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Ken Borland

Archive for the ‘General’

The passing of the Queen and the effect on sport 0

Posted on October 24, 2022 by Ken

The passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has not only caused great sorrow in the United Kingdom as they have lost the longest-serving monarch they ever had, but around the world where she was a much-loved figure, one of the constants of the 20th and 21st centuries and all the turmoil practically three generations lived through.

The charming sight of the Queen, always so immaculately turned out, meeting sporting teams is also now a thing of the past. I wonder if King Charles III will bring the same gravitas and elegance to the occasion …

While meeting government ministers who invariably end up delaying the scheduled starting time of whatever sporting event they are piggybacking on is not the sort of thing sports stars keep in the memory banks, and they largely annoy spectators, shaking hands with the Queen was always a memorable moment.

Part of that had to do with the fact that she was engaging, had a famously mischievous sense of humour and always had a sharp eye on proceedings. She and Prince Philip were avid cricket fans and she visited Lord’s on 25 occasions.

Jonty Rhodes scored a quickfire, sparkling century in the opening match of South Africa’s 1994 tour of England, against the Earl of Carnavon’s XI at Highclere, but his memories of that day revolve around meeting the Queen.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had spent a few hours watching the game from a marquee and Rhodes tended to stand out whenever he was in the field – a real livewire in terms of his dazzling fielding skills, but also constantly cajoling his team-mates with handclaps and shouts of encouragement.

During the lunch break, the teams were lined up and introduced to Her Majesty and she showed how keen an observer she had been as she stopped and asked Rhodes “Are you the one making all the noise?” with an amused glint in her eye.

“Yes Ma’m, I’ve got to keep the old guys moving,” Rhodes replied, drawing a smile and a nod from the Queen before she moved on down the line.

As one would probably expect, Australian cricket teams have had rather more uncouth interactions with Her Majesty, with Dennis Lillee asking for her autograph and Rodney Hogg commenting on her attractive legs. She later sent Lillee a signed photograph of the incident and he says the photo still has pride of place in his office, while Elizabeth II apparently had a warm friendship with the late Shane Warne, who also passed away this year.

She would also routinely hand out the silverware at the Wembley football stadium, most notably when England won their only soccer World Cup, in 1966.

Prince Harry, fresh from celebrating the birth of his second child, Lilibet, in June, is known for his love of rugby. The Springboks are perhaps his ‘second team’ and his celebrations after their 2019 World Cup win, including a conversation with scrumhalf Faf de Klerk who was wearing just his famous Springbok flag underpants, gave rise to many hilarious memes.

When one thinks of the Royal Family and sport, however, the obvious main connection is with horse racing. Queen Elizabeth II has been described as the sport’s “greatest supporter”. Her royal meeting at Ascot is one of the most famous equestrian events in the world and, as an owner of thoroughbreds, she enjoyed several big wins there.

Both Nicky Henderson and Sir Michael Stoute, who trained the Queen’s horses, mentioned her thorough knowledge of all things equestrian in their warm tributes.

Her daughter, Princess Anne, rode in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, and her daughter, Zara Tindall, wife of former England rugby star Mike, won a silver medal with the Great Britain equestrian eventing team at the 2012 London Olympics.

More & more matches & players expected to just avail themselves 0

Posted on May 20, 2022 by Ken

Sport being big business these days, it stands to reason that administrators believe that the more content they can provide in terms of matches, the better it is for the game and the players just need to avail themselves of these increased opportunities.

But what administrators forget, as their eyes are distracted by shiny piles of cash, is that they are in the entertainment business and quality of performance is more important to the consumer than quantity. As more and more sport is played, we see more and more jaded athletes, especially in these tough days of Covid restrictions, unable to reach their previous heights.

As former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said this week: “For too long administrators have thought that more is more, but actually less is more. That way you get a high-quality product that people look forward to and don’t want to miss out on watching. The players are the main assets of the game and we have to make sure they are looked after.”

While I would not go as far as former Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula – that’s actually probably a good rule for life – in describing our sports stars as soldiers doing battle for South Africa, there is no doubt they are still representing our country and often providing great joy to a land that has known more misery than most in recent years.

Form is a fickle thing at the best of times – I was chatting to a former Proteas batsman recently and he told me of the time he came off a great century and then in his next innings he could barely get bat to ball – but a relentless schedule of games and travel will eventually wear down even the best.

Just look at former India captain Virat Kohli, who a couple of years ago was trumpeted as the best batsman in the world. And then came Covid with bio-bubbles and severe restrictions added to the grind of playing and captaining in all three formats for the richest and most scrutinised team on the planet.

Little wonder then that Kohli has now gone 100 innings across formats without scoring a century and his former India coach, Ravi Shastri, is in no doubt that too much cricket is to blame.

Shastri was quoted this week as calling Kohli “overcooked” and he implored Indian cricket to have the empathy to give their star player six months away from the game otherwise he will end up with “a fried brain”.

Amongst the fans, too, there is an air of indifference to the wellbeing of our sports stars, with the expectation being that they must bring their A-game every time they compete. The old chestnut of “I pitch up to the office every day and give my best otherwise I’ll be fired” is often heard. But not many of us have jobs that require intense physical training every week and then an opposition hellbent on making sure you cannot do your job.

This is not, however, a call for sponsors and equity partners in sport to be sent packing like witches on their broomsticks.

Professional sport needs money to flourish and the best-performing teams are more often than not those with the deepest pockets. But there needs to be a balance between commercial demands and player welfare.

The best way to handle that balancing act is probably by ensuring there is greater depth in playing squads.

I know fielding second-string outfits does not fly well with fans, but if a team has sufficient depth and has looked after their pipeline properly, then rotating players should ensure improved performance and give exposure to potential new heroes.

United Rugby Championship frontrunners Leinster are a club that does this very well, and I look forward to seeing how they do, without 10 first-choice players, against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday night.

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  • Thought of the Day

    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.

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