Sports Letters

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Henman misses

the real point

Sir: Tim Henman's opinions on greedy tennis players (22 June); also, a certain uptightness in his demeanour and occasionally in his performance, smack a little of the British public school spirit (I do hope his tennis can overcome that insidious old school tie). How the Wimbledon chairman, John Curry, must love his support.

More important, Henman shows his stupidity in not realising that "probably a bit greedy" will appear as "greedy" in the next morning's headlines. And he is most stupid in his thinking: the old saw of three sets versus five sets is the result of precisely the only difference in tennis, the physiological difference between men and women. It is a difference that a lot of men pay good money to watch. The forehand stroke of Steffi Graf, or the service of Martina Navratilova, were the most beautiful, and effective, in the game, as were the service of Edberg and Pete Sampras. Different speeds, same effect.


London N7

Poor show

Sir: On Sunday, I took my nine-year-old son to the Parks in Oxford to watch the New Zealand cricket team play against the Combined Universities. He has recently become interested in cricket and was looking forward to seeing an international team and asking for some autographs. At the ground, we had arranged to meet two groups of friends, who had travelled up from London.

On arrival at the ground, we were informed that New Zealand had decided not to play the first day of this fixture. Apparently this decision had been made on Friday 18 June. One of the ground staff informed us that the New Zealanders had decided to watch the World Cup final.

At a time when we are all trying to encourage children to watch and play cricket, this inconsiderate act by a national cricket team is incredible.


Freeland, Oxon

Give me a break

Sir: The Arsenal midfielder, Emmanuel Petit, alleges that footballers are taking drugs to cope with the pressures of the modern game. His manager, Arsene Wenger, is also a well-known critic of the number of games played in England.

Yet just four days after the final day of the Premiership season, the Arsenal first-team - including Petit - were playing a meaningless friendly against Malaysia. Meaningless, except for the financial rewards, perhaps?



Camera calls

Sir: Ken Jones' piece on modern footballers' celebrations (Independent, 10 June) was an expression of personal distaste, masquerading as coherent argument. To some extent I agree with him - Fowler's cocaine snorting and some of the choreographed Chelsea celebrations - make me cringe, but other celebrations are expressions of real joy. Giggs' touchline sprint and bare-chested shirt-whirl, after scoring the goal of the season, is one such example.

What Ken Jones does not seem to like is lurid modern televised sport. This is a much wider issue, to do with the importance of commerce and the sacrifice of quality for viewing figures. Footballers are reflecting the carnival hype of Sky et al and the awareness that they are playing to the cameras.


by e-mail from Taipei

Practise more

Sir: So again we have a reminder that the footballing heroes of the home nations are woefully inept in coping with foreign opposition in Europe - sometimes even that from a quite modest level.

It would appear that no matter who the national manager-coach might be, or what he says or does, it comes down in the end to the performance of the players on the field - and all too often they are not up to the task. They may look good from week to week in the domestic leagues, but put them against foreign competition and it all looks quite different.

The usual excuses are put forward. A bumpy pitch, a poor referee and tiredness due to playing too many games, the last surely aggravated by all the extra competitions that clubs now play in. But the squad system and the use of substitutes as well as frequent suspensions and probably injuries all mean that players nowadays do not really spend any more time on the field during the season than in times past.

In his column (10 June), Ken Jones mentions one possible reason for the lack of quality in the efforts of present day players. If players spent more time practising the skills of the game and less in perfecting their celebration techniques, their ability might even improve.

I remember a game in which the great Tommy Lawton scored a wonderful individual goal. He turned away and trotted back with an occasional slap on the back from a colleague - but some of his opponents actually stood and applauded him in appreciation of his effort.

Today's kids copy their heroes, but sadly only the worst of what they see.


Old Coulsdon


Defend rights

Sir: Any plans by Sepp Blatter or certain national sports ministers to tamper with the Bosman ruling (Independent, 3 June) and get sport declared a "special case" should be firmly rejected.

There are far too many little Hitlers in sport at all levels who seem to think they are above the law and can disregard basic constitutional rights on labour and health practices. Everyone else has to comply with the law and everyone else seems to cope quite happily with Bosman- type freedom of movement.

Why should sport be any different? Certainly, some of the most high-profile sports do need a good clean-up. This is a good opportunity for the European Commission to do its proper job of guarding the rights and freedoms laid down in the European treaties.


by e-mail

Aid coaches

Sir: So once again it is the lack of technically skilled players that costs the England football team the chance of success. May I make a comparison?

In the Netherlands all coaches of boys' teams must complete a coaching qualification; in England it is optional. In the Netherlands, these are largely free, paid for by the Dutch FA. When I recently undertook the FA Coaching Certificate it cost pounds 195.

The Dutch lottery has funded superb facilities for every community while in England we struggle to find space to play. And the quality of coaching and facilities in the Netherlands ensures that no talent is missed. Think how much talent is wasted in England. All that money at the top in the Premiership coffers - none at the grass roots.


Maldon, Essex