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The Sunday Stroll: 20 Feb, 2011

February 19, 2011

It has been a busy old week in the world of sport. Champions League action and the start of the Cricket World Cup might have dominated, but there has been plenty going on elsewhere. Put your feet up folks, it is time for our look back over the last seven days in the sporting world – it’s this week’s Sunday Stroll…

The schedule for the London 2012 Olympic Games was announced in full this week (downloadable PDF available via this link), with women’s football starting proceedings two days before the opening ceremony, which takes place on Friday, 27th July. The hope is that Britain’s first gold will be won by cyclist Mark Cavendish (cycling’s equivalent of Usain Bolt) in the men’s road race on the Saturday, whilst ‘the middle weekend promises to be unmissable’ with a number a household British names in with a shout of claiming golds in their events (Jessica Ennis, Christine Ohuruogu, Paula Radcliffe, Louis Smith and Ben Ainslie amongst others).

The event that will have the world and his wife glued to their television screens of course is the men’s 100m final, with Bolt and co. taking to the track in the hope of a gold medal and a (probable) world record on Sunday, August 5th… get that date in your diary, folks. To get you in mood, here’s a compilation of Bolt’s six world records, followed by a couple of clips showing just why Cavendish – aka the Manx Missile – is the most feared sprinting cyclist on the planet…

The subcontinent-hosted Cricket World Cup kicked off this week too, with Aussie great Steve Waugh predicting a resurgence in the 50-over game, after the other forms of the game (the ever-enduring Test and the fan-pleasing Twenty20 formats) have taken centre stage over recent years. Waugh has also tipped England to be the tournament’s surprise drop-out victims from the group stages, citing the ‘huge loss’ of Eoin Morgan (‘their best one-day player’) and England’s rather ordinary form as reasons for why he sees the Poms as ‘the team most likely, in my opinion, to maybe get knocked out.’ Fair play Steve, but we’ll keep our views on your flaky batting line-up, dropping fielding standards, and critical (especially for the subcontinent) lack of a spinner to ourselves though…

Meanwhile, England have given Kevin Pietersen the other opening birth alongside Cap’n Strauss for the tournament; a bold move it must be said, but one which KP is ‘excited by’ and is ‘looking forward to.’ Just how well KP will fare as an agressive ball-chasing batsman on the subcontinent’s often painfully slow wickets remains to be seen, although Aggers succinctly notes that KP ‘craves responsibility, and the feeling of being appreciated so this might give him the edge he and the team needs.’ It could be a stroke of genius for England. Regardless, he scored a modest 24 in Wednesday’s warm-up game against Canada, although the returning Stuart Broad excelled with a 5-fer as England secured a narrow 16-run win over opponents usually described as minnows (Eng 243ao, Can 227ao).

As far as tournament predictions go, we’re going to stick our necks on the line and tip Sri Lanka to claim the crown – home advantage and a talented, balanced side etc. [although the same can be said for India, mind]. The beeb’s Aggers has also shown his hand and goes with ‘India to win although a ball is yet to be bowled,’ unlike over at Sky where Athers boldy predicts that there are ‘five or six teams who could win it,’ before being trumped by fellow former England skipper Nasser Hussain who notes that ‘with Australia coming back to the pack there are eight sides who can win the title this time.’ In fairness, it is a ridiculously open tournament this time around, but we can’t help but feel that these vague sweeping predictions from Sky’s experts – especially when you consider there are only eight established test-playing nations – leaves the pair of them in danger of getting a few splinters in their butt-cheeks from sitting on the fence. Man-up gents… where’s your money going???

