Sunday, 23 December 2007

HD and Darts

We have just had Sky HD installed at home, and as I am at home for the festive period, I've been catching up on a lot of sport. While the live football is good quality, I've been watching other sports such as the PDC World Darts Championship, which has been a good event, and although I am delighted that Christmas is almost upon us, I am devastated that the darts is taking a break until Boxing Day.

Darts was always an enigma to me until the beginning of this year. I could not see the excitement in it. I knew how good Phil Taylor was and that he was World Champion, yet I did not know of nor understand the great schism of the darting world; the existence of two world championships, the BDO and the PDC editions. I read about Taylor's loss to van Barneveld yet could not figure out why such superlatives were being applied to something that was barely a sport. How wrong i was.

I was sitting in a bar back in Switzerland, the type that has Eurosport permanently tuned on the TV to the extent where the Eurosport logo has caused serious screen burn on the TV set, where I was watching a re-run of the BDO World Championship semi-final. I did not know the result, so I was enthralled by the spectacle and in awe of the skill. I watched the final the next day live and thought it all terribly exciting. I do not consider myself a darts expert, far from it, but I'm really beginning to see what all the fuss is about, and not only that, I cannot drag myself away from the TV and the PDC World Championship.

The Grand Slam of Darts was excellent entertainment, although I really wish they would play Planet Funk's "Chase The Sun" than The Fratelli's "Chelsea Dagger" like they do at the World Championships. Even Darts make the adverts fun, watching 3,000 people singing along to a piece of music during the breaks just adds to the entertainment. Darts seems a uniquely British phenomenon. How can people get so excited about this and how can theycreate a tournament with high standards of professionalism involving a pub game? While the Dutch are now not only the pretenders to the crown, but a major darting superpower, the whole thing feels British.

Darts is a sport, and a very skillful one at that. It has a legion of loyal fans, and is certainly far more entertaining than some other events. It should not be looked down upon by snobs who would rather watch the Boat Race or Dressage, but embraced as a sporting and cultural event. Now that I've added Darts to my sporting portfolio, perhaps the time is right to try and understand another sport that has also remained boring to me: Snooker. Although it would help if they put it in HD.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

2007 Varsity Match: Oxford 16 - 22 Cambridge

On the 6th December, I went to Twickenham for the first time to watch the 2007 Varsity Match. I'm not going to lie or be patronising, but I couldn't care less who won. To me this was just an archaic knees-up for old boys of our country's two great universities. The match was a good one, filled with drama and excitement, and as I was there at the invitation of a Cambridge friend, I was cheering on the light blues.

Cambridge won 22-16, and to be honest were the best team on the day. Now a lot of fuss is made about the Boat Race, but to be honest I will only watch rowing if it's Great Britain rowing, not these two universities. But this, was something everyone can watch and enjoy. Yes it's another privilege and an ego boost that these two universities enjoy, but at the end of the day it's good fun and it's a chance for these players to play at the home of English rugby.

Twickenham on the other hand, was not as good as I had imagined it. The train station was cramped and busy, which is to be expected as this is basically a small town with a huge 80,000 capacity stadium in it. I was sitting in the North Stand, which was not very modern and glamourous, but functional. To be honest, I never got the same feeling I did the first time ~I visited Old Trafford or the old Wembley. It was probably because the match was not a full capacity game, but it seemed to lack atmosphere, and the rain didn't help either. I will probably have to come back for an England game in the sunshine to see what the magic is all about.

It was a good day though, despite the weather and transport arrangements consipiring to ruin it. There are photos on the SvenSport Flickr site, however my camera decided to stop working before I got into the ground, so there are some that are of poor quality.

Varsity Match Photos

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Euro 2008: The Failure

The last time I posted, I spoke of the possbility of a British sporting renaissance. Since I uttered those famous last words, I will never dare of making such a suggestion for a very long time. In the time that has passed between entries, England bravely lost the Rugby World Cup final, Lewis Hamilton failed to win the Formula One World Championship by a single point, Scotland and Northern Ireland valiantly punched above their own weight to narrowly miss out on Euro 2008 qualification. These are achievements, but England's failure to reach Euro 2008 is just that, a failure.

A nation blessed with the richest league in the world and the home of the sport's heritage has failed to qualify for a major tournament for the first time since USA '94. True Steve McClaren had horrendous luck with injuries, but to use this as an excuse would simply be a facade. England got their "get out of jail free" card when Israel beat Russia, but they failed to qualify. McClaren's poor decisions continued to the last stand. He wanted to be popular and dropped Beckham, who along with Peter Crouch was England's best player against Croatia in that ill-fated qualifier. McClaren executed a poor piece of man-management when he dropped Paul Robinson for Scott Carson, who succumbed to the pressure in his first competitive start for England in their biggest match since the 2006 World Cup Quarter-Final. But McClaren's failure is history and he will go down as England's worst manager in England's.

The search for his successor has begun and former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is the fan's, and SvenSport's favourite. He has a proven track record and would be able to overhaul the national side that is a serious state of disarray. Italian coach Fabio Capello has great pedigree and is the only big name to throw his hat into the ring so far, but he does not speak English, which could be a hinderance. Harry Redknapp is the "outstanding" English candiate, but he feels his chances have been ruined by his arrest as part of the corruption in football investigation. England have a talented pool of players, but that pool is decreasing and the current group don't seem to able to gel. Whether the manager is Mourinho, Capello, Redknapp or someone else, they have a task on their hands. They have to take England to South Africa 2010 and restore some pride to English football.