Amidst all the heavy happenings in the world, there is the safety valve of sport, providing a pleasant distraction and talking point among friends. While my sporting active days are now over, other than regular modest work outs in my local gym and occasional brisk walks, I still follow a variety of sports, even when in far away places where there is no access to the Internet, e.g. today’s news item of note is that England lost the first cricket test unsurprisingly against Pakistan. I thought by way of an agreeable interlude, I will reflect on what is happening in the sporting world as at this present point in time, realising more developments are to follow and I see things from a mainly English perspective. I should say British but as other members of the UK can be antipathetic toward English success, I feel the same about them, although the more noble part of me loves to see sport played out in a sporting way and where the spectacle on offer is one of excellence. Most of the sports I have participated in days gone by to a (very) modest level of attainment, but at least I reflect on the bit piece picture that comes my way, realising this time despite taking a keen interest I have not watched all that much.
Unlike many of my sporting interest friends, I am increasingly becoming disinterested in top level football. At the end of the football season just gone there was the prospect of unlikely Leicester being crowned Premier league champions and was challenged until toward the end by Spurs, a club I supported in my youth, who in the end ran out of steam. The big clubs disappointed, failing on the whole miserably in Europe where much is often expected and I don’t even recall the FA Cup winner. For my own team, Southend United, it was a story of what could have been, but it was never enough. While there was a fairy tale ending with Leicester being deservedly crowned champions, unsportsmanlike shenanigans toward the end left a bitter taste. The European (nations) Cup followed. England did enough to qualify from their group without impressing and would have been expected to overcome Iceland in the next round where they would then up a gear and thereafter steadily improve, hopefully. They miserably failed to do so with many who were disappointed and recriminations to follow. Seeing how France later managed to overcome Iceland with relative ease left one wondering what might have been. Wales were the unexpected find of the tournament, which in the main was lack lustre. Portugal proved worthy, albeit unexpected, champions, and for the first time, showing a good deal of team spirit and honest graft, beating France the hosts and favorites, and deservedly so.
There is of course my own county Essex with hopeful aspirations, at least until a recent loss. But eyes are mainly on the England team. Their win in the Sri Lanka series was impressive and was one that left us hoping the team were on its way to cricketing greatness, although in truth they were not over extended, especially in the areas they were weakest. While my interest is mainly in Test cricket it was good to see “my team” do well in the limited overs game. Pakistan, however, presented a different challenge going by the first Test and in the light of their recent isolation given internal problems it has been a pleasant surprise. Them performing so admirably and with such style, with bat and ball, was a delight to watch, despite England losing. I for one look forward to the rest of the series, hoping “our boys” will come good again, but more importantly good cricket is played. (I return home to find our boys have convincingly beaten Pakistan in the Second Test, in what is shaping up to be a compelling series that is being played in the right spirit – ed)
And here I am talking about the “Union” form. Not a summer sport to consider normally, other than once in every four years when the World Cup is held. But then there are the summer tours down under where in the past we have been used to disappointments and the occasional Lions tours, the last one being as I recall an impressive victory over the Springboks. This time England exceeded all expectations by managing to pull off a superb 3-0 whitewash against the Australians. Given the poor state and disarray of the team a short while previously, the impressive turn around was quite heart warming and seeing the manner of their wins and the excellent performances is maybe the highlight of the season so far. One irony though, like the successful Cricket team, the coach is Australian.
For Tennis, read Wimbledon, and from a British point of view it is often a matter can a Briton remain in the competition into the second week? One did as it happened, and that was Andy Murray, who then went on to win the men’s single’s title, and he wasn’t even English. I understand other Britons did well too and once again veteran Serena Williams won the woman’s competition.
I didn’t get to follow much the golf this time round and I don’t even know who won the “four majors”, but in past years I have keenly followed the US Masters held at its beautifully spectacular home in Augusta, Georgia and later the distinctly British Opens, wherever it happens to be held. I find these events captivating.
In recent years this has been a sport the British have excelled in, especially the Tour de France, where victory in the not that long ago past was but a distant dream. While not doing much more than read occasional reports, it does seem that British success is once again a realistic possibility. (And so it proved to be – Britain’s Chris Froome has won the Tour for the third time – ed).
But as I say, I present a snapshot of the summer (2016) of sport from the perspective of an Englishman who is a fan with particular sporting interests, expecting further developments, some of which will be unforeseen, which I can blog about by the time the summer ends. Soon, we will see the highlight of a summer of sport, the Olympics in Rio. The Olympics will no doubt overshadow all other sporting events. I am posting just prior to this keenly anticipated series of events starting, hoping and expecting when the Olympics have ended I will be able to look back on a great spectacle and, hopefully, a fitting climax to an excellent summer of sport.