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Bob Shields; A GAME WITHOUT HONOUR OR BALLS This unseemly stand-off over Zimbabwe is just not cricket.

Byline: Bob Shields

THERE'S this very bad man who's in charge of a foreign country. He clings to power through manipulated elections and intimidating political opposition.

He has deliberately killed many of his own people and has complete authority over his armed forces, his police, the law courts and the Press.

So, as 1500 British reservists are called up, 20,000 troops are on alert and a fully armed HMS Ark Royal prepares to sail, we must ask ourselves one big question - do we play this country at cricket or not?

England's proposed World Cup tie in Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe has turned into a farce. At one point last week, it was suggested the match should go ahead as long as the England captain didn't have to shake hands with the country's dictator.

So, that's the human rights problem sorted then.

There's a rule in cricket that an illegal delivery can be declared a "no ball" by the umpire. I don't know if anyone is umpiring this current spat between the batty boys and the Government, but "no balls" would be a fairly accurate shout.

The Government don't want the game to go ahead, but they don't want to enforce it. The England And Wales Cricket Board position is that they want the game to go ahead, but they don't want to be seen to be condoning Mugabe.

And at the root of it all is, of course, money. If England don't play in Harare, they'll get chucked out of the World Cup and sued for millions by the sponsors. And the Government won't pick up the tab.

You can understand why the boys in blazers want to go. After three months of G&Ts in Australia, it's a bit chilly back in Blighty. Another month taking tiffin in the pavilions of South Africa would be rather jolly, thank you.

And any fear over the player's safety is just a joke. Mugabe will have his troops everywhere except the batting crease.

But the biggest offender here is the Government. A ban on the match might cost millions in compensation, but what is the price of self- respect? As Burns said "when you feel your honour grip, let that aye be your border".

Meanwhile in Iraq, the UN chemical warfare inspectors can't even come up with a packet of out-of-date Askit powders, yet we have billions set aside to blast them to dust.

Saddam Hussein is no angel, but his biggest fault seems to be that he's the same Saddam Hussein George Bush Snr didn't overthrow. And his boy is gonna finish the goddam job.

Saddam can wait. Why not send HMS Ark Royal to the Gulf via the Cape and stop off at the Mozambique Channel.

From there, we can fire a couple of missiles through the dressing room window at Harare Cricket Ground.

And send Robert Mugabe a simple one word message from the Admiral of the Fleet - Howzat!

The road to nowhere

MY thanks to Mr Humphrys of Norfolk for this sombre little picture. Apparently it's in the dead centre of a place called Queenstown, New Zealand.

Celebs will gain pounds from fitness videos

IS there anyone remotely famous out there who hasn't released their own New Year keep-fit video?

From third-rate soap stars like Tracey Shaw's Salsacise video to Geri Halliwell, from GMTV's Penny Smith to Nicole Kidman's unknown cousin - they're all at it.

And sadly, there are enough gullible women out there who think half an hour of happy clappy is going to turn them into Penelope Cruz.

Girls, you'll use more calories spending the pounds 14.99 on a bag of oranges - and carrying them home before eating them.

Copy Cat has used its ninth life

IT'S not the end of the world - it just seems like it. The famous Copy Cat pub in Glasgow's Broomielaw - home to decades of Daily Record journos - will serve its last pint on Monday night.

The building has been sold for redevelopment.

While demolition is inevitable, last ditch talks to keep it open a few more months, until the bulldozers arrive, are ongoing.

A final decision between the Punch Pub Company (lovely people) and Clydeport (a great bunch of guys) could come as late as Monday afternoon.

Either way, Tuesday is going to bring one hell of a hangover.

Eu're ripping us off, Tony

IF the Brits go to France for their cheap smokes ... then where do the French go?

Well, since last week, the answer is Italy.

The French government has hiked up the price of les snouts from pounds 2.21 to pounds 2.59. Still pounds 2 cheaper than here - but a lot to the fuming Frogs.

Now they've stolen our international smokes smuggling idea and are travelling to Latte, on the Italian border, where they are 10 per cent cheaper.

Tony Blair is said to be reluctant about the Euro. But he'll get my vote if he introduces a little something at around pounds 3 a packet.

The Euro-Fag!

He's not on the ball..

YOUNG Steve Cromey is to be recognised by Guinness World Records for his football skills.

The 11-year-old schoolboy's world-beating feat was to score directly from three successive corner kicks for Ash Green United against Dunlop FC in the Coventry Minor League.

No doubt the Dunlop FC goalkeeper will also eventually appear in the record books.

As the diddy nobody talked to for the rest of his school career.

Tories are winter fools

WHILE Scotland shivers, the Tories have asked for a review of winter fuel benefits.

Only Ian Duncan Scrooge could come up with proposed legislation that takes the pounds 200 allowance from people who travel overseas in winter.

So if a retired couple save all year to spend January in Majorca, they won't get the cash.

Our MPs - including the Tory ones - enjoy the best allowances, expenses and perks in the country.

Can't they leave our old folk alone?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 11, 2003
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