The Easter sports results you might have missed

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The Independent Online
ANOTHER crowded Easter sports programme brought the usual thrills and spills (writes our top political sports commentator, Rene McGrit), but attention this year was fixed as never before on the question of the England managership. Would John Major hang on to the coveted position on the bench, or would a contender emerge as favourite to replace him?

England's recent international record has, frankly, not looked too bright under Major's managership. His team recently returned from Brussels smarting from a defeat against an international eleven. There has been a series of disappointing scoreless draws against the Irish in Dublin, as well as an embarrassing shout-up with the Northern Ireland manager, Ian Paisley, in London. The question now is: can John Major hold on till the wins start to flow, or will he be pushed?

'The trouble with Major,' says our man in football, Stanley Accrington, 'is that he has inherited a lot of old players with old ideas, and nobody can see any good new players coming through.

'Basically, it's the fault of the fixture list, and the system. These blokes are up half the night just keeping the schedule going, so of course they're knackered when it comes to the big time, and they never get a chance to work out any good new ideas. Put in a new manager, if you like, but you'll still have the same old tired squad.'

News from South America is that the friendly exhibition tour by the Iron Lady team is still going ahead despite an embarrassing mechanical failure by the normally unstoppable Iron Lady in the middle of an exhibition race. Is it time for the old girl to be replaced?

'Perish the thought,' says the Iron Lady tour organiser, P R Bell. 'There's too much money to be made from these tours to even think of packing it in.'

A new name looks likely to be written at the top of the Italian League this year, after the freshly formed club Forza Italia swept all before it in the last matches of the season. What made it all so unlikely is that Silvio Berlusconi, the captain, and manager, and owner of Forza Italia, had never played football in his life till four weeks ago. How does a man who had never kicked a football turn out to be one of the modern greats?

'I don't know,' says Silvio Berlusconi modestly, offering us a fistful of lire. 'I really don't know. Maybe it is just the way I give everyone so much money. And then again, maybe it isn't'

Back home again, there was a large if apathetic crowd for the traditional Eastertide top-of-the- table clash between Lambeth Palace and Westminster. In this ancient sporting fixture, whose origins are lost in the mists of time, the same ritual is always observed. First, the Archbishop of Canterbury moves into the attack by hurling a message across the river at the Tory team to say that the gulf between rich and poor is bad and getting worse. The Tory team then hurl back a thunderbolt to the effect that religion has nothing to do with people's happiness and is all about getting people to behave better so that the police will be less hard pressed, so will the Archbishop please shut up and get back to his Bible and prayers?

The Archbishop cleverly deals with this counter-attack by ignoring it. Then the Tory joker, the so-called 'Widdecombe', gets up on a soapbox and says that the Archbishop is talking through his hat because the Tories opened a new training scheme in Darlington only four weeks ago and already several young people have applied for details, so the Tory team is doing something about the gap between rich and poor, so there. At this point, everyone declares a draw and they all go home, tired but unhappy.

Finally, we are at the halfway stage now in the Tory Masters Tournament, and Michael Heseltine seems to be well clear on the leader board from the pursuing mob. If he holds his nerve and maintains his game for a little while longer, there is no reason why he should not emerge champion. Is there anyone he fears in the pack behind him?

'I fear nobody,' says Heseltine. 'They are all good. Young Portillo is good. Lilley is very good. But I am very, very good. On the other hand, I have no desire to win the Tory Masters Tournament. And I would not dream of even entering for it if the previous winner had not stood down. I am behind the previous winner all the way. I have absolutely no desire to win this title.

'On the other hand, it would be a dishonest player who did not admit that his dearest wish was to win. Thank you.'

One late result: Asian Championship, semi-final, first leg, Chris Patten (Hong Kong) 1: China 800,000,000.

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