Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Is The Greatest Britain cheating?


Ever since arriving in the Greatest Britain I have been harping on about some old scores. They are great to mention over a pint or two when discussing sport with an Englishman. You see the Greatest Britons like to mention various results such as the Greatest Win in 1966. That Sweden were second in ’58 and third in ’94 doesn’t count, but as the qualifying results for Euro 2008 are coming to an end, England has to dispose of Russia on the newly laid Tiger Turf in Moscow and Sweden has a stroll to clear off Northern Ireland and the Swedes will again be there ready to take on England, a team, to which they have not LOST since 1968. This little fact is niggling away at most supporters, I have heard rumours that some will not even ride in a Volvo or sit in sofa bought at IKEA.

The other Swedish record sitting nicely in Britain is the fabulous five in row wins at Wimbledon by Bjorn Borg. Bjorn was there this year to witness his record being equalled by Roger Federer, so whilst it still stands the likelihood is that it will go next year, so we will need another record we can shot about and I have found it…

The Eurovision Song Contest…

You see the Swedes take this quite seriously. Try to go out on the evening of the song contest and you will have to learn to dance the slow fox by yourself as the Swedes are at home glued to the television. This is a phenomenon which has not spread to the Greatest Britain, yet…Just so that my Swedish readers understand the Brits have to drag some poor bastard out from a lunatic asylum, dress them in funny clothes looking like airline stewardesses and then get them to sing the silly song in front of four television viewers and two television presenters, who later between themselves will choose which one of the silly tunes they are going to the contest. The result is of course a song which is pretty bad, outfits that are hilarious and eventually they get no points and no viewers. So why do they do it? Well you see the Greatest Britain automatically qualifies for the competition as they are one of the largest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union, EBU, so they can’t even get out of it if the wanted to.

In Sweden on the other hand it purely a matter of life and death. All other news is pushed off the front pages, radio stations do not report on anything else and television time is allocated to the selection process, the Swedish competition and even backstage the programmes. You will read stories such as, “The viewers did not rate the dress the presenter was wearing”…get it wrong and it can ruin your career.

Today on the 16th of October, 2007 (7 months before the Eurovision song Contest 2008) Sweden had a press conference announcing the Swedish competitions 28 participants which will be battling out for a place to go to the Eurovision song contest in Belgrade on the 24th of May, 2008???

There will be 6 competitions held in Sweden all over the country, called the Swedish Song Contest. These will be held in large arenas where you will have up to a 50,000 strong live audience, millions watching on television. This year there was 3434 entries which the panel of judges had to go through in order to narrow it down to a “manageable” 28 entries (and the arguments have already started)…you can start buying tickets for the competition from Thursday, ticket prices range from £15.00 - £22.00 for a rehearsal?? The actual show will set you back £26.00 - £35.00…then if your favourite wins…you’ll have to fight it out with the Serbians who is staging this year’s competition in the Belgrade Arena, a venue which seats 20,000 people.

Well you see the Swedes are organised, taking a professional approach so how are we doing in the scores? Sweden has managed four wins; ’74 ABBA, ’84 Herreys, ’91 Carola and then ’99 Charlotte Nilsson. The Greatest Britain; ’67 Sandie Shaw, ’69 Lulu, ’76 Brotherhood of Man and ’97 Katrina and the Waves…so the score is a draw…

This year though I am sure that the Greatest Britain will have the upper hand. It has not gone for the 28 entries to choose from and 7 months to prepare, no because it would be totally impossible to find 28 lunatics to sing the songs, they are more sneaky than that…they didn’t have an Empire for nothing you know…No this year The Greatest Britain has imported half a million Polish people and an unknown number of Romanians to even out the old eastern block voting…I shall be writing to the Eurovision secretary to see if it is allowed according to the rules…

