Thursday, 25 October 2012

The Great Big Come Down

Queens Park Rangers 1 Everton 1

It is two months to Christmas and we are now deep in to the football season. A hectic week at work has meant a great delay in writing my blog, post-Everton match. But as the days get shorter and my walk in the mornings to work or the gym are engulfed in night-time the realisation of the miserableness of winter has given rise to a great big feeling of depression. While today brings news of surprising growth in the economy, it is still met with caution and fear. And we are surrounded by the extremely alarming and sad news of Savile's horrific exploits. Nothing, it seems, is particularly positive.

But, I start with last Sunday's match. I must say I was surprised it was a sell-out crowd. A Sunday match isn't exactly convenient for a lot of us - falling the day before the working week albeit being half-term for those with kids. QPR fans appeared to have mixed expectations: positive ones thinking it's about time we would nick a win,  others already thinking about what would happen to Mark Hughes if we lost. I must say I did not include a 1-1 draw in my list of possible results. But I, like many other fans, was extremely pleased to see SWP on the bench with Hoilett starting. While I've been disappointed with Park's performance in the last few games, he had a better game against Everton and I'm hoping we simply saw a Park-blip. Sunday, however, saw me make my decision that Zamora isn't quite the ticket we need. While he might hold the ball up for us, we still lack a consistent striker that can play up front with Hoilett...I have memories of days gone by when we would watch Gallen and Ferdinand up-front and they were quite a pair for a little while. I live in hope that we will see something like that again at Loftus Road.

But, we should not have lost. Yes we can go on about the fact that we played really well, had most of the possession etc etc, but playing well means winning matches, and a big fat ZERO next to W in the table just 'ain't right.' However, by the end of that Sunday it seemed that most of us were fairly positive about the result. To me, it's a sure sign that we've finally come down from those lofty expectations we had before the the Swansea match. No we aren't likely to finish mid-table this season (and I'll eat my hat if we do),  and it'll be a pretty bumpy ride from now until next May. Maybe I am over-reacting a little because events off the pitch have also made me think quite deeply about the game, the fans, and the impact on future generations.

So with some sadness, I contemplate the fact that the Olympics and the Paralympics seem so far away. All the good cheer, all the positive feeling, all the pride we seemed to feel throughout that period has all but disappeared. In my earlier piece Persecuted I talked about the John Terry case and the issues surrounding that continue to make the headlines. I've just watched QPR legend Les Ferdinand on BBC News saying he feels let down by the FA as does every black player and black supporter - and that essentially Terry's punishment does not fit what he considers to be a crime. Interestingly, he has said he wrestled with the question of whether John Terry is really racist or far as he is concerned a racist comment should be met with a punishment for a racist comment, as does a drink drive crime even if it's your first time, or you didn't really mean it. He feels it's only fair that one should 'suffer the consequences' for one's actions. In all honesty, I have wrestled with this question as well of whether Terry is racist or not. I've even argued with colleagues who have felt being cleared in a court of law should have been the end of the story. But I completely understand Les Ferdinand's view. And if that is the view of many others I stand with them on this point.

It has made me think about my own background. As some know I am half Filipino and half English: half Asian, half white. But you would not know it if I never told you. I never have looked a bit like my mother (since passed),  who had black hair and dark brown eyes. I was born with white hair, and the fairest of skin. And now I am older, I have the figure of a Western woman, I dye my hair blond, and I don't 'do tans'. It is my understanding that Anton and Rio Ferdinand are also of mixed race: their mother is white and father black, but they 'appear' to be black in skin colour. I can tell you that there have been times in my life where I've experienced what I call 'reverse racism.' When I am back home in Manila there will be people who assume I am 'white' and therefore make comments in Tagalog (not knowing I understand), in bars about how 'easy' must be because I am white (and therefore have loose morals of course!). I've even had close acquaintances judge me by the colour of my skin and assume I will behave X or Y because of it. Seems silly really doesn't it? On the other hand, I remember back at school I was reprimanded by the head of a posh 'society' I was part of for writing a letter of complaint to the Spectator magazine because they had continued to publish a cartoon the continuously (week in, week out), made fun of Filipino maids. I was told not to 'rock the boat', and they were surprised at my accusations given I was to all intents and purposes white.

