Rashid and Hales right to choose white ball cricket

With the amount of money now available white-ball cricket, players are turning their back on the longer format of the game.

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Jack Witham

With the amount of money now available white-ball cricket, players are turning their back on the longer format of the game.

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Alex Hales playing for England ©Ben Sutherland

As many of you will already know, both Adil Rashid and Alex Hales have both agreed to only play white ball cricket for their counties. For fans of Nottinghamshire, or fans of Yorkshire, this decision might seem like the wrong move. For England fans though, they will see this as a step in the right direction, and hope that many other English players follow suit. It’s about time the International team took first priority.

For many county cricket fans the red ball game should come first, but the bigger picture has to be looked at. Adil and Alex will both want to be as white ball prepared as they possibly can be, and with the tournament being played in England and Wales, the nation must fancy their chances of winning a first ever World Cup, adding to the three runners up medals. Hales was overlooked in the 2015 World Cup, only playing twice, making scores of 27 and 37 as England yet again suffered a miserable time at a major tournament. Adil did not make the squad for the 2015 World Cup. He was left at home, whilst ‘Tricky’ James Tredwell got the nod. A slightly odd decision to pick a spinner who doesn’t spin a ball.

Since this tournament, England have changed their playing style, very much suiting Hales and Rashid. Captain Eoin Morgan installed a brand of cricket allowing players to play with freedom. Rashid has been a huge factor in England’s recent upturn in form. A spinner who can spin the ball both ways, creating confusion for the batsmen, finally England have got one.

It certainly will be nice for England fans to have one of these bowlers in their team, rather than watching the batsmen get traumatised by mystery spinners. In fact, since the end of the 2015 World Cup, Rashid has picked up the most wickets out of anybody in ODI cricket (Dec 2017). Wonder now why he wants to just focus on his white ball skills? He really is an unsung hero in the England side.

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Adil Rashid playing for England ©Ben Sutherland

Okay, he picks up wickets in the longer format, but he has to completely adapt his game. He has a field designed for him in ODIs. He will bowl the odd bad ball; he’s a wrist spinner, only Shane Warne doesn’t bowl bad balls. With his field, he can often get away with this. Not in the 4 day stuff. He can go through his variations in ODIs, when he knows the batsmen will be coming after him. Not in the 4 Day stuff when they know a bad ball is just around the corner. He didn’t have a very successful test career, despite taking a five wicket hall on debut. A strike rate of 66 in tests is compared to a strike rate of 35 in ODIs, showing which format he thrives in more. Surely this shows his decision is a good choice, why would we want him to change his skills again?

The chance for the English International players to go and play overseas is surely an appeal to all. There is no hiding that in the Sub Continent, England have really struggled. Fair enough only a certain few have been selected to play in the IPL, but that’s an improvement on previous years. With Ben Stokes in the team, the country can easily argue that they have the most valuable player in International cricket playing for our country. For England, that doesn’t happen often.

Both Hales and Rashid have secured CPL deals. England should be encouraging the rest of their international stars to do the same, rather than seeing them play in April, playing a dull brand of cricket. Rashid is not likely to get much of a bowl early on in the season, when the wickets are green and slightly damp, favouring faster bowlers.

Simon Hughes researched that if Adil Rashid played every white ball game for Yorkshire this upcoming season, regarding he bowled his maximum amount every game, he would bowl 136 overs. He bowled 290 in the 2015 season. This would amass to over 400 overs without including is England duties. Even for a leg spinner, that’s a lot of overs.

He recently admitted that his head wasn’t fully there when playing red ball cricket, so surely he’s doing Yorkshire a favour by not playing.

Fans of the current England One Day International team may be happy to see players signing white ball deals, but for some fans of the county game and lovers of the longer format, it is evident why this might start to worry people. If people are starting to do it now, big names as well, then surely this might be the catalyst for more people to do so.

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Is there a lack of interest in longer forms of cricket? ©JMSPORTPIX

For the traditional fan, this could be damaging, as the county game could start to deteriorate even more than it is now. Already low crowds could become even worse if popular names are not participating. There has to be worries about certain players. Players such as Chris Jordan, Sam Billings, Jason Roy and Jos Buttler are very much classed as One Day specialists. Could this mean they may also be about to sign the dotted line on a white ball deal with their respective counties?

For some counties, this concern won’t be as big as it is for others. Look Yorkshire for one. With Adil Rashid already focusing just on the white ball, there is concern others may follow suit. David Willey and Liam Plunkett are two huge players for Yorkshire, probably players Yorkshire can’t afford to lose, but maybe they want to keep their skills for the white ball game as well.

It also brings the question “Is Test Cricket Dying”. Players now aren’t even considering playing test cricket, and younger players seem to have all the shots in the book, but can’t see out a day’s play. Not like Boycott who really would drop an anchor at one end. That’s classed as the good old days, not the modern era.

So white ball contracts seem to be the most talked about thing in English cricket at the moment. The question is how many rather than if it will continue, because there is no doubt that many players will follow suit. It won’t just be in this country, but many others will also have just white ball contracts.

Jack Witham

 

 

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Nature and nurture: Is English football losing touch with the national team?

After a series of scandals and poor performances, the English Football team are facing a crisis of faith from their supporters.

Rosie Tudball

After a series of scandals and poor performances, the English Football team are facing a crisis of faith from their supporters.

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Russia will host the 2018 World Cup ©Kremlin.ru

The 2018 World Cup is nearly upon us, and after multiple disappointments at major international competitions, the question must be pondered, when will the English national team be successful again?

The past heroes of English football have hung up their boots on the international stage, which leaves heavy legacies to carry for the current England internationals. It’s one of the highest honours in football, and sport in general to represent your country, however, this feeling of national pride in English football has perhaps vanished over the years.

What is to blame?

There are many points of question with regard to the national team, a lack of consistent management being one of a number of issues, another being a severe lack of professional cohesion in the public eye outside of the comforts of the pitch.

With English football comes English football culture. Football in England was regarded as a sport for the working class, at times when hooliganism was rife and alerting, the modern game was still in development. With deep sociological roots to the game, comes a sense of national tradition, a behaviour associated with the sport specifically in England. The country has possessed a huge array of footballing talent over the years; it has also carried countless numbers of unprofessional scandals at the hands of its national representatives.

While revising past success comes revising past mistakes, some mistakes occurring off the pitch where the actions of prolific English players have faced repercussions in the public eye. Such actions aren’t just damaging their legacy but their ability to conform to the title of a role model on the international stage. It could be thought that when such behaviours are portrayed, are national players taking their positions in the national team for granted?  Such questions are elements of the decline of national football – reflecting poorly on results and national support and expectation at major competition.

The story of the lack of professionalism around the English national team camp is best signified when comparing the structure to that of other national teams. The German national team is rigid from the get-go, when a young player is acknowledged by his national team at youth level, he is taught to play the German national team way, with the expectation that he will one day be a senior international. The youth players aren’t regarded as wholly successful until they have reached the peak and played a part in the senior team, however in England, young players are seemingly given far more freedom. Whether this be positive or negative is unknown, however when revising the numbers and quality of young English talent budding through the international ranks in comparison to Germany for example, it’s questionable.