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

King Henrik of Helsingborg is coming home


In today’s over-priced and over-pampered football players there are some that sort of stick out for not going with the flow. David Beckham is one…we never read about his antics in nightclubs, drunken fights with team members or being hauled into the courts accused of “roasting” (this is not a BBQ term). Beckham is to many an incredible football player who has made his dreams come true and along the way provided audiences with numerous goals and entertainment…and haircuts…

The player which I believe are miles ahead of them, both in ability and humanity is Sweden’s Henrik Larsson…

Larsson just happen to come from the same town in Sweden as I do, Helsingborg, situated in the Southern Province of Skåne overlooking the Öresund straight, which separates Denmark from Sweden. When the weather is kind you can see the Elsinore Castle on the other side, the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In the years that Larsson has applied his trade, he has excelled from strength to strength both as a football player and more importantly as a decent human being.

Is there anyone out there that can remember Larsson being drunk beating up his wife talking to press telling them that he has had affairs with other women, driven drunk, speeding and causing mayhem at nightclubs…I don’t think so.

This man has given his all to his work, excelled in all forms on and off the pitch. After breaking his leg at to places against Lyon whilst playing for Celtic he was written off by the press and those who is in the know. He proved them wrong, came back continued to play for Celtic and Sweden’s national team, scored some 242 goals for Celtic, then in 2001 he won the Golden Boot for being the most prolific player in Europe.

Still the press was not happy, he was applying his trade in an inferior league and had he only come to England to play we would have proved that he is not that good. Well is was not to happen…his family enjoyed their life in Scotland and stability for the children were more important than to silence some “has-beens” on television and the hacks writing for the Greatest British press sport pages.

In 2004 Larsson did decide to move and the Premiere League held their breath…is it going to be Manchester United, Chelsea or Liverpool…no none of the above…he picked Barcelona…why? Because they are the best team in Europe? Because they paid more? No again because of family, his wife is a very good equestrian and the offer of going to Barcelona allowed her to pursue her sport. That is how simple it was…

After announcing his retirement from International football he sat at home watching the Swedish matches with his son when the son said “Dad why don’t you play for Sweden again, they need you…” so without delay Larsson came out of retirement and played for Sweden again…because his son asked him to.

Larsson finished in Barcelona 2006 by sealing the victory in the Champions League by producing his trademark magic running and placement beat Arsenal 2 -1. On the night Thierry Henry, the prolific Arsenal strike said; "People always talk about Ronaldinho, Eto'o, Giuly and everything but I didn't see them today - I saw Henrik Larsson. Two times he came on - he changed the game, that is what killed the game - sometimes you talk about Ronaldinho and Eto'o and people like that, you need to talk about the proper footballer who made the difference and that was Henrik Larsson tonight..."

So with the Barcelona contract ending, Larsson politely turned down an extension and moved his family back to Helsingborg where it all once began in 1971 (September 20 to be exact). He had built a house, and contrary to some reports in the press it is not a palace it is a normal house I know because I drive passed it every time I go and visit my parents, and moved the family in, signed a contract to play for Helsingborg, his former home club, joining them mid season last year.

When the season finished Larsson had helped his home team to a Swedish Cup victory, also getting them up from below mid table ending 4th in the Swedish league. His team mates went for winter training and Larsson? Well he decided that it was time to silence the hacks and the television reporters in England, he signed up with Manchester United for a 10 week contract, joined one of the largest clubs in Europe and again transformed the game, at a ripe old age of 35…he did such a good job of it that the management in United now would have liked him to stay…

Larsson will not stay in United, he says family commitment takes him back to Helsingborg and whilst United fans and management would like to see the striker stay, it was best summed up by the Helsingborg coach Stuart Baxter who said "As a professional, I understand in a perfect world it would be nice for Henrik to stay, but that would not go down well with our club and it is not in Henrik's plans either." Again Larsson the ultimate football player and more importantly the ultimate dad are doing with what he believes is right…

You see…when next time you talk about professional players, spare a thought for those who are professional on and off the pitch…

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