moment he realised that his hatred was his own, and only his to change. And he did.

"Sport has the power to change the world," argued Mandela, a man that had the peace and quiet to actually ponder that possibility for 28 years. Justice Bekebeke is inclined to agree.

DL

 

Bonkers NFL blizzard action turns the clock back to days when men were men

As if the spectacle of NFL wasn't bonkers enough, Mother Nature decided to dump a blizzard upon America's north-east just ahead of the Sunday afternoon kick-offs.

The result was one of the most bizarre and exciting few hours of sport I've ever witnessed.

Snow fell hard on Baltimore, Washington, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and most comically Philadelphia, where the action was barely visible on TV through the whiteout as the players were forced to navigate snowdrifts en route to the end zone.

It harkened back to the game's bygone days when men were men and football was a war with the elements, not the run and shoot sensory blitzkrieg it has become.

Incredibly, though, once most players adapted the games became even crazier than usual.

The Ravens-Vikings game swung back and forth with five touchdowns in the final 2:05.

The Steelers nearly pulled off one of the most miraculous plays in NFL history with something out of the Leinster playbook, only for a wide receiver's foot to graze the sideline en route to the end zone.

And up in New England, where the weather was colder but kinder, Tom Brady managed a miraculous last-minute comeback that seemed almost banal in comparison to everything else taking place.

I am an NFL evangelist, but I'm afraid if you couldn't enjoy American football in the snow, there's no hope for you.

DM

 

Irish Independent

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