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England u21s vs Germany u21s ©Sven Mandel

The nature of the Premier League is also something to raise, considering its conflicting attitude towards English players and their relationship with the press. Players are either adored to the point of overhype or scrutinised to the point that they become a villain to all but their club’s fans. English football is very club over country orientated, and so, the sense of togetherness between fans when it comes to backing the team is less of a unity, and one player of a club is always to blame – there’s always opposition within the fan base.

It links back in the modern game to importance and ego, when young players break-through in England, it can be a disaster. Clubs and the media seem to react in an animalistic way, as if they’ve never seen young talent of a certain magnitude. It becomes a toxic cycle of the media hijacking the success, welded with clubs offering ludicrous amounts of money to young players, giving them a feel of high worth – as they should – and sometimes a polished ego. Giving young talent so much financial power so young can be damaging, and in the viewpoint of young English nationals, the pressure can be too much.

Professionals in the public eye

As stated, young English players often face an uphill battle with the media, especially at the point where their careers begin to flourish. Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish is an example of how the media’s manipulation can make or break a career. Grealish, born and raised in England, decided to invest his national loyalty with Ireland, as he chose to represent the Republic of Ireland at international level over England.

There could be a number of reasons as to why the-then 19-year-old decided to represent the country of his Grandparents; however, one glaring reason is the role of English press in breaking down his development. Take it back to the summer of 2015, Grealish was emerging as an exciting talent in English football, his contributions to his boyhood club, Villa, had earned them a place in the upcoming FA Cup final against Arsenal after showcasing a man of the match performance in the semi-final against Liverpool.

 

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©Ben Sutherland

As Grealish’s career began to hit the headlines, it all came crashing down as The Sun released images of the young star in a drunken state lying on the street, along with information of him inhaling Nitrous Oxide at a party. The images, despite being unprofessional and controversial, were taken 6 months before the date they were published, in what was portrayed as The Sun’s attempt to trip Grealish up on his road to stardom on the English football scene.

Grealish was suspended and was discredited greatly for a period of time by the press, stripping his confidence bare and causing a rebuild of his career. Grealish is finally on the path to restoring his form of 2015, playing in the Championship with Villa.

The theme, and issue, of the press having an invasive relationship with English players is that it has become a regular occurrence that an international finds himself on the wrong side of the road with the media, giving English players and of course the national team, a negative name.

From Jack Wilshere, to Dele Alli, to Raheem Sterling, young English stars have faced the bright spotlights of the media in a way less desired than how they had hoped. The three have things in common, they’re all playing in the country’s top division, they’re all playing for top clubs, they all represent the national team, and they’ve all been caught doing things they shouldn’t be.

Former England captain John Terry has been at the centre of media attention multiple times in his career, as has fellow former captain Wayne Rooney. While the two have had formidable careers on the field, their actions away from the game have arguably smudged their golden legacies as English internationals and Premier League legends.

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John Terry has previously been scrutinised in the media ©Paulblank

Two weeks ago, it came to the attention of the press that West Bromwich Albion players had been causing trouble whilst on a training trip to Barcelona. Four players stole a taxi in the early hours of a morning, which was news collected by journalists with salivating mouths.

The most alarming thing about the situation wasn’t just the fact that the four in question were professionals fighting a relegation scrap back in England, but also that the Premier League’s longest serving player, Gareth Barry was one of the four.

Gareth Barry poses as one of the poster boy professionals in English football, with a clear record of personal scandal behind him, alongside a solid Premier League record and an admirable leader in the game. The national uproar when a young player in particular is in the wrong is colossal, but when looking back into the pasts of former England internationals, whom are these players learning to act better from?

Young players and people of the English sporting body would look up to the careers of Barry and the former captains as model professionals, a visage splashed by moments of totally unnecessary madness.

It’s these seemingly annual moments of madness that are dampening the spirits of the English national team, and their reputation as some serious and honourable professionals. It is communicated sometimes that the pride to play for your country is not there, as is the discipline to be, and act as a player representing your country at all times.

An upgrade of maturity and desire is essential

Spirits are dampened by a disunited crowd, a team disunited by individual media portrayal, and a nation crying out for a consistent high-quality manager to serve discipline and cohesion on the pitch to lift the footballing spirits of the nation, away from the comfort of the Premier League.

The Three Lions need to show their hunger and desire where it matters most, Russia is their stage, can they perform?

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Why cricket is so important for Afghanistan

World Cups, IPL players and the introduction of Test Cricket. The amazing story of a war-torn nation changing the face of sport.

Liam Moore

World Cups, IPL players and the introduction of Test Cricket. The amazing story of a war-torn nation changing the face of sport.

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© By Spc. Michael Germundson

You would be excused if the initial thought of Afghanistan that entered your mind would be war. It could even be conflict, violence or corruption. Thankfully, the nation’s cricket team is changing that perception as they continue to rise to the highest level of the sport.

Many children dream of playing for their country; returning to their safe neighbourhood and having the leisure of watching live cricket throughout the year. For Afghans, this way of life is simply non-existent. Since the 1970’s, Afghanistan have been plagued with war. In 1979, The Soviet government invaded the country, propping up a communist government. They would occupy the land for ten years before moving on, allowing a civil war to break out.

In 1997, the Taliban were recognised by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as the rulers of the country. The organisation had over two thirds of the nation under their control and enforced hard-line Islamic beliefs. Two years prior to this, two Afghan refugees established the Afghanistan Cricket Federation (AFC) in 1995. Taj Malik and Allah Dad Noori were currently residing just outside of Peshawar, which was a popular northern city in Pakistan that many Afghan refugees settled in.

Unfortunately for the residents of the Asian country, the conflict did not come to a halt. After the terrorist attack that took place on the World Trade Centre in 2001, then president of the United States, George Bush, responded by launching missiles into Afghanistan. What followed would be years of conflict, as both the United States and the United Kingdom deployed troops into the country. Those troops are still present in war-torn Afghanistan, desperately fighting the Taliban – a conflict that has lasted for 17 years. It would appear implausible, amidst all the devastation the country has had to endure, that something sensational was quietly brimming.

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©Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=466186

1999 was a memorable year for the AFC. Stuart Bentham, who was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club, was present in Afghanistan as he was on a business meeting. At the time, the Afghan national cricket team were training in Kabul. Bentham witnessed the team in action and was inspired to help the nation obtain better cricketing equipment. Once he arrived back in England he persuaded the MCC to donate, further supporting Afghanistan’s cause for international status.

The fall of the Taliban saw a lot of refugees return home which rapidly increased the growth of the sport in the country. In 2003, the ACF held their first trials for the national team. This truly was the start of something special happening to the country as the years that followed would bring much success.

Only 12 years after its establishment, Afghanistan had won its first tournament. The Asian Cricket Council T20 Tournament was an event for the lower ranked nations throughout Asia. Afghanistan were joint winners after their final against Oman finished as a tie. In 2010, Afghanistan recorded their biggest victory of that time after defeating Ireland for a place in the T20 World Cup. They had done it. They finally reached the global stage of cricket. Unfortunately, they didn’t win a single game of the competition. Nevertheless, this was a big stepping stone for the country.

From 2013, the progress the nation made was simply remarkable. Due to consistently good performances, Afghanistan were promoted to associate from affiliate by the International Cricket Committee (ICC). They also qualified for their first 50-over World Cup, beating Scotland to make history for the newly promoted country.