Me & my mum in 1978

Why is this important? It's important because being a certain race or even of a certain culture  isn't just about the colour of your skin. And that is why racist comments in this day and age, in this country which prides itself for tolerant and multi-cultural society, are just medieval at the very least and must therefore be punished and eradicated. I, like so many others, am a product of the 'new world'. Actually, let me tell you isn't even that new and quite frankly we shouldn't even be having the discussion that the world is getting smaller and more global and that people are going to meet, fall in love, marry and procreate with people from all places and walks of life. So I understand why so many footballer didn't wear the Kick it Out shirt. It's just not up with the times, it's not relevant and it needs shaking up. I'm not saying we can't poke fun and joke with each other anymore - different cultures and different countries make the world go round and there is a reason why cliche's exist! But racism and abusive language just isn't right. I really hope that enough people from all backgrounds do and say enough so that we don't have to see this kind of debacle again in future and that our children and their children do not grow up thinking this type of behaviour is acceptable.

So you can see how a feeling of hopelessness has engulfed me. Especially because last week also brought scenes of ridiculous behaviour at the U21 Serbia/England match and saw a Leeds thug attack goalkeeper Chris Kirkland at Elland Road. I'd really like to say, it's just a few people ruining it for many others but there were thousands of fans in Serbia jeering at the whole thing, and there were several 'pals' smiling and patting the Leeds fan on the back as he ran back on to the stands. It is just so uncool and it made me start thinking that football brings out the worst in people.

But last night as I lay in bed, I listened to the QPR Podcast where they interviewed Matt O'Brien, coach of the Tiger Cubs. I had a big smile on my face as I listened to him tell us about all the great physical activities they do with the kids who have Down Syndrome, the support they give the parents, and the sheer joy and fun that the children have when the play matches and score goals. I laughed so loud when I heard about how the kids celebrate so much and for so long when they score a goal that the opposing team ends up scoring a goal in the meantime. I would love to watch that, and must find out how and when I can watch a tournament if at all possible. A big thumbs up to the QPR Podcast team for running the interview and raising awareness of the fund-raising walk this Saturday. See Chris Charles' article about this on the West London Sport website with a link on the bottom of that page to donate.

It reminded me about what sport is all about, football and football fans included. I can't allow myself to beat myself and all the great football fans up about the poor behaviour of others. But just like the wider society, we all have a responsibility to be good, decent human beings and to not put up with inappropriate, wrong an racist or prejudiced behaviour.  Let's not let the things that the Olympics and Paralympics taught us fade in to a distant memory and use that positive energy to make some positive changes.

After such a polemic, pondering over the meet at the Emirates this Saturday feels rather petty...Nevertheless I will positively forecast a 1-0 QPR win. Arsenal are on a 'losing streak' and perhaps we'll cause another upset. Fingers crossed that the Tiger Cubs also manage to raise the £10,000 they so desperately need, as their story has reminded me about what's really important in life.

You RRRRssss

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sleepy Giants

Queens Park Rangers 2 Reading 3

Queens Park Rangers 1 West Ham 2

West Bromwich Albion 3 Queens Park Rangers 2


A review of  Sleeping Giant: An Indian Football Story

It's been a while since I last wrote a blog post and I owe you all this bumper issue. Sadly, there isn't a lot to celebrate. Looking at the list above these were matches that we were meant to win and where we were meant to pick up points. And while I know we never do well in any cup runs, I did feel a moment of hope when we drew the 'fake hoops' that perhaps we'd defy our poor record for the first time in a long time.

The busy fixture list makes the Reading game seem like a distant memory in all honesty. But at that stage, the Tottenham game was still fresh in my mind and I was prepared to forgive the generally poor Rs performance on Wednesday night and count it off as a bit of a blip.

So by the time we played West Ham, I, like many others was filled with a great sense of optimism. We were poorly rewarded for our hope and our support. After a hectic Monday at work, I rushed over to Loftus Road to meet two friends from the dark side (West Ham supporters) who were going to sit with me in the Upper Loft. Shoot me if you like for bringing them along. I wouldn't have if I didn't know that QPR was their 'second team'. I don't really believe in that, and I am hopeful that I can turn them to support a decent family club like QPR (watch this space). So while I was absolutely miffed that we let in a horrific soft goal I must say I was also in fits of laughter as I watched my friend stand up and punch the air saying 'damn, ridiculous.' It was fabulous acting. Not normally known for drinking on a school night and after 3 pints I was soon annoying everyone around me as I ran down to the ladies at 40 minutes. I knew I wouldn't miss much that was any good, and I was right.

