Time is against CI teams in UK leagues

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Similarly, in rugby, Guernsey St Jacques and Jersey United Banks want to play in a Hampshire League, possibly Division III. Almost certainly, however, all three clubs will be turned down. The money side does come into it – UK teams don’t like the idea of having to pay the air fare to travel to the Channel Islands.

However, reading between the lines, money isn’t the only reason. It is the thought of giving up so much time to travel here, simply to play one game of football or rugby lasting no more than an hour and a half.

That doesn’t mean that the UK authorities aren’t sympathetic to the cause.

Both recognise that the islands need external competition. Yet to keep the existing UK teams they administer happy, they will not endorse the inclusion of a new side into their leagues unless all of their teams are fully in favour of a CI side being part of a national set up.

And that won’t happen, for even if the CI sides agrees to pay all travel costs, some (but not all) of the UK clubs don’t want to travel over 120 miles across the Atlantic to be here. And the solution? – Perhaps there isn’t one. You can’t change the mindset of mainlanders if they are afraid of being marooned here for a Wednesday or Saturday night. Perhaps France, only 16 miles away, represents an alternative, although the clubs and authorities in Normandy or Brittany will need a great deal of persuading.

So, for the foreseeable future, in terms of most team sports, the islands will probably have to go it alone.

On paper we are part of the UK while, realistically, we are separate from Europe and Britain because of the seas that surround us.

A credit to the beautiful game

On Saturday I watched Trinity beat St Paul’s 2-1 to forge further ahead in the Coca-Cola Combination Premiership.

It was a scrappy affair marked only by two terrific strikes, the first after two minutes, the second a glorious overhead scissors kick by Barry Beatson that, even now, remains in my memory.

How long Beatson’s goal will remain with me I don’t know, but over the years I have forgotten all kinds of sporting occasions other than high moments of drama.

Pele, for example, attempting a shot on goal from inside his own half; Maradonna’s ‘hand of God’; Gareth Edwards’ try for the Barbarians against the all-conquering All-Blacks (although I remember Phil Bennett’s initial sidestep more clearly) and so the list goes on.

While I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, I do believe that we all have selective memories, which instantaneously cut out the dross and leave only the highlights. So I wonder what sporting memories are etched most clearly in JEP readers’ minds?

Anyway, that is an aside to this week’s final comment as I return to the St Paul’s/Trinity game; a match which could have a profound effect on who wins the championship at the end of the season.

Watching pitchside, on occasion I had to smile because this wasn’t simply a game of football. For at times all 22 players seemed to be talking 19 to the dozen, plus the managers and their assistants, which made it one of the noisest games I’ve seen (heard?) for a while.

The banter wasn’t malicious or foul-mouthed and consisted mainly of advice as both sides sought to win the game. And afterwards? – the players were friendly enough as were the managers, and I was impressed by the respect they showed each other.

St Paul’s Craig Culkin, with two of his senior players missing, said that every side in every sport loses players and that no manager worth his salt will make excuses for fielding an understrength team, or by blaming the referee or a linesman for making poor decisions.

Craig paid tribute to Trinity saying, simply, that they outplayed his side on the day. Meanwhile, Joe Morley, who is a whirling dervish on the touchline for 90 minutes of any game, calmed down enough afterwards not only to praise his players but to maintain that the best way of winning the league is to aim to be as good as St Paul’s, last year’s champions.

The respect the managers showed each other was commendable. No excuses or put-downs; no dissent; no slur on the referee’s parentage – instead the conclusion that, over the 90 minutes, the better team had won.

Facing adversity in good humour

Simon Laurens is a one-off; a very special Paralympic gold medalist whose success in dressage came about only after he had been diagnosed as having MS.

Before adding my own twopence worth to Simon’s achievements, what follows are a few paragraphs from Simon’s own website:

‘In 2002 I returned home to help take care of my mother who has MS. (My Grandmother had it also). I freelanced as a groom and taught because this fitted with my home duties. After a few years it became apparent that my mother needed more constant care so she moved into Jersey Cheshire Home, a great place full of life.

‘I needed a trip away so took myself back to the place I love, the Cotswolds. (Then) on my diagnosis in November 2004 I struggled to pull myself together. I couldn’t believe it had happened to me. Three times in one family just did not seem fair. Then things got worse when, six months on, my partner was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. This seemed unbelievable. I really felt somebody was out to get me!