Three years later and Afghanistan were at it again. The 2016 T20 World Cup was hosted by India and Afghanistan won their group, beating all three teams. Their group consisted of Scotland, Hong Kong and Test-playing nation Zimbabwe. For the first time in their history, they had qualified for the second round of an ICC competition. They did not progress further, but they did give England a scare when they reduced them to 57-6 and they beat eventual winners West Indies.

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©Harrias  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11432547

These dates mentioned are imperative to understand the progress Afghanistan have made. However, none of these dates can compete with the event that took place last year. On June the 22nd 2017, the ICC introduced the country as a Test playing nation. For those who are not too fond of cricket – there is no higher status than being a Test playing nation. Many professionals around the world took to social media to congratulate the nation on its incredible progression. They are expected to play their inaugural Test match in 2018 and have become the first admission – along with Ireland – to Test cricket since Bangladesh in 2000, when Afghanistan were only five years old as a cricketing nation.

Despite being surrounded by war or being plagued with violence, Afghanistan have refused to bow out. The Telegraph reported that cricket was so popular in Afghanistan, even the Taliban were playing the sport. Speaking to Tim Wigmore, country captain Mohammad Nabi said: “It brings peace to every tribe”. So, it would appear cricket is beyond a sport for this small Asian country. Cricket has represented itself as an escape for many residents of Afghanistan who have become accustomed to daily violence.

Unfortunately, it is still no simple task for Afghanistan to play cricket. There is still conflict in their country and they are forced to play their ‘home’ games in the Indian city of Noida due to safety concerns. Debatably, there is one man who can epitomise playing professional cricket in Afghanistan better than any other – former New Zealand coach Andy Moles. Moles, who spoke to The Cricket Monthly, coached the team during the 2015 World Cup and his own submission of training allows one to grasp what life is like for Afghan residents:

“Sometimes you hear a boom go off somewhere when coaching in the middle. You see Black Hawk helicopters flying over the ground, going on missions and coming back. It’s Like coaching in a war movie. Actually, it is a very surreal situation because I don’t feel threatened. I don’t feel scared when leaving for work in the morning.”

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©Master Sgt. Brian Boisvert https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39405576

The players the nation are nurturing are worth mentioning, too. Rashid Khan, a 19-year-old leg-spinner who is a key figure in the Afghanistan cricket team has completely taken the world by storm. He’s ranked first in the world in both the ICC T20 and One Day International (ODI) bowling rankings. The incredibly skilled youngster has already taken 86 wickets in ODI cricket. He is a role-model for young cricket fans in Afghanistan. They have someone to look up to, someone who they would like to emulate one day.

Afghanistan have been welcomed into an elite set of cricket nations and continue to rise. The accomplishments of those involved will always be remembered for bringing joy to a country that has suffered for far too .

Liam Moore

Obsessive shortening of sports: Is humanity’s attention span dwindling that much?

Americanised, short format sport is taking away the pure style that has been played for hundreds of years.

Harry Everett

Americanised, short format sport is taking away the pure style that has been played for hundreds of years.

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©Sportexamined

Twenty20 cricket becoming T10 cricket, Tie Break Tens and Fast4 Tennis, Golf Sixes are all examples of traditional English sports being shortened to try and generate more interest. Injected razzmatazz from loud, pumping music, to freebie flags and signed equipment all have the idea of appealing to the lesser sports fan.

But does all this Americanised, short format sport take away from the pure form of the sport that has been played on our shores for hundreds of years?

What if Novak Djokovic or Rafa Nadal was to obtain a serious injury during the Tie Break Tens, four days before the Australian Open which puts them out of the entire first Grand Slam of the season? Yes, injuries can be obtained doing almost anything in life, but a risk/benefit analysis comparison can weigh up what it’s best or worthwhile partaking in. When the pay-cheque is $250,000 for three tie-breaks to 10 matches, it is easy to see why some of the biggest names signed up to the third event of this type in the Margaret Court Arena last month.

Golf is perceived to be one of the slowest, dullest sports to watch by many, but the introduction of a shot clock, very similar to the 30 second countdown used between Tennis serves, is hoping to change that. There has also been the increased participation in Speed Golf of late. The inaugural World Championships in 2012 show that this sport is being taken seriously worldwide and offering yet another variation on a quintessential British sport. The professional golfers well known globally do not participate in this new phenomenon of Speed Golf, it is an entirely new form of the sport, allowing a completely different crowd of people into a sport under the `umbrella title’ of golf.

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©Sportexamined

It’s worth recognising that not all sports have only had reduced forms created in recent times, Rugby Sevens was played as far back as the 1880s in Scotland. The world-famous Hong Kong Sevens event was launched in 1976 and has inspired many other tournaments from Wellington to Dubai to spring up and, come the turn of the millennium, form the World Rugby Sevens Series. This competition has since expanded to consist of ten tournaments in ten different countries, played in five different continents. Ruby Sevens is loved for more attacking, ball-carrying rugby, but others could argue Rugby League provides this over Rugby Union, it could be argued Sevens simply takes the League principles to even more of an extreme away from the scrums of Rugby Union. Rugby players tend to commit and be an expert in one particular format, but this does not stop players switching codes or dabbling in playing sevens as part of a professional Rugby Union/League career.

Cricketers however commonly play three different formats at professional level, whilst at grass-roots, club cricket leagues are only played as one-day competitions in England. The problem of players having to work meaning they can often only give up one day at a weekend to play the sport. It would be interesting to see how many current club cricketers would be interested in playing numerous-day cricket if it were offered to them though. Cricket is perceived to be a very slow-moving sport, and this is a fair description of the longer formats in the professional game. During T20 cricket however, fielders spend far less time faffing about between balls and overs, they all run to their fielding positions quickly, not waiting for the captain’s instructions, knowing exactly where they are wanted for a left or right-hander respectively. You do not see this in test cricket as much, when they are only expected to get through 13 overs in an hour, and that is without regular fetching of balls back from the crowd. If test cricketers were encouraged to hurry up a little between balls, thus speeding the game up as a whole, it could encourage more people to spectate and keep more people captivated in an age-old traditional sport. Players are so fit these days that the skill-level would unlikely deteriorate if the Umpires encouraged swifter movements between deliveries.

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Is red ball Cricket fading? ©JMSPORTPIX

If you were to (like me) have followed nearly every match of the recent India tour of South Africa you would notice that there was far more interest and Social Media comment on the South Africa v India test matches than the one-day matches, despite the former being very low scoring affairs. The perception that modern cricket fans only want to see big sixes launched into the crowd is not as widely thought. Some of the most exciting matches in all formats in recent years have been on bowler-friendly-pitches where both sides have really struggled to get the ball to the boundary, requiring real skill and concentration from determined batsmen to do their job. It would be silly of me to say that test cricket is not, to some extent, dying amid the short form love-in, but different people have different desires as sports spectators and because of that these new creations of short format sports should not have to extinguish the traditional longer forms. All forms of tennis, golf and cricket should be allowed to co-exist in harmony and the fan allowed to follow whichever format(s) they wish, as it seems to work quite fine in the different forms of Rugby.

Harry Everett

Irish born soccer players: chasing the dream across the water

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

Ryan Adams

The first in a fascinating three-part series focusing on Irish football players leaving their homeland to pursue a professional football career.

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©JMSPORTPIX

Who wouldn’t want to become a professional football player? The designer cars, houses, watches and clothes; the glamorous holidays in paradise; thousands of fans singing your name on a weekly basis; being the envy of many men and women; and being publicly adored for doing what you love. Within the higher levels of the men’s professional ranks – it would seem – these people are living out their dream whilst earning in a week what many working class households would be lucky to earn in a year, maybe even two years. The perceived lifestyle of these privileged individuals has some understandable pull factors, which is why many young men will go to extreme lengths in pursuing this career.

