Vanishing Point

The Premier League season comes to its closing day, and just as architectural designs disappear to the horizon at the vanishing point so my resident ‘delusional desperado’ is about to disappear up their own passageway of dreams. They join the local tribe of dedicated panhandlers for the final time in their current Premier League existence, patiently wading through oceans of guano in the hope of the occasional pearl-laden oyster. But it is only the dark clouds rolling in that offer a genuine backdrop to the final contest. But even this final fight is more of a vanishing point, as two pugilists step into the ring for an event without a purpose, other than fulfilling a pre-determined contract. The home team are already relegated, and the away team end a season with their own disappointment of not being able to win anything.

  V.  

The locals persistently question the colour of the corners, but on this occasion the reality is that in the red corner we have ‘The Baby Faced Assassin‘ and in the blue corner we have ‘The Special One‘, as Ole visibly ageing and Jose progressively greying square up for hopefully anything but handbags at 10 paces…

   V.     

The potential pre-match hype stirred up by a street-fighting Mourinho, if his team had a heavyweight title depending on the contest, is all but missing. Snarls are replaced by the anodyne smiles of combatants with minds more firmly fixed on a summer of business in preparation for fights to be won in the future. If there is any real match day animosity it is all in the home camp as the fans make it very clear to the owner ‘they will always be blue’:

City v Chelsea [1]

The bell sounds for the first round, it is 3.00pm on a Sunday afternoon, and the home pugilists look deep down to their boots for some inspiration for the fight ahead:

City v Chelsea [2]Is this to be the mis-match of the century, as the heavyweights from the capital of England dominate the ring of the lightweights of the capital of Wales. The visitors certainly begin fleet of foot as they dance around the ring constantly probing for the opening to land a decisive punch. However, underestimate the lighter opponents at your peril, as on 15 minutes the Chelsea defence is opened up with a Craig Bellamy shot that produces a classic sucker punch as it deflects off a Chelsea defender to leave their last line of defence wrong-footed. A further 30 minutes of trading punches produces no further potential knockout blows. At the end of this round a shock is set up as the home fans witness a lead on points… Cardiff City 1 Chelsea 0.

The bell sounds for round two, but can the sleek arts of the pugilists recover against the early lead for the street-fighters?

City v Chelsea [4]The gulf in class is beginning to show as the delicate footwork of previous champions mesmerises their brave hosts. The home team cushion a few blows, and offer limited glimpses of the search for their own killer punch. On 72 minutes and 75 minutes the decisive combination of hook and upper-cut are applied, and the home fans are left on the floor. With the absence of Gary Medel, their iconic pitbull, they struggle to find the street-fighter spirit that would give them a chance of getting back into this match. The vanishing point duly arrives, as it is time to throw the towel in and slip off back to Championship football.

Final score of the final game of the season… Cardiff City 1 Chelsea 2.

My very own ‘little dot on the horizon’ arrives back with surprisingly measured temperament, but surely punch-drunk, as they evoke the spirit of many a defeated pugilist claiming that a comeback is on the cards, and it all starts here. Some people are just born masochists. Until we speak again I will be a Juno trying to discover what sense underpins the spending of billions of pounds on a few youngsters kicking a ball around a patch of grass.

[Some images have been gratefully borrowed from google images to illustrate the story, and are used with thanks to those who originally placed them].

 

 

Canaries in a Coalmine

I have been so obsessed with food of late that I have forgotten my responsibility to mock my resident ‘grieving fan‘ on their local team hitting rock bottom in the Premier League. What makes matters worse for the poor soul is the clash of sports, with Cardiff City at home to Norwich City at the same time as the rugby international at the Millenium Stadium with Wales hosting Italy. From what I can see the wallet has triumphed over the heart, as the use of a pre-paid season ticket to watch the tedium of two teams who can hardly score a goal, yet both seem happy to let them in (surely a nailed-on 0-0) triumphs over the possibility of watching pure passion for free on the TV.

The Cardiff City Stadium prepares to ramp up the levels of boredom to new heights, with Norwich taking about 30 attempts on goal without scoring, in the corresponding match at their ground earlier in the season. Though they did get the ball in the net by cheating, which was fortunately disallowed. The match promises as much excitement as watching a canary slowly choking to death in a coalmine… a fitting analogy, as Norwich City are known as the Canaries, though God only knows why (actually it is after 16th century European refugees); and South Wales is known for its coalmines, though finding one these days is a bit like witnessing goalscoring chances for the Bluebirds.