‘(Meanwhile) unbeknown to me, Chris Porterfield (a para-selector) had been watching me. She rang. A voice said “Hello, my name is Chris Porterfield. I saw you at Oaklands”, and she went on to ask whether I had considered para-dressage. Answer: “no I hadn’t”. It had not crossed my mind as illness was still new to me. I really did not consider myself disabled (still don’t – I call it “a little impaired”.) I guess my view of para-dressage was cute hairy ponies being led around the arena. Yet again I was so wrong.’

And from such small acorns grew a new career, and Simon now looks forward to the 2009 European Championships in Norway; the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and the 2012 London Paralympics.

So, two reasons for making a fuss of Simon Laurens, neither of which centres on his silver and gold medals won in Beijing. First, the way in which he discounts his and his partner’s illnesses with a shrug; although both are life-threatening.

Instead, he has used MS as a springboard to achieving Olympic success. His illness gave him an intensity of purpose to want to become a world champion. It might be a cruel point to make, but if he had never been so ill he might not have created Channel Island history by returning from China as one of the best disabled dressage riders in the world.

Second, I appreciate Simon’s remarkable sense of humour in the light of such adversity. Simon is something of a superstar and his website highlights the different publications he’s featured in, ranging from Horse and Hound, MS Matters, Your Horse (Gloucestershire), the Echo Central Horse News, the Western Daily Press and, of course, the Jersey Evening Post.

And although he undeniably enjoys the limelight, he can make fun of the person he is, and has always been. As someone who has interviewed Simon on more than one occasion, I am well aware that the more excitable he becomes, the more his voice rises, so what follows is from his most recent blog: ‘I have been into schools to chat with the children, loved it! Great fun, kids are what it’s all about. I must just tell you this story. I went to visit a local school, was introduced to the children by the head teacher.

I thought I would kick-off with the question “Does anyone know what MS is”? I could see a young chap near the back busting to answer, he had his hand up so high I thought he may dislocate it, he was determined to answer. So I thought “what the hell?” and let him. I was not prepared for the answer. He said very assertively “Does it make your voice squeaky”!!! Well, for those that know me, I DO have a high pitched voice.

‘This was perfect, the kids are fantastic and I’m loving every minute of it.’ I look forward to talking to you – squeaky or not! – in 2009, Simon.

Cutting through red tape

Any piece of legislation which cuts down on unnecessary bureaucracy is good legislation, so fair play to Deputy Bob Hill who has tabled an amendment to the draft Firearms (Jersey) Law which will allow visiting shooting team members to compete in the Island for 30 days without having to have a certificate issued locally.

At the moment if you bring any firearm into the Island the Police have to be told and they have to ensure that whatever firearm it is, it poses no threat to the Island community. The Police’s caution, at a time of increased violence, world-wide, is commendable. However, gun clearance takes time while the very word ‘guns’ is an emotive issue, particularly in the UK where gun ownership and gun clubs have been very much a cause for concern in recent years.

However, I am well aware that in Jersey at least the committees who run the different gun clubs and the shooters who compete at both local and national level take their sport extremely seriously and know of the potential dangers a rifle or handgun represents. I presume that the same is true of the shooters and clubs they compete against and although shooting isn’t one of my favourite sports, I do enjoy the company of those shooters I have known over the years from their successes at Bisley, and successive Commonwealth and NatWest Island Games.

Of course there should be legislation to protect society, in case any kind of firearm falls into the wrong hands – but Bob Hill’s proposed amendment to the current law makes sense. As long as the police know about and are happy with a competitor who is in the Island to compete at Crabbé, there should be no underlying reason to distrust their purpose for being in the Island. And far better for them to declare their intent, than trying to smuggle a firearm into this, or any other relatively peaceful environment.

Pulling my leg …

Three weeks ago I had the misfortune to watch Australia beat England at Twickenham all ends up.

The next week it was South Africa, followed by New Zealand last Saturday.

Between them the three teams scored over 100 points. England barely made it into double figures.

Sporting ethos So why can’t Britain, which has the most competitive league in the world, win at world rather than club level? It could be the coaches but I think not. Instead I would argue that it is the intense desire to do well. Rugby, particularly in New Zealand and South Africa, is a sport of religious intensity.

Work, family, marriage – all are secondary to the sporting ethos. The same is probably true to the cricket god in India.

And while I’m not so certain that sport is always a healthy obsession, it does give us men a chance to dwell on it in bars, clubs and in living rooms long after a game has finished. It also offers the professionals a chance to become, briefly, students of philosophy. Take, for example, the following words from Brian Smith, the England rugby XV’s attack coach before New Zealand hammered us into the ground last weekend: ‘Every team is beatable and there’s no magical mystery about the the All Blacks. They put their trousers on one leg at a time, same as the rest of us.’ Maybe; but what awesomely powerful legs! England 6, New Zealand 32.

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