When coming from a country that doesn’t offer professional football, however, chasing the dream may become somewhat complicated. In this three-part series for SportExamined.com, I aim to shed some light on the truths, challenges and pitfalls of Irish-born football players in the pursuit of their aspiration to one day make it in the upper echelons of the game. This first article will set the scene for the series with an outline of the nature of football in Ireland and what processes a player must endure to get an opportunity at a professional club; the second will highlight the experiences of many players living life as a football migrant; and finally the third article of this series will examine the challenges of players who were deselected prematurely, and what they face upon returning to their homeland.

Irish football clubs, both North and South of the border, have traditionally only been able to offer low-wage contracts to the islands best talent. Problematic league structures mean that Irish football is predominantly part-time – part-time wages, part-time coaching, part-time training and an overall part-time mentality. Thus, for aspiring football talent in Ireland aiming to successfully attain a professional career in the game, outward mobility is a necessity. These young players yearn to one day cross the Irish Sea into the footballing ranks in England or Scotland, which are the most common destinations for those deemed talented enough to warrant one of the very limited spaces at a professional club. The crossing of the Irish Sea has given prominence for the term ‘across the water’ to be used commonly within footballing circles in Ireland. Parents, coaches and significant others will often express how they believe their star player will ‘make it across the water’.

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©Sportexamined

However this is a highly coveted dream, and to merely even knock the door of a professional club, young players must consistently perform on the pitch from a very young age. Talent scouts, like in most countries, are tasked with visually examining the thousands of young Irish grassroots players hopeful of one day becoming the next George Best or Roy Keane. These scouts subjectively siphon through the masses in order to find a gem, a needle in the footballing haystack that may just be potentially skilled enough to make it at the club they represent. After a thorough and rigorous scouting process, in which the player is observed on several occasions, they will be invited to the professional club for a trial.

Preparing for a football trial is a daunting and nerve-racking experience for young players. This is exacerbated if the player must travel to another country in order to attend. At just sixteen or seventeen years of age, players will travel on a plane or boat to attend what is essentially an assessment which may define the rest of their entire life. These young men often partake in this journey feeling anxious and apprehensive about what the club will think of their footballing ability. When attending the trials, players have cited how isolation may become a factor both on and off the field. Trials are a cut-throat event and every player is a threat to one-another as they are all competing for limited places at the club. Being the only Irish-born player at a particular trial has its difficulties when trying to integrate with players of English and Scottish nationalities, especially if the other players already know and have played with or against one-another. It would seem the Irish player is often the outcast before the trial has begun. Of course this isn’t the case at all clubs, but with players being ‘thrown in’ to the trial without as much as getting to meet the rest of the group, the Irish-born player has little opportunity to develop a rapport with anyone.

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©Sportexamined

Failures at this stage are more common than successes. Many will fall at this hurdle, being told by the club coaches that they ‘aren’t the right fit’ or ‘not what they are looking for’. Some players are fortunate enough to be offered trials at various clubs, whereas for others their only opportunity came once and they must hope for one day to be offered another trial. For those who are unsuccessful at the trial stage, the reality sinks in that they must start planning for a career outside of football. Having gotten a bite at the cherry and not progressed, players at this point will normally accept that football will merely be a pipe-dream.

Should the player be successful or indeed if the club believes they are talented enough to skip the trial process – albeit the latter is rare – there are commonly two possibilities. They will be offered a scholarship contract, formally known as a Youth Training Scheme (YTS); or they will be directly signed on a professional contract – again, this possibility is scarce. For individuals entering via the former, the aim is to be signed professionally after their scholarship which normally lasts a maximum of two years. For these players, they must start planning for life away from Ireland and into the precarious world of professional football, where a different series of challenges await.

The next article of this three-part series will shed light on the experiences of Irish-born football migrants whilst at their host club/country. It will examine the challenges of preparing to move away from home, living away from family, the issues many face in their new job, dealing with life as a professional footballer, overcoming boredom, handling injuries and how homesickness may impact on their lives.

Ryan Adams

About the author: Ryan Adams is a PhD student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. His topic specifically focuses on the post-migration experiences of Irish-born football players who have been deselected from their professional clubs. Ryan holds a BSc degree in Sport: Theory and Practice; and an MSc in Sports Development and Coaching. His previous research has focused on player development strategies within the Irish Football Association; and ‘pre, during and post’ migration experiences amongst Irish-born football players. He is also an amateur football manager, having previously managed in the Northern Amateur Football League and Mid-Ulster Football League in Northern Ireland.

Follow on Twitter: @Ryan_Adams11 – Any feedback, critique or questions on this article are welcomed.

How ‘active’ is physical activity for children?

Henry Dorling

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©Sportexamined

With physical activity being claimed more frequently as the way to ‘cure’ children of sedentary ‘diseases’ in society, how difficult is to address this at the grass roots, where it really matters?

There is plenty of information out there that relates to the problem we have in this country with inactivity and it is of particular concern in children. Studies have concluded that non communicable diseases can be attributed to inactivity and that the issue is becoming more and more prevalent, particularly in young people. There is a clear need for a more active culture to be encouraged in society which may go some way to address the issues. UKactive have recently published a ‘blueprint’ to make the nation more active, Sport England published ‘Towards an Active Nation’ and the Government have written a new ‘Sporting Future’ strategy but how easy is it to implement this kind of policy at the grassroots, where it really matters and makes a difference? If it is young people who need to be targeted with this policy then school based interventions, helping to increase physical activity and an awareness of the benefits, should be encouraged and supported. Pupils in a school setting are a captive audience and spend the majority of their time in this environment and so it would make sense to use this time to benefit their health and well-being. In addition some studies have shown the benefits of increased activity and movement to their academic attainment and learning, so it would seem to make clear sense to combine physically active and movement based lessons and activities within the school curriculum to benefit them in many different ways. However, my experience of most primary schools is a sedentary learning culture, a ‘table-centric’ approach to learning. Yes there is PE (but less than there used to be) and yes they go outside at break times, however there is much less, indeed in some cases a total lack, of integrated physical activity and learning happening within schools. Why is this the case if schools are arguably the best environment for things like this to work? There are many obvious reasons but there seems to be an issue with the opportunity for children to access more physically active and movement based learning in what is already a convoluted and test-focussed curriculum. Indeed in 2012 the Conservative Government announced more testing of 7 year olds in the curriculum and as recently as this month (February 2018) announced further testing of pupils’ times tables, all of which will hardly allow teachers and pupils the perceived time and resources needed for a more physically active curriculum. Although primary schools are enthused by more physical activity based interventions and programmes and are keen to be part of them, they seem less likely to be able to fully embrace those opportunities to their full potential due to how fixed their cultural ideals are or by how restricted the Government has made things for them.