Into the myriadic realms of football (soccer, to some) now, and what a busy week we have had. Ronaldo – owner of the record for the most goals in World Cup history (and owner of the record for most appalling haircut [see image] in World Cup history too, for that matter) –  has announced his retirement from football. Full name Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, although of late he has not-so-endearingly been known as ‘Fat Ronaldo’ (to differentiate from his Madrid-based namesake), the Brazilian striker is a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year award winner, two-time World Cup winner, and has a phenomenal career record of 420 goals from 620 games, including 62 goals in 97 games at international level, and in domestic league games, 42 in 46 for PSV, 34 in 37 for Barcelona, 49 in 68 for Inter, and 83 in 127 for Real Madrid. Quite some player. Here he is as he would like to be remembered, at his very best for Madrid against United in the Champions League…

As we are on the subject of impressive sporting feats, it would be remiss of us not to mention a milestone reached by José Mourinho this week – nine years unbeaten in home league games with Porto, Chelsea, Inter, and Madrid. Nine years! Actually, sod ‘impressive’, that’s downright outrageous! Kudos, Jose. Kudos indeed…

Talking of Madrid, we can’t help but wonder how their new signing – the much-loved Emmanuel Adebayor – has been getting on since his January transfer window loan switch from Man City. It turns out he’s been missing chances for fun. Not so great, eh…

And after David Villa’s shocking miss the other week, it seems he isn’t the only top level striker with finishing troubles lately; this time Inter’s Samuel Eto’o has a mare…

Mind you, you’d probably rather be in Eto’o’s shoes than this following goalie’s. Damien Lahaye, on loan at Belgian Jupiler League side KV Kortrijk, doesn’t exactly assist his chances of earning a permanent deal with this slip-up…

In the Champions League midweek Arsenal took on Barcelona, coming from a goal behind to claim a hard-earned 2-1 victory at the Emirates. It was a clash between two teams that regularly make around 500-700 passes each per game in domestic competitions. This time – having just enjoyed 81.4% possession in their league game against Sporting de Gijón at the weekend – Barca stuck to tradition by busting out 629 passes, whilst also restricting Arsenal to a remarkably low 299 passes. A thoroughly impressive performance from Barcelona, although ultimately not quite enough to hold on for the win. With the Nou Camp being an entirely different proposition for visiting teams, Barca will remain favourites to progress. Just…

Mind you, Messi did score four against Arsenal last time at the Nou Camp. Arsenal will be no doubt praying he doesn’t feature next time out. An injury as follows per chance???


Still with the Catalan giants, here’s a cracking training ground goal from Ibrahim Afellay, a kid Barca signed from PSV in the summer…

Elsewhere in the CL, Spurs recorded a famous win away to AC Milan as they defeated the Serie A leaders 1-0. The match was marred by a shocking two-footed, studs-up tackle on Vedran Ćorluka by Milan’s Mathieu Flamini, but also by the appalling conduct of Gennaro Gattuso. The impish midfielder spent most of the game seeking tussles and conflicts with Crouch and co., shoving Spurs coach Joe Jordan in the face having grabbed him around the neck, before headbutting him after the final whistle. Sore loser indeed. Also, Gattuso should probably learn to pick his fights better; Jordan’s playing-days nickname was ‘Jaws’, and in 2007 he was named ‘the 34th hardest man in the history of the game.’ Thankfully, Gattuso has now charged with gross unsporting conduct and will face a disciplinary hearing on Monday. No place for this sort of conduct in the game…

TORRES AND SHEARER TAKE ON UNITED! No, not a bizarre time-lapsed dream forward pairing to tackle Fergies boys, but the stuff cup dreams are made of. Yesterday, non-league side Crawley Town (with players such as Sergio Torres and Scott Shearer) took on the mighty Manchester United at Old Trafford, and although they lost 1-0, they put up a bloody good fight of it. They can certainly hold heads up high. For non-league footballers… it doesn’t get much better than holding your own at the Theatre of Dreams!…

Into golf now, and Tiger Woods was fined for spitting – for which he has since apologised – whilst lining up a putt at the Dubai Desert Classic this week [see clip below]. It speaks volumes for this sport that Tiger gets this fine for a one-off – albeit entirely deplorable – offence, as opposed to in football where fans are frequently subjected to witnessing the vulgar spitting habits of their footballing heroes; the very same chaps who are supposed role-models for the current youth. As it stands, the on-pitch spitting antics of the Premier League elite passes unchecked – although the line does get drawn when the spit hits the fan… doesn’t it, Mr Diouf

