On Wednesday evening, Pakistan fans around the world celebrated their first-ever bilateral ODI series victory in South Africa. As quick as some were to castigate South Africa for the manner of their loss, there were many who remembered to sing the praises of the only homeless international nation. Winning away from home probably isn’t all that special for Pakistan these days. They have to win all their matches away from home.
Yesterday, it was reported that the Pakistan Taliban has warned the Pakistan media to stop singing the praises of Sachin Tendulkar. Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesperson of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban, appears in a video “flanked by two AK-47 wielding masked men”, and tells the Pakistan media he has his eye on them.
“It was unfortunate to see Pakistani media went to great extent to pay tribute to Indian cricketer by running video clips on TV channels and writing huge articles in his praise. On the other hand, it was sad to know same Pakistani media badly criticised Pakistani cricket team as well as its captain Misbah-ul-Haq. We condemn this move of Pakistani media and expect it will not repeat the same in future,” said Shahidullah Shahid, according to the Indian press. “Shame for Pakistani media that spoke highly of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. No doubt, he has been a great cricketer, but, he’s Indian after all, so stop promoting him.”
In a small, short and private ceremony at the Swellendam Show Grounds on Saturday, the Hot Chillee cycling team presented teammate Nicholas Dlamini with the cheque the squad had just received for finishing in third place at the 203km Coronation Double Century. It was not a huge amount of money, R5 000 in total, but the Hot Chillee riders decided unanimously that it would be better served donated to the 18-year-old Dlamini than divvied up into pocket money for the rest of them.
There was no song, no dance, no shouting it from the rooftops. You had to be there to see it.
The Brisbane Courier-Mail’s attempt to give Stuart Broad the silent treatment backfired quite spectacularly on two fronts yesterday.
Their front-page request-demand-plea not to boo Broad as he thrived on it was roundly ignored by fans fired up by beer and the desperation of an Australian team on the wane: “Our newspaper coverage will simply refer to ‘a 27-year-old English medium pace bowler’, and we will de-identify any images of him,” the paper wrote.
Yesterday, David O’Sullivan, the Talk Radio 702 host and my old mate, went further than he thought he would. He went about 60km further than he thought he could go. The Momentum 94.7 Cycle Tour should have ended somewhere on Jan Smuts for him, either at the top beside the Dunkeld West centre, or, perhaps more appropriately, down at the bottom at the Bushveld Pub and Diner, a short uphill sprint from where he lives.
But it did not. It went on and on and on. It went to the finish of the 90-odd kilometres of the Cycle Challenge on a hot, sultry Johannesburg day. It went past where he had ever taken his body before, through cramps and tired legs, through doubt and pain to the point of joy and satisfaction that cycling finds for all those who succumb to its wiles. In cycling the pain never goes away, the old saying goes, you only get faster.
Forgiveness is thin on the ground for Lance Armstrong in Johannesburg this week. Sorry was the hardest word for the Texan to say, and so it is proving for those he could not bring himself to say sorry to. Forgiveness in the form of a lesser sentence would be “close to a miracle” for a man whose case was “done and dusted” as far as the World Anti-Doping Agency were concerned.
Armstrong has gone on a publicity and charm offensive in the last few weeks, offering anyone who will take his call a chance to interview him. Cyclingnews.com ran a four-part interview with him, which was an important read and yet seemed to be lacking in a few specific details. Those details are the ones that could land Armstrong in a little more strife with the lawsuits he is facing. Shane Stokes of Velonation.com turned Armstrong down, saying he had been approached by a third party who knew Armstrong and who said he could set up and interview. Stokes said he would only talk to Armstrong if he could ask him about “everything, including the UCI and suppliers, etc” and wasn’t interested in being used.
Journalist and author William Fotheringham wrote in the Guardian this week that it “smacks of a media offensive. Along with the BBC and cyclingnews.com and the Velonation website, I know of several other journalists who have had contact with him. And that’s just the known knowns. It seems fair to assume that there must be a few unknown unknowns out there too.”
Yet the draw of the Armstrong story is still strong, even if it has been turned upside down, and Armstong has been able to complain about the way he is being treated, a refrain taken up by those who are still blinded by the tale of a man who came back from cancer to win the toughest race in the world. Armstrong is now seemingly miffed that others are benefitting from his story, which is a good PR line to take if quite incredibly disingenuous. All who doped in the EPO era are guilty of cheating, and no matter how many confess, there is still the sense that others are still living the lie. Armstrong is guilty of telling only part of the truth, the part that will see him hold on to the vast fortune he earned through cheating and lying. A hard luck story from an athlete worth in the region of R1.2-billion rings as hollow as an empty pharmacy.
Yesterday morning the UCI and Wada agreed to terms for an independent commission into doping in the sport, taking in both the past and the present. Armstrong has been urged to speak to the UCI, but the American believes going back into the past will not serve the sport of cycling well. He is wrong. It will only not serve him well.
*Kevin McCallum on Wednesday won the SAB Media Awards sports columnist of the year and the sports blogger of the year categories. McCallum has been with Independent Newspapers for 18 years. “Kevin McCallum is the premier sports journalist of his time and he has consistently brought honour to (the group) through his writing. His recognition in these categories is long overdue and we are very grateful that the industry is seeing him in the same light that we have seen him for so long,” said The Star deputy editor Kevin Ritchie.