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©Sportexamined

If we are to really make a difference and change the inactivity culture, we all need to buy in to it and in particular in a school setting, they need to be given the freedom to try things, to understand what works and make it part of everyday school life. They should not focus on core academic subjects and leave no room for anything creative, in fact it should be the opposite; make more room for creativity in the form of movement and innovative physically active lessons which incorporates the academic subject matter, not separately but embedded as one. Many schools reduce the amount of physical activity in their curriculum and replace this with extra core curriculum subjects, however it seems clear that more physical activity in the classroom will reap many clear and tangible benefits. At Solent University a programme called EduMove (Education through Movement) attempts to bridge the gap between policy and practice by using innovative cross curricular methods to embed a physically active teaching and learning culture within primary schools. This programme is reaching out to many schools in order to offer Teachers and Senior Leaders a framework to more easily implement and embed the opportunities and methods they so desperately know work, but are unable to find the time or resources to deliver.

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Unused PE equipment ©Sportexamined

Policies and new ways of thinking about the value of physical activity such as the Sport England and Government strategies are a great starting point and set out many clear and relevant policy recommendations around physical activity, but what is does not do like many policy documents, is look at how realistic these are to implement, and how it sits alongside other related policy. For example, along with the call for an increase in a whole school approach to physical activity perhaps it should also recommend less testing in schools, more focus on integrated models of teaching and learning, more training of teachers in physical activity delivery, more funding, less focus on Ofsted, less red tape, and more time for Teachers and practitioners to get children inspired with movement and physical activity and an understanding of the benefits it brings, as opposed to spending half their week on admin, planning and tests. We are one step forward to embedding physical activity within society with these recent policy documents along with other relevant recommendations such as the British Heart Foundation’s document on physical activity for children and young people or the Government’s Change4 Life evidence review however we will be taking a number of steps back if it is all too difficult and unrealistic to implement programmes such as this in schools and communities where it really matters and can make a real difference. If it doesn’t happen then are we simply seeing policy rhetoric that will fall flat due to a lack of understanding about how to implement? Perhaps the Government and others need some physically active learning strategies of their own…..

Henry Dorling

 

Links to documents and websites

NCD and inactivity study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3645500/

 

Childhood inactivity

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/early/2017/02/05/bjsports-2016-096933

 

UKActive blueprint for an active britain

http://www.ukactive.com/downloads/managed/ukactives_Blueprint_for_an_Active_Britain_-_online.pdf

 

Sport England Towards and Active Nation

https://www.sportengland.org/news-and-features/news/2016/may/19/sport-england-triples-investment-in-tackling-inactivity/

 

Sporting Future strategy

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/486622/Sporting_Future_ACCESSIBLE.pdf

 

BBC news article on study linking academic performance and physical activity

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16363467

 

Link to Nicky Morgan reference

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34700911

 

Times tables tests

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43046142

 

Link to Government report on what works in schools and colleges

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/469703/What_works_in_schools_and_colleges_to_increas_physical_activity.pdf

 

clear and tangible benefits

https://journals.lww.com/acsm-tj/Pages/ArticleViewer.aspx?year=2018&issue=01010&article=00001&type=Abstract

EduMove

www.edumove.co.uk

Southampton Solent University

www.solent.ac.uk

 

BHF Physical activity for children and young people

http://www.bhfactive.org.uk/young-people-resources-and-publications-item/40/475/index.html

Change4 Life Evidence review

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/440747/Change4Life_Evidence_review_26062015.pdf

Academic References

Stierlin et al. (2015) A systematic review of determinants of sedentary behaviour in youth: a DEDIPAC study International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 12:133

 

Haapala EA, Poikkeus A-M, Kukkonen-Harjula K, Tompuri T, Lintu N, et al. (2014) Associations of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior with Academic Skills – A Follow-Up Study among Primary School Children. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107031

 

Howie, Erin K. and Pate, Russell R. (2012) Physical activity and academic achievement in children: A historical perspective; Journal of Sport and Health Science 1 (2012) 160-169 Elsevier

 

Catherine N. Rasberry , Sarah M. Lee , Leah Robin , B.A. Laris, Lisa A. Russell, Karin K. Coyle, Allison J. Nihiser (2011) The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance: A systematic review of the literature Journal of Preventive Medicine 52 (2011) S10–S20 Elsevier

 

Jaimie McMullen Pamela Kulinna Donetta Cothran (2014) Physical Activity Opportunities During the School Day: Classroom Teachers’ Perceptions of Using Activity Breaks in the Classroom; Journal of Teaching in Physical Education, 2014, 33, 511-527 Human Kinetics

 

Lee, I.-M., Shiroma, E. J., Lobelo, F., Puska, P., Blair, S. N., & Katzmarzyk, P. T. (2012). Impact of Physical Inactivity on the World’s Major Non-Communicable Diseases. Lancet, 380(9838), 219–229. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(12)61031-9

Farooq MA, Parkinson KN, Adamson AJ, et al Timing of the decline in physical activity in childhood and adolescence: Gateshead Millennium Cohort Study Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 13 March 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096933

 

Bartholomew, John B.; Jowers, Esbelle M.; Roberts, Gregory; Fall, Anna-Mária; Errisuriz, Vanessa L.; Vaughn, Sharon; Active Learning Increases Children’s Physical Activity across Demographic Subgroups; Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine: January 1, 2018 – Volume 3 – Issue 1 – p 1–9

 

Too Much Change in Sport: The Case of Basketball

Over the years, Basketball has turned itself into a global phenomenon. Is it time to take it that one step further?

Matteo Portoghese

Over the years, Basketball has turned itself into a global phenomenon. Is it time to take it that one step further?

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In modern day sports, federations and authorities do not fear change. Although tradition is still regarded as important, rules and championships formulas are often put under review and adjusted. Reasons are often related to the TV networks’ needs and asks, or they simply want to shape a product, easier to be sold to a wider audience.

But there is always a fine line between flexibility and indifference to history. In the 21st Century, several sports have decided to abolish competitions whose story dated back to the 19th Century, simply because they were considered useless by coaches or too old to the International public. The British Home Championship in football, the Ashes in rugby league, or the FIRA Tournament in rugby union to name a few.

Sports authorities often tend to suppress things instead of adapting them. For example basketball in the past has been very active in changing and modernising tournaments to create a better product. A limited-contact sport played on a rectangular court, it was created by the Canadian physical educator, physician, chaplain, sports coach and innovator James Naismith, who wrote the original rule book and launched its first University program. Originally played with a soccer ball, basketball is currently ranked in the Top 10 List of the World’s Most Popular Sports and is played worldwide, though still struggling in Commonwealth countries.

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European basketball ©Matteo Portoghese

Invented and developed in the US, the game expanded to Europe and other continents, with FIBA (International Basketball Federation) being formed in 1932 by eight founding nations: Argentina, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland. Things kept evolving and there has always been a gap between how the game was played in America and how it was played in other areas. This gap was was bigger than the one between European and South American football, rugby union and cricket in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the previous professional leagues developed a game whose style and gameplay grew somehow different than the FIBA one. Differentiation included not only gameplay rules (e.g.: Shot clock, game duration, referees’ attitude towards the traveling rule, etc.) but also the way club seasons were organized, and their schedule. Due to amateur and local games mostly depending on High School and College Sports, Northern American sports never appreciated promotion and relegation, while Europe and South America kept the heartland and local teams system, with regional linked to national leagues and teams transferred between multiple divisions based on their performance for the completed season. Rules of the game become unique and coherent in non-USA tournament, while college and professional leagues in the States kept their system closed to innovations from abroad. As they call World Series the series for their National title in professional Major League Baseball, they sometimes chose to call World Champions the NBA Finals winning team as well, regardless of the winner of the European Cup and the Campeonato Sudamericano de Clubes/ FIBA Americas. Championships in Europe kept P/R, and continental cup competitions looked like their football equivalent.