Tantalisingly for me, it’s yet another footballing ‘battle of the birds’, and all I get is to comment from afar. Let me at them and there just might be some excitement at the match today. But for now it is 3.00pm on a damp February Saturday afternoon, and the Bluebirds are wondering where to find any Canaries, whilst the disguised canaries stare perilously into the coalmine:

City v Norwich [1]

 The Bluebirds have new faces from the January transfer window are flocking all over the place without seemingly working as a team.

  The Canaries celebrate with a simple goal against a ragged Bluebirds defence. An inconsequential first half ends CARDIFF CITY 0 NORWICH CITY 1.

City v Norwich [2]

The home birds start the second half with a Norwegian flea in the ear (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the new manager), and the proverbial ‘game of two halves’ is about to unfold.

  You can’t miss from there, and on 49 minutes local boy Craig Bellamy obliges with an equalising goal.

      Nice goal celebration Craig. Yet a mere minute later and it’s new boy Kenwyne Jones showing the fans a different perspective on the Cardiff City StadiumKenwyne Jones

As the match enters the final 20 minutes an all-too-familiar pattern emerges for the home fans as their team sits back and invites the opposition to launch wave after wave of attacks.

  With the help of a tiring home team, the Canaries seem to have found renewed energy from somewhere.

  My resident ‘panic merchant‘ tells me it only takes a short memory in these parts to remember Bluebirds on course for a nasty collision if they don’t sustain their need to attack. But on this occasion they desperately hold out, and with great home sighs of relief…

   … it is the away team that has to look at its frequent inability to take their chances. As the final whistle blows, it is a time for Bluebird celebrations, and for Canaries to hang their heads in defeat.

   2 v. 1   

So much for my prediction of 0-0. Until we speak again my ‘desperate optimist‘ will hang on to any morsels of success, but I have been a frustrated Juno… so many birds on display and all I can do is observe from a distance. In the meantime, my ‘anti-stereotyping consultant‘ just congratulated me on a post about Norwich City with not a single mention of Delia Smith, Colman’s Mustard or that everyone looked the same… oops!

[Some of the images in this post just might have been copied from google images (and BBC Sport)… many thanks to those of you posting images that support my stories].

Wales 2026 World Cup Bid

Dear Zed Lister and fellow Sweet FA delegates,

I feel it is time that I launched the Wales bid to host the 2026 World Cup. After all, you have provided Qatar as the clearest of blueprints for success. Listening to my cortege of footballing pundits I could have been mistaken for thinking this once every four years prestigious tournament was a true spectacle of the peoples game put on as a festival of entertainment for the delight of the people of the world. However, you have enlightened me to the true realities that it is a complex front for your eminence and fellow crooks, sorry administrators of the game, to engorge yourselves in luxury at the expense of the ordinary spectators. Why didn’t I see that earlier, it is just like the life us cats weave for ourselves on a more permanent basis in the homes of our servants.

As leaders of the world game I am sure you will be steeped in its history, so I will launch the Wales bid on an example of the selfless generosity of its historical contribution to gamesmanship. We clearly surpass Qatar in our our World Cup pedigree and history. They weren’t even in Sweden on that 1958 day when we generously allowed Brazil a quarter-final 1-0 win for them to go on to eventually win the cup. We realised at the time that Brazil may never be good enough to grace the World Cup stage again, whereas we would undoubtedly become permanent attenders at all future tournaments.

The most important element of any worldwide competition has to be the official mascot… what else does anyone remember a few days after it has all finished? Qatar are unlikely to fool anyone with their diamond studded pot of gold mascot, whereas we have the ghost of John Charles

     to strike fear into all, and leave a memorable image of the gentle giant for the kids of the world to dream of emulating. Gareth Bale was in contention, but concerns publicly expressed by Harry Redknapp that “he spends most of his time working on his barnet” led my bid committee to be concerned about his availability outside of salon opening times. As for the constant playing with his hands and that heart thing… will someone just give him a mobile phone to play with!

