EVERY now and again I have time to reflect on how lucky I’ve been to spend a lifetime in a job I adore.
Last week, for example, I was soaking up Spanish sunshine and strolling a golf course for four days, before commentating on highlights of the women’s European Nations Cup.
It’s not that, that set me off on this tack however.
Twenty-two year old Veronika Falathova, who looked like she’d stepped straight off a catwalk, was the only amateur in the field of 40 players, and doesn’t even have a golf course to play on in her home city of Bratislava.
“We have only a driving range, so if I want a round of golf I have to go across the Austrian border to Vienna,” she told me.
Despite this 6’2” Veronika has got her handicap down to 1.6 and hopes to turn professional.
“Golf is so disregarded in Slovakia there is no financial backing, no proper practice facilities and we don’t even have a physiotherapist in case of injuries,” she added.
Someone else who needed a ‘massage’ was one of the world’s most famous players England’s Trish Johnson.
In a weak moment she agreed to caddy for Lydia Hall of Wales, and like me ended the week counting her blessings.
“Never again. It’s exhausting. The job is physically and mentally draining,” admitted Trish.
“I’m sticking to hitting balls and letting someone else carry the bag from now on.”
Wish I could say the same.
At the same tournament I reckon I might have seen the birth of a new star.
Mark the name Christel Boeljon. She’s a tiny dot of a thing, standing about as tall as a doll’s house, but she’s going to be one heck of a golfer.
This was her third event as a professional since finishing fourth at the Qualifying School.
She was 41st in her maiden event, 13th at the Australian Open, won by Laura Davies, and helped the Netherlands win the European Nations Cup in tandem with Marjet Van Der Graff.
Astonishingly composed for a 21 year-old, she didn’t reveal a trace of nerves and is typical of today’s up-and-coming sports men and women.
They call it ‘in the zone’ – I prefer to call it pure talent.
Whatever it is I wish I’d had it!
THERE isn’t a footballer in the land who would begrudge Ryan Giggs his award of Footballer of the Year.
At a time when players are under scrutiny and come in for criticism from media and public alike Giggs has been a phenomenon. Youngsters could not ask for a better role model than a gifted player who doesn’t seem to have put a foot wrong on or off the pitch for 20 years.
The timing of his award, however, raises several questions.
Should it have come during a season in which he has played only 10 Premier League matches? Answer: Probably not.
Should the PFA make a separate award for Lifetime Achievement? Answer: Definitely.
Should the award be made before the season ends? Answer: Debatable.
Why should there be two Footballer of the Year awards? Answer: There shouldn’t.
Giggs hasn’t had a memorable season. Lampard, Gerrard, Xabi Alonso etc might be miffed to be overlooked.
He has had an illustrious career worthy of recognition, so a Lifetime Achievement award would have been more appropriate as it would be for the likes of Graham Turner, Dario Gradi or Steve Coppell.
I write for one paper that demands a man of the match be nominated 15 minutes before the end of the game – ridiculous!
The nominee could put through his own goal twice or get sent off while someone else is scoring a hat-trick.
However, I do accept a player of the season is more unlikely to change between now and the end of it.
Finally I’ve been writing or talking about football for 50 years and have yet to be asked to vote for the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award which has been in existence since 1948.
Giggs predictably said that to be voted for by his fellow professionals meant more than anything, and as most footballers think the press talk through their hats anyway and sometimes refuse to communicate at all, I’m not at all sure why they need an extra gong.
WITH cameras everywhere between players getting off buses to getting in the showers it’s not surprising footballers can’t get away with anything these days.
All the more stupid then for so-called professionals to commit the most outrageous attacks in full view of everyone.
Television pictures in Spain have been replayed time and again of the Real Madrid international Pepe aiming a horrendous kick at the prostrate figure of Getafe opponent Francisco Casquero.
Brutal is just about the only word befitting of an act that would have brought a long prison sentence had it been committed in a street rather than on a field of play.
Pepe has been banned for ten matches and should count himself extremely fortunate.
He could have been suspended for life.
In England, the Hull City striker Caleb Folan ‘lost it’ during the match with Liverpool and left his side to play on with ten men which will have driven his manager Phil Brown to the brink of despair.
Like Pepe, Folan took it out on a helpless victim in Martin Skrtel, and it is these acts of thuggery which football needs to rid itself most of all.
We all hate the cheats, the divers, the spitters, and the dissenters but surely violence is the most ugly sin of all and should never be tolerated.