Monday, 18 May 2009

Sports of Kings

This summer, many of the best players in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland will compete against the South Africans in three Rugby Union Test Matches as the British & Irish Lions. Shortly after, the English Cricket team will compete against the Australians in five Test Matches for the most coveted prize of all – the Ashes.

King Willow and the British Lions. The sports of cricket and rugby, forged in the grounds of England’s public schools and village greens and exported throughout the British Empire to a plethora of other nations and cultures. Sports that developed a rich and complex set of rules, laws, styles, approaches and philosophies in order to create the ultimate contest of attack verses defence and vice versa. Of bowler verses batsman, of tight head against loose head. Not only that, but once the game is over, the battle tents, (having been pitched for the contestants to don their body armour) are home to the merry-making of the two teams to discuss the finer points of the days play.

The Age of Chivalry was built upon such virtues. Honour, excellence, endeavour and a sense of dramatic and theatrical competition. Those of you who may recall the drama of Edgbaston, Old Trafford and Trent Bridge in the summer of 2005 will find it hard not to salivate at the prospect of another series even half as exciting. Remember, for every in-play bouncer that split open the cheek of the Australian captain, there was the end-of-play arm-round-the-shoulder from Flintoff to Lee. What about the back-against the-wall camaraderie of the 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, commencing with Keith Wood swinging from a tree in team bonding sessions and culminating in the winning drop goal from the boot of Jerry Guscott?

Can football ever conjure the same myths and legends that the likes of cricket and rugby have created? If, by throwing oneself around, diving, spitting, under-performing, cheating, copulating with your fellow players after every goal and earning a small fortune every week constitutes the beautiful game, then you can keep it.

That particular sport, I am afraid, is dead

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