BY the time you are reading this I will hopefully be in Bogota.
That’s the capital of Colombia, in case you weren’t sure, the city where Bobby Moore was accused of nicking a bracelet, and where I’m supposed to beware of drugs barons and of rampant kidnappers.
Have a nice trip, John!
Actually I’m looking forward to this region of South America because it’s virgin territory for me, and I’m reliably informed, contrary to public belief, that it’s a beautiful country.
Why am I there ?
The World Under 20 Championships start this week and my first assignments, Mali v Korea Republic and Colombia v France, kick things off on Saturday. Makes a change from Bradford City v Carlisle.
Down the years I’ve seen some wonderful talent at this tournament, which is probably my favourite after the World Cup itself, because you have the opportunity to see genuine stars of the future before most people have heard of them.
It was Lionel Messi in Holland eight years ago, before that I had the privilege of commentating on an Argentina side that contained Fabricio Coloccini, Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Burdisso and Maxi Rodriguez that scored goals by the bucket-load, and four years ago there was Sergio Aguero who seems set to become a £30m-plus Premier League player, possibly before I’ve even touched down on South American soil.
I’ve also seen Fabregas, Tevez, Torres and Dani Alves as precocious talents in this tournament, and it’s fascinating to see how they develop.
For once England are there too. We don’t normally make the Finals of this event, but in a 24-team tournament we’ve been drawn in a group alongside Argentina, Mexico and Korea DPR (that’s North).
To be honest, I’ve barely heard of a single player in the England squad, but I’m not surprised.
The attitude of our big clubs has always been that they want to keep an eye on their kids, so rather than let them loose on an England tour they prefer them on the bench at home, or out on loan at a lower division club.
I’ve never understood that. It’s a wonderful opportunity for young men to play the best of their age group from all over the globe in another country, another climate, and to wear the three lions on their chest.
I’ll guarantee most of the other countries will be sending their best talent because they want to win it. Why can’t we?
ONE of the best innings I ever saw was by Australian batsman Adam Gilchrist.
He absolutely butchered the England attack in Perth, and it wasn’t a bad attack either with Flintoff, Harmison, Hoggard and Panesar.
He took the game away from England in about a hour-and-a-half of carnage.
He was, of course, able to flay away after the foundations had been laid by the likes of Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey.
Now it seems England may just have the best wicket-keeper/batsman in the world in Matthew Prior. His century against India at Lords on Sunday was breathtaking, and followed up a pretty useful 70 in the first innings.
Gilchrist may for ever be regarded as the best we have ever seen, but Prior has taken huge strides in the five-day game and, with Australian cricket in the doldrums, his rise in stock has coincided with England’s challenge to become the best team in the world.
WE all know about the nudge-nudge wink-wink syndrome that accompanies Rugby League’s Carnegie Challenge Cup draw.
Warm balls and all that.
Whatever, the two semi-finals that came out of the hat guaranteeing another Yorkshire-Lancashire final are mouth-watering.
Castleford, who have been working so hard to guarantee their very survival as a Super League club, with their ambitious plans for a new stadium, will be eager to squeeze past Leeds in one half of the draw, while any Wigan v St Helens confrontation is an occasion not to be missed.
Cup Final day in rugby league is one of the highlights of the sporting calendar and deserves far greater national exposure than it receives.
No matter which two clubs grace this year’s centrepiece of the sport, it will be an epic to match all those that have gone before.