Thursday, May 28, 2009

Welcome to 'Grand Sham'

Well, that's the name of a blog I've had to start on the channel's new website. Writing on sports. Very random. But if nothing else, it exists. And forces me to write, for whatever it's worth.

This is the first one:
The second:
The third:
And the fourth, at the end of 'what a night' in Rome:

What a wonderful world!
It was in 1964 that Muhammad Ali said about Sonny Liston: "He's so ugly, when he cries the tears run down the back of his head." Gorgeous Ali later called Joe Frazier ahead of the Thrilla In Manila in 1975, "an ugly dumb gorilla, an inarticulate physical specimen devoid of any intelligence". Ali believed a world champion must be good-looking. It's a pre-requisite.

Many years later, in 1993, Andre Agassi said about Pete Sampras, "Nobody should be ranked No.1 who looks like he just swung from a tree." Evidently, Agassi and Ali are in agreement about their perception of world champions.

Ummm…so am I. I like a good-looking champion. Give me Yelena Isinbayeva any day.

Which makes Barcelona the greatest possible champion of Europe. It would only have been fair if Argentina had won the last World Cup, but Barcelona's win over Manchester United makes the world just that bit fairer.

I won't say that United is an ugly side. Not like Chelsea or Arsenal. Or Liverpool when Xabi or Gerrard don't get going. But they are a bit like a predictable piece of art. You know who can do what. You know Ronaldo can do a, b and c. Rooney can do b, d and e. Tevez can do e and f. Berbatov can do c and f. And so on. None of them can actually surprise you. Not one of them.
Giggs could. But that was on another day. A day a long time ago. When the body could do what the mind asked of it.

Scholes could. Again, another time. Beckham could. But that's another story altogether.

But Anderson can't. Carrick can't. They are just not good enough. Not against clubs outside of the lot in the Premiership.

But Barcelona can.

Over 30 passes in the opposition half in just over a minute. Over 30 passes. In the opposition half. Over a minute. That's possession. That's arrogance. That's making the opposition feel like idiots. That's telling the opposition that they aren't good enough. Most of the passes first touches. Almost all of them actually.

Andres Iniesta. He just doesn't let go of the ball, does he? Unless you bring him down, you don't get the ball. Xavi Hernandez. He's the best David Beckham going around at the moment. One, the cross that found Messi's head. Two, the freekick that got the post. Three, everything else he sent in. Stats say he got 90 per cent of his deliveries on target.

Lionel Messi.

Together, the five of them - Messi, Henry, Eto'O, Xavi and Iniesta - are like five brushstrokes on a huge canvas. Flowing. Moving in graceful arcs from one end to the other. The ball almost an extension of their feet.

Football doesn't get better than this. It doesn't get more beautiful than this. Unless you find a Messi-Rodriquez-Mascherano-Tevez- Riquelme combine on a good day.

In any case, football of this level of beauty doesn't happen in England. It never did. Never did. And never will.


If Ali or Agassi had been football freaks, they would have been thrilled with the pecking order in Europe right now.