David Moyes is emerging as a contender to become Tottenham’s next manager but senior figures at the club are divided over his possible appointment following his dismal short reign at Manchester United.
Hugo Lloris has delivered a withering assessment of Tottenham's campaign, admitting they would be hard pushed to get any worse next season.
24 May 2012
“I have recently discovered that I am officially agnostic. I am not going to belabor with how I got to being agnostic. I just am. That is all that matters. (Not that I think it does)”
These are not my words but the words of sport’s naughtiest hooligan savant, Mr @Joey7Barton, who was banned from football for 12 games this week for a variety of crimes, including a bit of mild mayhem, some panto violence and the particularly heinous offence of, well, being Joey Barton.
There has been plenty of discussion already of Barton’s ban. This is a shame, because it has overshadowed what is actually a rather more interesting spiritual pronouncement. For in a sporting world that is increasingly dominated by religion and religious symbolism, Barton is going firmly against the grain. Or to put it another way: as more and more sportsmen are finding God, Joey is standing outside the church, p*****g in.
Listen to any post-match interview these days and there’s a good chance that the athlete — pretty much whatever his sport — will mention the
G-word. Take Didier Drogba. Following Chelsea’s Champions League Final victory against Bayern on Saturday, the departing striker attributed both his match-winning performance and his team’s victory to the fact that he is a good Christian.
“It was fate, I believe a lot in destiny. I pray a lot. It was written a long time ago. God is wonderful,” said Drogba, sweaty and magnificent on the pitch in Munich. In other words: it was God wot won it, although the manner in which Drogba suggested the Lord had intervened was less certain.
In that one statement, Drogba covered a lot of theological ground. He seemed simultaneously to be suggesting a Lutheran position (that the good Lord had rewarded his faith by granting him a Champions League winners’ medal), a Calvinist one (that God’s favour is predestined) and an astrological one (it was written, to quote Gary Neville and Tinie Tempah, in the stars).
Later, just to confuse things further, Drogba’s words were praised by the Office for Sport and Church at the Vatican. Yet, somehow, out of this doctrinal mish-mash, you kind of know what he meant.
Once upon a time athletes with faith were uncool. Jonathan Edwards, the Olympic champion and our nation’s best-ever triple jumper, was sniggered at in his day for his enthusiastic Christianity and strict adherence to scripture. There was something comical about a man like Evander Holyfield, who sang loud gospel songs on his way to the ring when he fought Lennox Lewis in 1999.
Now, things have changed. The adoption of religious symbolism, language and paraphernalia is commonplace across most sports.
In football, this is perhaps due to the spread across the world of players from heavily Christian countries in Africa and South America. It is hard to imagine Nobby Stiles kneeling and praying in the centre circle before Manchester United’s matches kicked off; but when Javier Hernandez does it, no one blinks.
Religious posturing is an increasingly important part of sportsmen’s public personas — their brand, if you like.
#prayfor[insertyourcause] is a staple Twitter response by many athletes to any event of public tragedy. The notion of prayer here doesn’t seem to imply any great commitment to or understanding of faith: it’s the social media equivalent of getting a crucifix tattoo.
But let’s not be too cynical. What faith — whether serious religious devotion or mere paddling in the spiritual shallows — offers to a sportsman or sportswoman is something valuable: the idea that there is a higher power, something mysterious and intangible, governing their progress through their career and life. Sport is riven with uncertainty and the vagaries of chance. To be an athlete requires years of toil, hard work and dedication. It also requires a healthy dose of good fortune. Faith can be a source of strength through the gruelling hours and a system of explanation when you get lucky — or unlucky. A situation like, let’s say, a penalty shoot-out to win the Champions League.
But wherever there is faith, however, there are doubters. And it is no surprise to find that it is Barton who casts himself as the principled unbeliever. Unlike Barton, I am not an agnostic. But I suspect we would agree on one point: does God really care who wins the Champions League? My instinct — with apologies to Drogba — is probably not.
Could you stomach date with All Blacks?
How much would you pay to dine with a couple of the best rugby players in the world? It’s not a hypothetical question — two All Blacks are being auctioned off on eBay for a dinner date during the autumn internationals later this year (bid at airnewzealand.co.uk/ebay). The price on their heads at the time of writing was a mere £900. Importantly, that includes dinner — whatever it is that All Blacks eat. Ox hearts and babies, I always presumed.
Roy robbed, Owen to lack of these two
In the last week, both Owen Hargreaves, 31, and Michael Owen, 32, have been released by their clubs (Manchesters City and United respectively). It’s sad to think how different things could have been had both men’s careers not been shredded by injury. Not least for England. What would Roy Hodgson give to have a genuine midfield destroyer like Hargreaves and a world-class poacher like Owen in his Euro 2012 side? With a decent season behind them, both would have surely made his squad.
Haye you, David is not running scared
David Haye is preparing to fight Dereck Chisora but as usual it is talk of the Klitschko brothers that rumbles in the air. The Ukrainians’ manager Bernd Boente has accused Haye of ducking a fight with Vitali on the grounds of being scared. What utter, arrant nonsense. Whatever you think of Haye, he is no coward. Moreover, the Vitali fight is the one thing he really wants from boxing. The idea that he would dodge the offer of that match is literally unbelievable.
India, our team for all seasons
Although England’s four-Test tour of India this winter is their first full visit since 2008, it doesn’t really feel that way. Thanks to the long visit India made here last summer and particularly the five-match ODI series in India that was squeezed in during the autumn, it feels as though we have seen quite a lot of the Indians lately. Tests and ODIs between India and England are lucrative to broadcasters, but piling them so closely together feels unfortunately like overkill.
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