One pie, and one a half pint later, I watched as Taarabt and Diakite fired up the team that appeared to pretty sleepy. All of us knew Diakite was going to get in trouble, and we were right. It was pure misery. Not only we were defensively poor, but we were completely over run in midfield. And while I don't proclaim to be a tactician by any stretch of the imagination I do believe Mark Hughes didn't get it right on the night. And I do not believe that being down to ten men lost us the game. We lost that game the moment West Ham scored their first goal.

We will continue to ask questions as fans. We're seven games in, we sit at the bottom of the table. And what excuse do we have given the class of players we have playing for us? The boys appear to be in a deep slumber, at the cost of points on the board. Surely questions need to be asked about why the team is not gelling (outside of the injury problems), and whether they have the right attitude.

So now, I turn to my mid-week jaunt at the Everyman in Belsize Park. For some reason, the Premiere of a new Docu-Film by Ad Hoc Films (the producers of The Four Year Plan) did not get a lot of PR with QPR fans. I am not familiar with the details of the relationship between the makers and QPR but can surmise that having built the relationship with the club for the first film all parties wanted to milk the opportunity as much as possible with the second film. Sleeping Giant is a documentary film about the history of football in India and how it has suffered over the past fifty years due to the growth of the popularity of cricket. It tells the story through a set-up in which two boys from Mumbai are picked out of 2,000 to play for the QPR Youth Team under the leadership of Steve Gallen and Marc Bircham.

As well as learning that Indian football used to be massive, and that while they qualified for the World Cup in 1950 the team then withdrew as they were not allowed to play barefoot, I got a real sense of the frustration at every level in India that football isn't getting the funding and infrastructure it needs to progress. But what really came through for me was the importance of the right kind of coaching and guidance that footballers at an early age need in order to feel they have a chance of progressing to a decent professional level.

In a touching scene filmed on the first day of training back at Harlington you can hear Steve Gallen telling the lads not to let the new boys fall behind as they warm up. This is in full knowledge that the two boys are not as physically fit or as physically built up as the lads in London. And while, in the ensuing Q&A we had that night, the panel talked about cultural differences in terms of body-shape and physiology and the need for players from around the world to adapt their style and training to suit a level of play (using the Japanese leagues as an example), it seems that Steve truly believes that attitude, intelligence, personality and communication makes all the difference.

It was interesting to hear that from him. And interesting to see also that the boy they felt was both technically adept and a bit more vocal at the beginning of their journey, ended up deciding to settle for splitting his time between football and engineering. Whilst the other boy who was rather lost and quiet for the first four weeks actually found in himself when he returned home, a real hunger to succeed and play football and has now taken part in international tournaments for his age group. It took the trip to London and a bit of time thereafter to open his eyes and wake him up.

Apart from realising that Steve Gallen is a seriously good bloke who obviously cares very much about the boys that he coaches I also learned that QPR's first team seriously lacks attitude, personality and communication skills. No I don't want Joey Barton back, and I am not sure that it's passion or commitment I am asking for either. But I'm starting to wonder just how much attitude, intelligence, personality and ability to communicate our players really have? And I am also starting to wonder after this latest 3-2 loss, just how much it is going to take to wake them up.

But you can't make people have intelligence, or personalities. People are born with these attributes aren't they? Or maybe there is a chance to mould people...I hate to say it, but having a bit of personality in Warnock must have filtered through to the boys back in the days when we were in the Championship and when we were promoted. Now, apart from the odd one or two we look positively zombie-like. I am almost hoping that the whole of the first team (captain Park included) get caught smoking shisha pipes and doing jager bombs together in some dodgy London club tonight AND that there's loads of controversy about it. Then at least I'll know they are human and need to let off steam. And I'll know that they might just want to come back and prove they really are a football team and not a group of individual players that are not as good as they should be.