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European basketball ©Matteo Portoghese

In addition to this, the similarities between basketball and football in Europe included teams being often linked to multi sports club (PBC CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C., Panathinaikos B.C., Olympiacos B.C. dominated European Champions Cup together with proper basketball club like the Italian and Yugoslav giants). A European campaign after a National title become routine for big guns like Olimpia Milano or Ignis Varese, while the basketball played on the other side of the Atlantic remained the most viewed and loved by fans all over the world. American players became used to ending their careers in Europe, with the likes of Bob McAdoo, Dominique Wilkins, George Gervin, Darryl Dawkins, Artis Gilmore, etc. all enjoying their basketball in Italy, Greece, etc.

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European basketball ©Matteo Portoghese

But relationships and exchanges between the two sides of the Atlantic grew year after year, with a two-way connection made of coaches and players’ movement few sport can claim. This is the scenario that inspired FIBA, National and private authorities in building an NBA-looking basketball league in Europe. The aim was to maintain stability and push the big clubs from big metropolitan areas (Milan, Berlin. Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, Istanbul,, etc.): EuroLeague now operates under a league system. What have these teams become? A cross between a club and a franchise, I would say: they keep on playing in their local (national) championship but are guaranteed a place in a season-long continental championship: the regular season features a single group with a double round-robin, with he maximum number of games per team increased from 31 (old format) to 37. For instance, If you are Real Madrid or Barcelona you could have to add 37 European matches to a total of 32 Liga ACB games and playoff. The result is very similar to the NBA’s 82 games (41 each home and away) regular season.

Despite strategic plans and the sport’s ability to handle change, club and international basketball first-hand experienced how hard developing and flourishing a non P/R model in Europe can be. As a matter of fact, the 2015–17 FIBA–Euroleague controversy over the control of the premier European-wide professional competition, the threats of suspension of 14 national teams, together with the duplication of continental cups (qualification to the Basketball Champions League is based on sporting merits, famous teams like Lietuvos rytas, Košarkaški klub Partizan, Alba Berlin and Bayern Munich competes in the EuroCup, while FIBA Europe Cup is FIBA’s 2nd level competition) and trophies is creating confusions among fans regarding who plays who and why. Partizan currently competes in the Adriatic League (a private venture, founded in 2001), European basketball and the Serbian league. And of course, it goes without saying that P/R and franchise system do not work very well together (see The Rugby Football Union, who opened to the possibility of getting rid of promotion and relegation in the Premiership).

Basketball is a truly global sport trying to achieve the impossible. But suspension of disbelief could help: leaving aside all the above issues, it can be a great entertaining game. Fixtures like San Antonio v Golden State Warriors, or Fenerbahçe v Olympiacos here in Europe highlight this fact. It would be great if we could have the best teams playing each other for a real and meaningful World Club title.

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Immune function, nutrition and the athlete- Practical recommendations

It’s vital for athletes to take on the correct fuel before and after sport to perform at their peak. Here is our guide.

Ted Munson

It’s vital for athletes to take on the correct fuel before and after sport to perform at their peak. Here is our guide.

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Strong evidence indicates that physical activity influences immune function and risk of certain types of infection, such as upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). Many components of the immune system exhibit change after prolonged heavy exertion. During this ‘open window’ of altered immunity (which may last between 3 and 72 hours, depending on the parameter measured), viruses and bacteria may gain a foothold, increasing the risk of subclinical and clinical infection. Prolonged bouts of strenuous exercise have been shown to result in transient depression of white blood cell (leukocyte) functions which may be the cause of impaired immune function, increasing the risk of infection1. This review aims to explore the nutrition applications that aim to combat impaired immune function in athletes.

First and foremost, ensure a varied diet is consumed and do not neglect any macronutrients, especially carbohydrate that is an essential fuel for the cells of the immune system. High-carbohydrate diets are designed to keep the liver and muscle stores of glycogen high to ensure glucose/glycogen availability during exercise and may even help attenuate increases in stress hormone2. Aim to keep carbohydrate at 50% of energy intake and protein at least over 1.2g/kg. A common mistake/ method used by athletes is to reduce carbohydrate intake throughout winter to assist body composition while out of competition. While ”fuelling for the work required” is recommended3, fuelling with carbohydrate helps avoid chronic low energy availability. As a general rule of thumb, when exercising over 90 minutes, consume around 60g of carbohydrate per hour. This helps lower circulating stress hormone and anti-inflammatory cytokine responses, while delaying the symptoms of overreaching during intensive training periods4. Treat this particular session as your “train as you race session” and only practice low energy/ fasting during low- moderate exercise and ensure sufficient refuelling.

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When training sessions are performed with low carbohydrate availability, it is not recommended that this is done for more than a few days per week4. If the aim is “weight loss”, athletes are more likely to be infection prone, as such a multivitamin supplement may be beneficial to support restricted food intake4. Athletes reducing carbohydrate intake for training adaptations are risking reduced immune function and a balance must be struck weighing up body composition and keeping well. After fasted sessions with low energy availability, refuelling is key to bolster immunity. Current refuelling guidelines suggest the consumption of 1.0–1.2 g/kg/h within the first hour of exercise cessation and the continuation of a carbohydrate intake of 1.0–1.2 g/kg/h for 4–6 h, or until regular meals resume5.

Athletes should always “eat the rainbow” and take 5+ fruit and vegetable portions per day. Varying colours of fruit and vegetables should be consumed, with varying vitamins and minerals in each different food. For example, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K and A, while strawberries and kiwis are rich in vitamin C. Polyphenols are a large class of chemical compounds synthesized by fruits, vegetables and other plants that possess health benefits. Flavonoids are the best-defined group of polyphenols in the diet, providing flavour and colour to fruits and vegetables. There are six major subclasses of flavonoids, including flavonols, the subclass that includes quercetin – with research suggesting quercetin supplementation can have anti-inflammatory and pro immune effects, especially when coingested with other flavonoids and micronutrients6. Other evidence suggests that quercetin and green tea can reduce upper respiratory symptoms in highly physical active individuals4. Other flavonoids have also shown positive effects on immune function7 8. Always eat a varied diet and possibly supplement if undergoing periods of food restriction e.g travelling.

Vitamin D has a key role to play when maintaining a healthy immune system9, with many athletes deficient in the winter months5. During winter months, it is recommended to take a vitamin D supplement to avoid deficiency (25(OH) D G50 nmol/L)5. How much? A study on professional swimmers found that a daily vitamin d supplement containing 4000iu of vitamin d was enough to maintain levels for 6 months compared to a placebo10. Other supplements like probiotics may even reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infections by improving gut barrier function11 and may even reduce the duration and incidence of infections in elite Rugby players12. It has also been suggested to take a zinc supplement (e.g lozenge) at the onset of a cold or in the build-up to an important competition, in case a URTI begins at such an important time4.

Considering lifestyle based factors, increasing amounts of evidence suggest that sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on immune function, and that immune responses feed-back on sleep architecture13. A review examining the link between sleep and immunity concluded that sleep improves immune responses and that most immune cells have their peak pro-inflammatory activity at night13. Disruptions in endocrine and physiological circadian rhythms due to sleep deprivation may result in impaired immune responses14. In addition, while moderate exercise may benefit immune function and provide a range of health benefits, heavy exertion by endurance athletes leads to transient immunosuppression and increased risk of infection15. However, it is unclear what defines “heavy exercise” and may be individual depending on the athletes training status.

