THEIR words – and actions – have come to represent the best and worst of sport in a soul-searching 36 hours in which the bravery and humility of a young cerebral palsy sufferer from Doncaster has exposed the corrupt actions and motives of the godfathers of world football.
Even though Andy Murray beat Yorkshire’s Kevin Sinfield and Jessica Ennis-Hill to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the real show-stopper was eight-year-old Bailey Matthews who won the Helen Rollason award, presented in memory of the late broadcaster, for overcoming his disability to complete a triathlon at Castle Howard.
His determination to cross the finish line without assistance highlighted not only the purity of sport, but its ability to inspire. These tear-jerking images went viral on the internet and gave hope to so many people who have the misfortune to be disabled. There was not a dry in eye in the house when this determined young man said he wanted to complete “five” triathlons before an emotional radio interview with John Inverdale in which he said he just wants to be himself when he grows up. How enchanting – and endearing.
Compare and contrast this Corinthianism with the extent to which Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the two most powerful men in world football, tainted the so-called beautiful game with their mercenary actions, and which have thankfully resulted in eight-year bans. Here were two men who put greed and self-interest before the opportunity to make football a force for good in a troubled world.
For, while football and the triathlon have little in common, the point is this: sport has inspired Bailey Matthews and he is clearly determined to seize the moment. That must be the motivating factor of those leaders who are entrusted with the future of football – or any other sport for that matter. Their primary duty must always be to the children of the world.
Labour at war: Corbyn survives first 100 days
TO the dismay of many Labour MPs, Jeremy Corbyn has survived his first 100 days as party leader. And he’s likely, diplomatic incidents permitting, to survive the next 100 – any change isn’t likely to happen until after May’s local elections.
Yet, perversely, a leadership hiatus may actually make matters worse because the left-wing views of party activists – the very people who elected Mr Corbyn by such an overwhelming margin – are so at odds with those of a Parliamentary party which is more moderate. Given this fracture, it would be quite plausible for Mr Corbyn to be replaced by one of John McDonnell or Diane Abbott whose approach would be even more polarising.
On this basis, perhaps Ed Miliband – the Doncaster North MP who resigned the leadership on the morning of May 8 – was not so bad after all with his ‘Britain must do better’ mantra. At least he provided an alternative of sorts to the Conservatives while the party retained a degree of unanimity.
If only the same could be said about the recent Parliamentary vote on Syria airstrikes where Mr Corbyn’s non-intervention was totally at odds with the stance taken by his foreign affairs spokesman Hilary Benn who spoke bravely, and compassionately, in favour of the Government extending the remit of the RAF in the Middle East. This split encapsulated Labour’s civil war. Unless the party can unite on the key issues, domestic and international, it will not command credibility – irrespective of the leader. It’s that bad and the party’s traumas are likely to get worse in 2016 before they have any chance of improving for the better.
Christmas spirit: Sanctity of Christian traditions
EVEN though Christmas remains a day of work for some, most notably those who are employed by the care and emergency services, the sanctity of this holy day in the Christian calendar is in danger of being undermined by the demands of a consumer-driven society.
This is borne out by the fact that 900,000 people – a record number – will be expected to work on Friday, with many employed by the retail industry. Is this really necessary or is there a depressing inevitability, just like Sundays before the relaxation of trading laws, that Christmas Day will become just another day because its meaning is now lost on younger generations?
Is it not too much to ask to spare one day of the year for families, and personal reflection, or is modern Britain in danger of becoming too selfish, and insular, for its own good? This, after all, is still a Christian country – and one that will become much diminished if the true spirit of Christmas is not cherished.