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5 Sporting Events to Look Forward to in 2011

Exactly one year ago I wrote about my five sporting events that I was looking forward to in 2010, and four out of five of them were highly enjoyable (damn that World Cup). But 2011 has no luxurious offers like that, so here is what I am looking forward to, sporting wise, in the year 2011.

19th February – 2nd April : Cricket World Cup

I am not a cricket fan. And frankly the last World Cup seemingly went on longer than Uranus orbiting the Sun, and was more confusing than the MLS Draft. I was even considering not bothering with it at all.

Then I hear England might have a chance. Back off their Ashes slaughtering of the Australians, they are now saying that a win is possible. Well hello, I like to hear that. After the success of the Twenty20 World Cup last year, England have every chance in the slightly longer version in Asia, hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Of course the team everyone has to beat is Australia who have won the last three versions. But then there are the likes of India and South Africa, I presume, because they always seem to be good.

Winners Prediction: England.

7th April – 10th April : The Masters

There are so many top golfers in the world right now, it is almost impossible to even consider who might win. European heroes Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy. Don’t forget the holder of the Masters Phil Mickleson who won in emotional circumstances. And Tiger Woods, don’t ever write him off.

It is so close to call, it just makes it all the more exciting. Who can take that step and be the best in the first Major championship of the year. I almost am too excited about it. And as long as it doesn’t have a Louis Oosthuizen style walk over about it, it should be a cracking and tense four days of golf.

1st July – 24th July : Copa América

Copa América, the European Championships of South America, bringing the flair, the glamour of the ten South American teams (and two other, less sexy ones), with their slick passing, entertaining football, beautiful weather and quality players.

Obviously, the Argentines and the Brazilians will go into this as the favourites, but still not having the best World Cups on their backs. Though, times have changed for the both of them, new managers, new style of play. But the stars remain, Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Neymar, I can go on.

And then there is my favourite international team (aside from England), Chile. I love their attacking football in the World Cup, and despite them being dumped early by Brazil, I loved the football. The innovative 3-1-3-3 formation was successful, they finished one point behind Brazil in the qualifiers remember. Sadly, the manager is now gone, but their play has stuck by me, I’d love them to do well.

Don’t forget Uruguay as well, fourth in the World Cup. Quality strikers in Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.

Oooh, I’ve had quite the love in with South American football here. Sadly, the awkward number of just ten teams means for it to work well, two non-South American nations are involved, namely Mexico and Japan. The same Mexico murdered by Argentina 4-0, and Japan, who lost to Paraguay 0-0 on penalties.

I can’t wait, I mean, the 2007 Copa América only averaged 3.31 goals per game. This will be quite the show.

Winners: Argentina

9th September – 23rd October : Rugby World Cup

I am much more of a Rugby League man myself, but, it is hard not to get a tad excited when the other egg-chasing, Rugby League wannabe, Rugby Union gets together the 20 best teams in the world and says, “Hey, you produce a rather good month of rugby why don’t ya.”

And they occasionally do. This time out, its in New Zealand, so, not ideal for the old English supporter (not that it ever stopped them during the Ashes).  England themselves always seem to peak in the World Cup, winning it in 2003 and finishing as runners up in 2007. Probably 3rd this year then.

New Zealand as hosts always seem to be the best team in the world, but never perform on the big stage. Could this be the time they change that, in front of their own fans, time will tell.

And of course, will there be any shocks? Who can tell. Argentina stormed there way through to third in 2007, can they pull it off again?

There are a lot of questions because I genuinely don’t know much about it. Other than the Newcastle Falcons aren’t that good.

Winners: South Africa

Someday: David Haye v Wladimir Klitschko

Oh come on, it is going to happen. When it will, who knows, July, August, September, whenever. Haye will fight a Klitschko at least, no doubt one of them being Wladimir. Who has just said he expects a fight.

And it is what we all want. Haye’s last fight, that farce against Harrison, is hardly something you’d want to gloat about, you want to beat the best. And that is just what the Klitschko’s are, the best.

Yet Haye is a handy customer himself, he can sure talk the talk, and so far has certainly walked the walk. His performance against the giant Nikolai Valuev was outstanding. But can he transfer it to the bigger stage, the big fight. They want it, we want it. It’s just a matter of when.

Hopefully soon, though.

Winner: Klitschko

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Its Snow Joke

Freezing Temperatures Continue To Grip The Country

Recreation Ground, home of Bath Rugby Club, earlier this week

Well, it has been warmer.

Sport, as some may know, is really important to me. I could go on and on about what sports I loved. But this weekend, sport, at least on the British Isles, has been badly affected by the weather.