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More research needs to be done in applied athlete settings to determine conclusions of the effect of nutrition supplements on immune function. However, there is evidence to suggest the use of vitamin D, polyphenols (flavonoids), zinc and probiotics to help promote immune function. An athlete should place emphasis on consuming more fruit and vegetables along with a varied diet. While train low strategies may be practiced, it is important to “fuel for the work required” and fuel longer/ intense sessions for enhanced immune function.

 

Sources

  1. Walsh, N.P., M. Gleeson, R.J. Shephard, M. Gleeson, J.A. Woods, N.C.Bishop, M. Fleshner, C. Green, B.K. Pedersen, L. Hoffman-Goetz, C.J. Rogers, H. Northoff, A. Abbasi, and P. Simon (2011). Position Statement Part One: Immune function and exercise. Exercise Immunology Review, 17, 6-63.
  2. Venkatraman, J. T., & Pendergast, D. R. (2002). Effect of dietary intake on immune function in athletes. Sports Medicine32(5), 323-337.
  3. Impey, S. G., Hammond, K. M., Shepherd, S. O., Sharples, A. P., Stewart, C., Limb, M., & Close, G. L. (2016). Fuel for the work required: a practical approach to amalgamating train‐low paradigms for endurance athletes. Physiological Reports4(10), e12803.
  4. Gleeson, M. (2015). Effects of exercise on immune function. Sports Science Exchange28(151), 1-6.
  5. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise48(3), 543-568.
  6. Nieman, D. C., Henson, D. A., Maxwell, K. R., Williams, A. S., Mcanulty, S. R., Jin, F., & Lines, T. C. (2009). Effects of quercetin and EGCG on mitochondrial biogenesis and immunity. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise41(7), 1467-1475.
  7. Somerville, V. S., Braakhuis, A. J., & Hopkins, W. G. (2016). Effect of flavonoids on upper respiratory tract infections and immune function: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal7(3), 488-497.
  8. Zhang, H., & Tsao, R. (2016). Dietary polyphenols, oxidative stress and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Current Opinion in Food Science8, 33-42.
  9. Chun, R. F., Liu, P. T., Modlin, R. L., Adams, J. S., & Hewison, M. (2014). Impact of vitamin D on immune function: lessons learned from genome-wide analysis. Frontiers in Physiology5, 151
  10. Lewis, R. M., Redzic, M., & Thomas, D. T. (2013). The effects of season-long vitamin D supplementation on collegiate swimmers and divers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism23(5), 431-440.
  11. Mengheri, E. (2008). Health, probiotics, and inflammation. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology42, 177-178.
  12. Haywood, B. A., Black, K. E., Baker, D., McGarvey, J., Healey, P., & Brown, R. C. (2014). Probiotic supplementation reduces the duration and incidence of infections but not severity in elite rugby union players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport17(4), 356-360.
  13. Bollinger, T., Bollinger, A., Oster, H., & Solbach, W. (2010). Sleep, immunity, and circadian clocks: a mechanistic model. Gerontology56(6), 574-580.
  14. Halson, S. L. (2014). Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep. Sports Medicine44(1), 13-23.
  15. Nieman, D. C., & Pedersen, B. K. (1999). Exercise and immune function. Sports Medicine27(2), 73-80.

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Is football doing enough for the environment?

Forest Green Rovers are pioneering the way for eco-friendly football. How long until everyone else catches up?

Beth Fenner

Forest Green Rovers are pioneering the way for eco-friendly football. How long until everyone else catches up?

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Forest Green Rovers FC changing rooms (©Forest Green Rovers FC)

Forest Green Rovers. Hardly the titans of football in trophy terms. But they are pioneering when it comes to eco-friendly usage of their home stadium. Not only are they home to the first meat-free football menu, but they also boast a 100% organic pitch, solar and wind-powered ‘Mow-bot’ lawn mower and solar panel lined stadium roof. They even encourage players to car-share to training to lower CO2 emissions. So why don’t the more affluent teams further up the leagues do the same?

Climate change, a subject that would have taken centre stage just a few years ago has seemed to slip into the shadows once again since the controversies of Trump and Brexit have stolen the limelight and this transpires into the sporting world. Although the business of football has sky-rocketed in the past year with record-breaking signings and new goal-line technology, the impact the game has on the environment seems to have taken a back-seat. Sadly, this isn’t just a recent concern. At both the World Cups in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014, the amount of carbon emissions produced had increased by almost eight times the amount produced in the 2006 World Cup in Germany despite the advancements in renewable energy technology. With the 2018 World Cup set to produce at least 2.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, it is clear that the organisations representing football are still not doing enough to combat this issue.

Although the UK appears to be a nation committed to the care of the planet, alarmingly, it has one of the highest average household carbon footprints in Europe. This permeates the football world where a study has indicated that England was near the bottom of a list of Euro 2016 countries in relation to nation’s fans with the lowest carbon footprints when watching their team. The Carbon Trust indicated that, in fact, Iceland had the fans with the lowest implying that England is seriously lagging behind their European counterparts. A study has also suggested that football clubs higher up the English Football League produce the most carbon emissions, largely due to fans travelling from further afar to attend games. So if the bigger clubs are contributing more CO2 emissions than their lower league counter parts, how come they aren’t doing more about it?

Money surely can’t be a problem. The likes of Manchester United and Manchester City can afford to pay an average of over £100,000 to each of their players a week, yet they can’t seem to muster the money to help save our planet. In comparison with weekly wages, forking out a small sum for some solar panels can surely be seen as a worthy investment, especially when these small changes can help save money in the long run. Admittedly, Manchester United is actually one of the better clubs in the Premier League when it comes to eco-friendly developments. The club recycles rainwater for the pitches and has used old shoes to create premium sport surfaces. But they are still lagging behind a small club like Forest Green Rovers, who might have the backing of Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, but are still light-years behind in terms of funds.

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Would solar panels make a small difference?

Having admitted there are clubs out there who show some passion for creating sustainable futures, there seems to be one issue that has alluded the majority, the transport of fans to games. Transport emissions have increased by 8% in the UK since 1995 and football matches may be significant in this figures rapid incline. 67.5% of fans now travel to football matches by car with 24% of an average persons weekly emissions being attributed to social trips (including travel to a match). This is where English clubs have missed a trick. In other European countries, clubs offer home fans a dual ticket which not only gets them into the game, but also allows them to travel to the game on public transport free of charge, encouraging spectators to ditch the car and consequently reduce carbon emissions. This simple change that could seriously reduce greenhouse gas emissions is something that English clubs need to look into if the football league wants to head towards a greener future.

In my opinion, football has been tainted by the ridiculous amounts of money being thrown at (now complacent) players. It is hard to believe that a billion pound business can justify enormous transfer fees when the issues that really matter are constantly sidelined. I’m not only talking about the environment, but also tackling other social problems such as racism. Issues like these are still rife in the nation’s favourite game and, although there are organisations doing things to help better the game, it seems they take second place and are often lost in the shadows. Clubs need to take better steps to ensure they are not just the best in terms or performance but also in making football sustainable and inclusive for future generations and this needs to be seen from the top tiers in order to trickle down into grassroots provision.