Six Nations now, and France beat Ireland in Dublin last weekend and travel to England next weekend in what could well be the title decider (that’s what Sebastien Chabal believes, and we probably have to agree). Certainly for France, should they win at Twickenham then they have two probable victories to complete over Wales and Italy to claim the title. For England however, they must beat the French, complete a likely win over Scotland, and then win away to Ireland in the final match of the tournament. Far from set in stone, but set up nicely nonetheless. Good news for England is that captain Lewis Moody returns to action from injury this weekend with Bath, and is hopeful of making the France clash. Bad news for Chris Ashton and his try-scoring swallow-diving antics however is that videos of other pre-emptive try-scoring celebrations gone wrong [see below] have been doing the rounds. The crowd love it though, so here’s hoping Ashton continues to show his personality.

Into cycling, and as one Tour de France champion departs (again), another returns. Whilst seven-time tour victor Lance Armstrong retired for the second time amidst a furore of suspicion and allegations of drug use and cheating, Spanish rider and three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador won his appeal against a provisional one-year ban for doping. The Royal Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) cleared the Spaniard who has always maintained that contaminated meat was responsible for why he tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol in 2010. Contador will now be free to race in this year’s Tour de France and will not be stripped of any of his previous titles.

Lotus Renault GP (the black and gold variety) have announced that Nick Heidfeld will deputise for the injured Robert Kubica this season, following Kubica’s crash whilst rallying in Italy a week or so ago. Heidfeld stated that he ‘would have liked to come back to Formula One in different circumstances,’ which is understandable given the severity of the injuries suffered by the Polish driver he replaces. Kubica – who recently underwent his third major operation, this time ‘to stabilise and reconstruct the damaged fragments’ of his elbow – is reported to be making good progress in his recovery, and has stated that he is ‘really determined to reduce the recovery time with a very defined programme.’ The Pole has justified his decision to go rallying, stating: ‘I drive better in Formula One because I have taken part in many rallies. The rallies help you in concentration, [which is important] considering that in Formula One there are very few tests.’ Furthermore, Kubica is convinced that once recovered physically, he will return ‘a stronger driver and […] stronger mentally.’ We sure hope so.

Although trouble in Bahrain has thrown into doubt their ability to host the season opener, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone remains hopeful the event goes ahead as planned. This weekend’s GP2 Asia event was cancelled on Thursday after the track’s medical staff were ‘assigned to hospitals in the capital Manama’ and there was further overnight unrest in the city. Whilst the safety of the F1 fraternity, fans, and following media is obviously a key concern, it will not be ‘‘good press’’ (even if just by association) for Bernie and F1’s corporate backers if the Bahraini Royal Family – who conceived and funded the Bahrain Grand Prix – are removed from power. Furthermore, should the Sunni Muslim royal family be ousted, as has happened with Egypt’s and Tunisia’s rulers recently, they also run the risk of having their assets frozen (just like Egypt’s recently deposed head-honcho Hosni Mubarak), and as such, Bernie and co. could find themselves in a storm of bad press and heavily out of pocket. Despite Bernies hopeful outlook, it would not be a surprise if F1 opts out from Bahrain sooner rather than later – even if under the (admittedly valid) guise of safety concerns for the F1 community.

Over in the NBA, Dwyane Wade of Miami Heat threw an incredible 90-foot pass (pretty much the length of the court) to LeBron James for an ally-oop – check it out…

And here’s some quality slow-mo footage of NBA legend Kobe Bryant doing what he does best…

Over to one of our lesser-covered sports now and handball. Providing you can put-up with the ever-so-slightly ropey soundtrack (well you could just mute your speakers, but that would be far to easy), then you’ll be in a fine position to congratulate this handballer[?] on his ingenious penalty conversion. Top tekkers, sir…

And finally, to finish the week’s round-up, here’s a clip that has surfaced from a few years back that reinforces the old adage that if you’re in the crowd, you’re probably there for a reason. Even if you are an actual footballer… just don’t get involved!…

Thanks for reading folks. All the best, SB

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