Monday, February 27, 2006
Cricketers falling apart
England's cricketers seem to be falling over like drunks at a party. Yesterday they said they would soldier on with the squad they had; today they are sending for replacements. Last week Alan Smith suffered a fracture dislocation of his ankle while playing for Manchester United against Liverpool. He had only been on the pitch for a few minutes. Had he warmed up properly?It is hardly surprising that injuries are common when you see the speed that games are played at. As I watched the Chelsea v Barcelona match last week the speed and ferocity of the tackles was frightening. The Scotland v England rugby match was even more furious. Watching men of 6 ft 5 inches and weighing around 250 pounds smash together in the scrums was intimidating; no body armor as in the flashy American version, just raw flesh and bones grinding together. They have this rather quaint rule that a player may be temporarily replaced if he is bleeding. I would have thought that AIDS was the least of their worries.Today's teams are cosseted by physiotherapists, sports' surgeons and sports' psychologists, yet they continue to damage themselves. Several leading soccer players have been out with fractured metatarsals - that has to be down to the very light footwear that they wear. The game has developed differently in Latin countries and northern Europe. The Latin countries are full of tricks, clever ball control and conning the referee by falling over as if assassinated as soon as they are touched. In northern Europe it is regarded as a man's game. Tackling is part of it. Those who fall over are expected to bounce back up or be jeered as girls.In yesterday's Carling Cup final Manchester United trounced Wigan 4-0. United have both robust tacklers and clever ball players. At one stage Ronaldo, the Portugese winger, started taunting the Wigan team by playing keepy-upy in the middle of the park. He was sharply spoken to by Ryan Giggs, the Welsh veteran. It is not the gentlemanly thing to do to poke fun at losing opponents. Ronaldo is full of tricks and prone to falling over when breathed upon by the opposition. He has no need. When he scored his goal he stripped off his jersey to reveal a waxed chest and rippling muscles that a porn star would be proud of. Of course, being in England he received a yellow card for this display.I have had my share of injuries. As a young man I tore both anterior cruciate ligaments playing soccer, one in a school match following a clumsy tackle on me by a boy called Maynard, and the other kicking a ball about with my nephew in a roughly tuffeted field. I also managed the Alan Smith injury - fracture dislocation of my right ankle. I was playing cricket for the church against the Plymouth Brethren. We had won the match easily and we were having a silly game of tip-and-run afterwards. I was about to take a catch at silly mid-on when I caught my spikes in the turf and toppled over, twisting my ankle. I was surprised to see the bone sticking out from the skin. It hardly hurt and I dropped the catch. It was at a time when I was very busy. I was due to fly to Budapest the next day and I guess my body thought it was time for a break.