If Forest Green Rovers, a club situated in a town of less than 6000 people can show major commitment to our planet and the future of football, then premier league clubs have a lot to learn. Football is a global phenomenon, so why don’t we use this platform and money to ensure a sustainable footballing future?

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The clubs fans back its current ethos (©Forest Green Rovers FC)

Sources:

https://idp.nature.com/transit?redirect_uri=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nature.com%2Farticles%2Fs41598-017-06141-y&code=bfebfa9f-7e8c-4608-8796-a7cdcdecb745

https://www.carbontrust.com/news/2016/06/the-carbon-bootprint-of-euro-2016-which-nations-fans-have-the-lowest-carbon-footprint-when-watching-games/

Beth Fenner

James Peters- England Rugby’s first black international

An awe-inspiring tale of perseverance, talent and hard-work to overcome the odds. Here is the amazing story of James Peters.

Tom Weir

An awe-inspiring tale of perseverance, talent and hard-work to overcome the odds. Here is the amazing story of James Peters.

Peters for Bristol (richard boddie)
Peters for Bristol (Richard Boddie provided)

That the England Rugby team 2018 vintage embraces a wide ethnic diversity is barely newsworthy in an increasingly modern and post-racial sport. The West African heritage of the current team’s superstar (and captain in waiting), Maro Itoje, provides a thin thread back in history to England’s very first black player, James Peters.

A ‘pallid blackamore,’ ‘wooly haired mulatto,’ ‘honorary white man’ or simply ‘Darkie Peters.’ Various racially charged epithets were attached to England’s first International sportsman, James Peters, who debuted 112 years ago in the Calcutta Cup of 1906. Underdogs England emerged that day with a 9-3 victory, inspired by their debutante half-back pairing of Peters and Adrian Stoop, (the Stoop of Harlequins legend.) The mixed-race son of an English mother and West Indian Lion-Tamer father, Peters won five caps for England between 1906-1908, despite the disadvantage of being a working class ‘coloured’ man in an elitist game.

Peters could have been a pioneer in the sport just as baseball superstar Jackie Robinson was to prove in the 1940s, leading to the increasingly utilisation of the talent of those with mixed-racial heritage. That he didn’t says something of his own temperament and motivations; as a lover and player of the game, rather than a politician or activist. It also though asks some searching questions about rugby’s willingness historically to integrate, but that is a grand topic for a seperate time. A comprehensive biography of Peters is only now (slowly) being written, but a short biography of Peters provides a glimpse into some of the challenges he faced, from an unwelcoming hierarchy to becoming the first victim of a South African sporting boycott.

Born August 7th 1879 in Salford, the circus dominated Peters’ childhood, where he worked as a bareback rider. Following his father’s untimely demise at the jaws of his lions, Peters was abandoned aged 11, after breaking his arm in a fall. Adopted by Fegan’s children’s home in London, he proved a ‘champion athlete,’ with his love of rugby kindled by watching the local Blackheath Club.

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A young Peters (Tom Weir contributor provided)

 

Having outgrown the orphanage in 1898 he moved to Bristol, excelling for Dings, Bristol and by 1902 the Somerset County team. Despite obvious ability, Peters was to experience that talent was not always colourblind. He was ‘a pallid blackamore…keeping a white man out the team,’ declared ‘naive [displaying] some of the worst half back play ever witnessed,’ whilst a protesting committee member reportedly resigned. Yet, for every example of prejudice were those acknowledging his talent; notably Dings who deigned him an honoured guest at club dinners. His 1902 move to Plymouth, precipitated his starring role in the Country Championship winning Devon sides, and led to a growing clamour for international recognition. There were however additional obstacles beyond his ‘dusky’ skin. Peters was a carpenter not a gentleman, an unforgivable affront for some, given the animosity lingering from the 1895 schism with the ‘Northern Union’ over professionalism.

orphanage team photo 2
Peters (Back right) in the Orphanage team photo (Tom Weir contributor provided)

With his continued exclusion from the first 1906 home international against Wales The Western Times thundered: ‘Peters is sacrificed. Colour is the difficulty… pity for the chances of the English success.’ England losses to Wales and Ireland, combined with untimely appendicitis for incumbent half-back Dai Gent, led to Peters’ opportunity. He seized it masterfully, praised both individually and for his combination with Stoop. The following week a 35-8 rout of France was notable both for Peters’ try-scoring effort and France’s inclusion of two black players: Andre Verges and Georges Jerome, from French Guiana. Despite his successes selection against England’s next opposition, South Africa, was ruled impossible owing in part to the events around Devon’s fixture against the Springboks on October 17th 1906.

This game has spawned the most frequently repeated myth around Peters: that the Springboks refused to leave their changing room, protesting Peters’ selection, only finally persuaded out by their High Commissioner. It is a compelling legend featuring a blameless hero, contemptible foreign villains, all played out in front of the fanatical crowd. Yet the story is, at best, highly embellished. It owes more to South Africa’s late 20th century status as international pariahs than any contemporary historical evidence, (their High Commissioner was in fact in Durban!) Yet racial antipathy certainly marred the game. Springbok Bob Loubster’s memoir describes the ‘Boks attempts to injure Peters, whilst diary extracts and newspaper columns declaim how unhappy the tourists were mixing with ‘kaffirs.’ The irony that these same Springboks entered the field with a ‘Zulu War Cry,’ appears somewhat lost.

The Springboks were spared further embarrassment. Although there is no definitive documented proof of their deliberation, balance of evidence point to the RFU selection committee choosing to exclude him from international consideration. Despite being fit, in form and incumbent in the shirt, Peters was not selected for either of the two trial games. Whilst arguably Peters lost out to more talented halfbacks in final selection; Raphael Jago and Stoop; racial motives loom apparent in having denied him even a sporting chance.

PFH 2.5.1908 p.2 man of the year
Peters named ‘Man of the Year’ (Tom Weir contributor provided)

His non-selection went beyond simple sporting considerations. Scheduled five years after a bitter civil war, in which four Springboks had fought on opposite sides, the tour party deliberately mixed both English and Boer settlers, intending to symbolise the new South Africa. Playing against Peters divided opinion within the Springbok team. Had he played the chances of a unified team returning were greatly diminished. The case for the RFU excluding Peters, although never morally right, thus proved overwhelming.

Peters won three further caps in 1907 and 1908, however hardship continued to stalk him. Losing three fingers to a workplace accident in 1910 forced him into early sporting retirement. Making light of the injury, he attempted a return, only to be banned as a professional for receiving money from a testimonial by an unsympathetic RFU. In 1913 he ‘went north,’ representing Barrow and St Helens before retiring in 1914 and returning to raise his family in Plymouth. His passing in 1954 is recorded with little fanfare, logged in The Times with a short paragraph.

peters headstone
James Peters resting place (Tom Weir contributor provided)

In contrast to Jackie Robinson, and other celebrated pioneering black sportsmen, Peters’ story had all but vanished. His England caps were more an anomaly than a watershed, with a full 80 years passing before England’s next black International, Chris Oti. Peters proved one of the unlikely beneficiaries of the Stuart Lancaster era, with his story used to inspire and holding particular resonance for the Vunipola brothers. England fans would hope history repeats itself with victory again over their oldest enemy, 112 years after Peters’ inspired debut against Scotland. That this is achieved by a racial rainbow of a team would, i hope, be a source of pride for Peters.

Tom Weir