March 08, 2004

Strange Weekend: An Irishman in England watches the weekend's action

What a curious weekend of sport that was. It all started at the local tip. Whilst helping a friend dump an old sofa, I found on the ground, sparkling like a diamond, a 1986 Panini football sticker of Alan Hansen. It had never been stuck, and still had its backing, which describes the 30 year-old Hansen as "a former Scottish Under-23 International" but oddly makes no mention of his subsequent career with the senior team. The Italian rugby team finally got their just deserts for their continuing improvement, condemning Scotland to a probable wooden spoon in the RBS Six Nations. The only downside for them was that their victory was rather quickly cast in the shadows of subsequent events on Saturday. The Irish rugby team went to Twickenham and, for once, decided that a plucky hour followed by a twenty minute capitulation wasn’t enough to keep them happy. Perhaps even more surprising to some was the magnanimity with which the “arrogant” English (nation and team) met defeat. Arsenal went to Portsmouth and put on a masterclass that ushered the home side out of the FA Cup. Nothing surprising in that, but the Pompey fans sang and cheered their team throughout the game as though they were 3-0 up with five minutes remaining of the final. Wales believed they could beat France; then they doubted themselves; then they believed again, but just a fraction too late. Mark O’Meara beat a top quality field in the Dubai Dessert Classic, despite being 47 years old and ranked exactly 200 places lower in the world than his good friend Tiger (who only managed to finish fourth). Britain won a gold medal in athletics as Jason Gardner streaked home in the 60 metres at the world indoor championships in Budapest. Sir Alex Ferguson stopped bickering with John Magnier (allegedly). The world wasn’t turned entirely on its head though. Roger Federer won a tennis tournament. Michael Schumacher won a grand prix. Celtic beat Rangers. Philippe Saint-Andre’s punditry from the touchline in Cardiff was unintelligible, and Jeremy Guscot stated the obvious – proclaiming as he did that you had to put France as the favourites to win the Grand Slam – as the only horse left in the race to remain unbeaten though, I’m not sure he’ll get good odds on them now.

posted by JJ to at 04:53 AM - 0 comments

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