“Turning back and climbing down is one of the most difficult decisions a mountain climber has to make. Perhaps, the most difficult.” The Tyrolean mountaineer, Hans Kammerlander, made the point very succinctly. It was only recently, though, that I got a glimpse of just how difficult the decision is to abandon an expedition and to turn back.
I have to admit, although I love playing football, watching others play is not one of my favourite hobbies. I am hopelessly lost in the jungle that is the Bundesliga. My spectating is limited to the regular perusal of the sports pages of the newspaper, where I recently came across an interview with FC Schalke’s star striker, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. In it he described quite clearly his understanding of football: “If you are really hungry, you are automatically driven to get something to eat. That’s the way it is with goals. I am simply hungry to score.”
I caught the highlights of the WBO Cruiserweight title bout between Marco Huck and Rogelio Rossi on TV last Sunday. I’m not really a boxing fan, but I was transfixed by this particular combat. Rossi, the Argentinian challenger, took a real pounding and was eventually stopped in the sixth round by total knockout. He lay for a while unconscious on the canvas surrounded by his corner team and a doctor. Earlier he had ‘survived’ three standing counts by the referee – something that, on its own, is not particularly noteworthy. The first of these, however, followed a late, but serious punch delivered by Huck after the bell at the end of the fourth round.
Upmarket porcelain maker, Villeroy & Boch’s, long relationship with women’s football has brought them into the press during the current World Championship. But the coverage has been less than flattering. Back in 1989, the European Championship-winning German team received no cash bonus from the Football Federation. So, as a goodwill gesture,Villeroy & Boch rewarded each player with an item from their tableware range: a 41-piece coffee service, bearing the design ‘Mariposa’.
As part of my training for a women’s soccer team, I regularly play with and against men. Sometimes it gets a little rough but, well, it’s not tiddlywinks. At the beginning the guys handled me very genteelly to avoid any eventual injury, but as soon as they discovered that their gallantry would cost them a strategic advantage off came the kid-gloves.
When it comes to shooting a penalty, my female teammates don’t exactly rush to the front of the queue. I’m an enthusiastic soccer player, but I take absolutely no pleasure in taking penalties, what with all the pressure. Most of the team sees it the same way. In stark contrast, the men at my club are all impatient to have a go at it.
When that first goal went in, we could hardly contain ourselves. We cheered and swayed and waved our black-red-and-gold flags. One Mexican Wave after the other rippled through the stands and we floated jubilantly on the crest of each one. For me, as a female-footballer, the opening game of the Women’s Soccer World Cup in Berlin was particularly special.
‘Kahn Convicted of Smuggling’. This was the headline sprawled across the front page of the popular German press on Saturday (with no small hint of German Schadenfreude). Surely this can’t be Oliver Kahn, the legendary goalkeeper of Bayern Munich fame, I thought to myself; the former captain of the German national team; the sportsman that I once held in such high esteem.
“We like to do things that are unexpected: anyone can extend [a contract] after matches have been won, but it is a good sign for the public to endorse a coach even after a defeat”. This was the testimony of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, chairman of Bayern Munich, in an interview with the German newspaper Bild Zeitung – but not in its April 11th edition; this sound-bite was published last September. Generously, the board had decided to extend to 2012 the contract of the then-cherished Bayern coach, Louis van Gaal, even though a decision was not due. In the meantime, the tale has taken an ugly twist.
I do like boxing – the endurance, the punishment, the knockout. But when a boxer stays on the canvas longer than a few seconds, I start to worry. By the time medics crowd the ring around the still motionless body of yet another prize-fighter, my enthusiasm for this sport has completely vanished; it is pointless, barbaric.
I met an old acquaintance in the sports studio the other day. After the usual small talk he asked me, ‘Do you remember a couple of years ago, the studio offered us the possibility of a lifelong membership?’ My recollection was vague at first, but then it came back to me.
Like many other viewers, I watched last Saturday night’s world championship heavyweight boxing match between Vitali Klitschko and Shannon Briggs from the comfort of my living room. Nevertheless, by the sixth round, I started to feel phantom pain around the eye and jaw and a huge amount of sympathy for the visibly tattered challenger Briggs.
Despite being an Englishman, former soccer player and manager, Jack Charlton, is immensely popular in the Republic of Ireland. As manager of the national team, he led the soccer-mad nation to its first World Cup competition in 1990.