Snow and ice have put a halt to simply too many games for my liking. As Sky Sports News puts it, ‘The Big Freeze’ is shooting at sports fixtures and wounding them for a short while. Football, rugby and racing appear to have been the most fatally hurt.

The snow and ice has affected football big time. Right from the Premier League down to the lowest depths of non-league football, games have been called off. Reasons are slightly different, the lower league teams (mainly League 1 down), don’t have any sort of undersoil heating, meaning clearing the pitch is much more of a significantly harder work. The Premier League and the Championship, with the undersoil heating (and some even with oversoil heating) have had their problems come from outside of the stadiums. The dangerous conditions mean it is unsafe for fans to travel to the stadiums. For the benefit, here are all of the games that are still ON in the English football pyramid (kick off Saturday 3pm unless stated):

Premier League

  • Arsenal v Everton
  • Wigan v Aston Villa
  • Birmingham v Manchester United (Saturday, 5:30pm)
  • West Ham v Wolves (Sunday, 1:30pm)
  • Manchester City v Blackburn Rovers (Monday, 8pm)

Championship

  • Cardiff v Blackpool
  • Coventry v Barnsley
  • Derby v Scunthorpe
  • Leicester v Ipswich (Sunday, 3pm)

League One

  • Leeds United v Wycombe
  • Norwich City v Exeter

And that is it. West Brom did manage to play Nottingham Forest on the Friday night. Meaning that the total of games going on in England from the 8th-11th January is: 13. And that number could go down a bit still. Wigan v Aston Villa has a early morning pitch inspection. The Sunday and Monday games have time to still be affected by the weather. In Scotland, it isn’t much better:

Scottish Cup

  • Aberdeen v Hearts
  • Dunfermline v Stenhousemuir
  • Hibernian v Irvine Meadow
  • Partick Thistle v Dundee United
  • St. Mirren v Alloa
  • Hamilton v Rangers (Sunday, 12:15pm)

I may just cry. My favourite team, Tottenham, aren’t even playing. Though this could also be good news since Aaron Lennon is currently not fit to play, so it is good to have time to rest him before the big game.

‘The Big Freeze’ is of course hitting rugby union hard as well. Frankly, the situation is so bad, that only one Guiness Premiership game is taking place: Leicester v Wasps. Using an ingenious solution of air blankets, they intend on keeping it on for up to 15 minutes before kickoff. I like the idea, at least one game will go ahead.

I’m not a fan of racing that much, but that has pretty much been swept away from land, with a lot of the races simply called off.

And of course, you know the snow and ice is bad, when an indoor ice hockey game between the Sheffield Steelers and the Cardiff Devils is called off.

In my slightly biased opinion, too much sport has been postponed. There are only 19 football games going on in Britain (Wales and Northern Ireland snowed out), a handful of rugby union games, with local ice hockey in the form of Newcastle Vipers managing to hand out a performance (despite the likelihood of a defeat).

What can be done to keep games on? Without much doubt, the weather may remain like this for a few more days to come, that in my eyes also means a few more games going out by the wayside. So, for possibly the first time in my life I will say this, something can be learnt from the national sport of the USA, American Football.

More specifically, NFL franchise Green Bay Packers. The Packers, from Green Bay in Wisconsin, have an average January temperature of –13.8°C, with a record low of -31°C. Yet, every January when they make it to the NFL Playoffs (which seems to be every few years). In the snow, the battle it out in freezing conditions, in front of a packed crows at Lambeau Field.

So how do they do it? In fact, it isn’t that much different to say the groundsmen at the likes of Old Trafford and Anfield do in similar situations. The pitch has undersoil heating, covers and some decent drainage. And then I came across this:

From this, there is one way to bring back the football matches we have been missing. Manual labour. I know teams are doing it, but are the bringing in enough people to help volunteer. I read online that the Packers paid $8 an hour to do the shovelling. We should be snapping up that offer of money for a bit of work to help see your team play.

It might be too late for this weekends, rather thin amount of games to be saved by my inspired manual labour. But instead of whining about the weather, like I have been doing, go down to your nearest team and help out. And then, watch that team in its football/rugby/ice hockey glory and look at a good job well done you did. Along with quite a few other folk as well.

For this weekend, I notice the Green Bay Packers are up against the Arizona Cardinals in some Wild Card match. I’m not sure when, but ‘The Big Freeze’ in the UK is making me interested.

Edit: Since I published this post, Aston Villa v Wigan and West Ham v Wolves have been called off. Aw.