    

As paragons of virtue and intelligence I thought you at the ‘Sweet FA’ were perfectly placed, in your plush Swiss offices, to be fully aware and on top of the necessary considerations about summer temperatures of 40-50 degrees. You offered Qatar and the football loving world a perfectly reasonable choice… an unnatural and phenomenal expense to provide an innovative green cooling system to reduce temperatures in all stadiums, or cause massive disruption to football leagues the world over by staging the tournament in winter. I promise you that here in Wales the summer temperatures are frequently 40-50 degrees, but a plan is in place to provide spectators with complimentary plastic macs and jumpers in their national colours, with the addition of the Welsh flag emblem as a gesture of multicultural friendship. I apologise unreservedly if this deprives you of an opportunity for skimming off the top any lucrative backhanders resulting from the need to impose grotesquely over-inflated and costly solutions to unnecessary problems. However, along with other cost-savings I will outline in our plan, this creates greater opportunities for us to lavish our expenses on you and your wives.

What about the cost of developing stadia? In the middle of the Qatari desert billions are planned to be spent on state of the art stadia, while here in Wales we will save all that money by playing most of the games at the Millenium Stadium, where the roof can be kept closed against the potential for steel rod like rain dampening the motivations of the young billionaires on the pitch. It is close to the railway station for teams and their supporters flying into the UK and then getting the train. It is also next to the river Taff, so we can extravagantly transport you and your delegates by Cardiff Bay pleasure boats from your hotel direct to the stadium.

Millenium Stadium 4

Cardiff City Stadium [1]

More lowly ranked countries can play at the nearby Cardiff City Stadiumparticularly those who are unsure what colours they should be playing in, and to avoid the sight of empty seats through smaller crowds in our national stadium. However, your presence would not be required at such a small venue… it would be so undignified in relation to your overblown image of yourselves.

Player accommodation at the St Mary Street Travelodge allows the majority of them to walk to the stadium; but an extra bus can be put on the route to the Cardiff City Stadium for players of teams who are not used to walking further than to their parked Ferrari’s. Of course, you at the ‘Sweet FA’ as world administrators of the beautiful game will be accommodated at the St. David’s Hotel and Spa at no personal expense.

St Davids Hotel [8]For your many unnecessary visits we will meet you at the rebranded Wales International Airport, at Heathrow, and pay all of your fees at the Severn Bridge toll booths. During the competition all players and spectators will be directed through the clapped out Cardiff Airport, not to burden you with the need to meet or speak with the lesser subjects of your sport.

All of the money-saving initiatives are carefully designed to increase the pot available for bribing, sorry, entertaining you the world leaders of the professional game at the ‘Sweet FA’. As highly respected visiting delegates you will be provided with free use of the City Sightseeing Bus, with commentaries about all the cities in warmer climates where you would currently prefer to be. Your wives will be offered free gifts from their personal choice of stall in the Cardiff Central Market, with free shoe repairs while they wait thrown in for good measure. As a re-think on the Bale heart thing, commemorative hearts will be cast in gold for each delegate and their wives… wrought from the iron ore of Merthyr Tydfil, smelt by the power of purest Welsh steam coal, and borne of the sweat and toil of our working man, if he can be found or isn’t on a health and safety imposed permanent tea break. In this event there is always Plan B… a plastic replica made in China (helping to secure their vote). Free bags of Welsh cakes will be available throughout the period of the bid and tournament, but only to ‘Sweet FA’ personnel and their families.

We are fully aware of the tactics needed to win the strategic votes from around the world… a Welsh Baptist Minister in Patagonia is working on the Americas vote, with South America in the bag, and dispatched to target the bible thumping mid-west. Threats to sue over the title New South Wales should bring in the Oceania vote. The Cardiff City FC connections with Malaysia should easily secure the Asian vote. Craig Bellamy‘s predicted role as a future African President will guarantee the African vote. Europe as our home region initially appear a stubborn convert… but when we seduce Scottish support with our plaque at Cardiff City Stadium the vote will surely follow.

Cardiff City Stadium [8]It is surely to our credit that we have many useless sporting administrators here in Wales, which should endear us to your core philosophy and ways of thinking; and with further mentorship from your delegates we should proudly ensure that nothing deviates from the main ethos established in your corrupt, sorry open and transparent, commitment to leadership. What we have learned most from the experience of Qatar is that we don’t need any relevant history in the game, or existing stadiums full of passionate supporters, or a climate suited to sporting exertion, or even respect for the ordinary fans. Whatever the available budget, as long as we demonstrate that the majority of it is directed to the comforts of you, the world administrators of the ‘Sweet FA’, and your shopping obsessed wives, then we can fill our boots and have ourselves a tournament. Where in Switzerland do I send the suitcases of unmarked bills?

I have been Juno, demonstrating my bid-leading credentials, and I am open to any bribes, I mean constructive suggestions, before I speak with you again.