Talking Sport

Kaka refusal a boost for common sense

Surely the best news to have emerged from the football world this week is the failure by Manchester City to prize Brazilian forward Kaka away from AC Milan.

Money, it seems, does not always talk, certainly not where this star is concerned, and not everyone, as widely presumed, has their price.

City, having already captured the somewhat less-gifted Craig Bellamy at the weekend, obviously believed it could persuade one of the best players on the planet to leave one of Europe’s top teams for an English club which, despite being handed a blank cheque by an Arab sheikh, is languishing at the foot of the Premiership. Kaka, to his great credit, thought differently.

Sure, Roman Abramovich’s mega-millions have helped Chelsea achieve a kind of skewed success in the past five years or so, but clubs must wise up to the fact that, regardless of whoever is bankrolling them, it is not immediately possible to cherry-pick the best available talent in the world.

City’s only major period of dominance in history was when, at the end of the 1960s, the club won the English First Division, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the European Cup-Winners Cup in the space of three seasons. They did so largely with players who came up through the ranks, plus greats such as Colin Bell, Francis Lee and Mike Summerbee who were signed for negligible fees even by standards at that time.

There are those who will forcibly argue that the day when a club can achieve success by home-reared talent has long gone, and they are sadly correct. But the current plight of City has shown that the opposite does not always win the day either.

Malcolm Allison, who was as well known for his love of Fedora hats, expensive coats and large cigars as his impressive coaching achievements 40 years ago, must be choking on his King Edward as he takes in what is currently going on at the club.

Former Scotland rugby player turned journalist John Beattie has stressed the need to get children from poor backgrounds more actively involved in sport.

He told a Scottish government committee investigating the provision of sport across the country that the civil service needed “a boot” to help overturn an unambitious approach.

Beattie claimed that most people in Scotland, which formerly prided itself on sporting success, no longer took part in any physical activity. About two-thirds of the population were “completely inactive” and it was a “national disgrace” that poor people were left behind while children from fee-paying schools, such as cyclist Chris Hoy, went on to win Olympic medals.

He said: “I have to be honest here. To my mind I find the civil service very obstructive. I find that the reviews we’re asked to do are limited, limiting and unambitious.

“I think the targets for PE are unambitious, I think our target for participation in exercise is unambitious … We should be looking at more than two hours for PE, we should be looking at how on earth we get our population to walk more, cycle more, have fun and exercise.

“If I have one message, it’s that I do think as a country the political profile and the will behind exercise, fun exercise and sport, isn’t anything like as high as it should be. That’s my honest assessment and I think the civil service has to be given a boot.”

Beattie may have a point – a large chunk of Great Britain’s medal success at last year’s Olympics came in minority sports such as rowing, canoeing and cycling. But the chances of him or the civil service getting folk more active are slim. The only way would be to ban all multi-channel television, computers, Nintendo Wii, Playstation, X-Boxes and the like. I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

In Shetland, of course, the situation regarding overall fitness is surely far superior to the country as a whole. Since the establishment of the recreational trust’s batch of centres more people than ever before are taking part in sport, including a wide range of ages.

Sticking with John Beattie’s own sport of rugby, the Scottish squad for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship was announced this week. Even with the injury to Rory Lamont, possibly the team’s best back, the strength in depth is more obvious than in recent seasons.

In defence Lamont’s elder brother Sean is most likely a certain starter on the wing, scrum half Mike Blair is probably the best in his position in the British Isles, the versatile Chris Paterson offers security of points on the board and you can take your pick from talented centres Max Evans, Graeme Morrison, Nick de Luca and Ben Cairns.

Up front the pack is as strong as it ever has been, from tighthead prop Euan Murray through to number eight Simon Taylor.

Interestingly the selectors have named three fly-halves in the pool of 33, including Glasgow’s precocious Ruaridh Jackson. The other options for the position, Dan Parks and Phil Godman, have already had their chance with limited success, so if the Scots want to be really bold for a change, they would do worse than take a chance on the 20-year-old.

One of the biggest personality changes in any sports competitor must be that undergone by tennis player Andy Murray.

A couple of the years ago the Scot was on the verge of becoming the biggest pain in the backside the game has ever seen. He moaned when losing and he moaned almost as much when he was successful.

Whatever happened to Murray I have no idea. Maybe he just grew up a bit. But to hear him being interviewed on radio this week, as he tackles the Australian Open in the searing heat of Melbourne, was as refreshing as it was different.

We can forgive him the mid-Atlantic drawl, as it appears to be a necessity of every top tennis player, if he keeps this up. Murray may not win his first grand slam title next week, but he’s definitely becoming much more likeable.

Jim Tait


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