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Sudden outbreaks of peace - it must be the happy-dust.

Byline: Alun Rees

Lions skipper Martin Johnson moaned about coach Graham Henry. And in his Welsh coaching cap Henry came under fire from Gareth Jenkins.

Henry must feel like St Sebastian, shot full of arrows; though if the Welsh team had done the shooting he'd have been well safe

WHEN I was a nipper many thousands of years ago (no, I'm not exaggerating - my birth certificate can say what it likes, but I know I aged by several millennia while suffering the remarkable sight of Wales and Australia passing themselves off as rugby teams) I had this dream of inventing happy-dust.

Well, you know how it is - kids are daft. I was, anyway.

My motives were of the purest. There seemed to me to be far too much aggro, animosity, antagonism and acrimony going the rounds. A pinch of happy-dust here and another there, I reasoned, would usher in an aggroless world, de-animosticated, de-antagonistified and de-acrimonised. So I entered "Invent happy-dust" at No 1 in my "Things to do" list, then promptly forgot all about it.

Well, blow me down if some chap hasn't gone and created the stuff. Nothing else explains sudden outbreaks of de-animostication etc in soccer and cricket. One day it's all come outside and say that, you rotter;

next day it's all good pals and jolly good company, with fellow telling fellow you're my best mate, you are, like the well ratted swearing eternal fealty at stop-tap.

That dust-up between the Professional Footballers Association and the admin aristos over TV loot, for instance: it must have been dusted down with the happy gear. No surrender, growled PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor, and Arthur Scargill must have boiled with envy as the cutting edge of the proletarian revolution, from cream of Premiership to dross of Third Division, prepared for action (of the strike, not the playing, sort).

Out came gloves, scarves, balaclavas and braziers (it can get parky on the picket-line this time of year). Placards ("What do we want? All the money in the world! When do we want it? Now!") were carefully crayoned. There were vibrantly passionate rehearsals of The Red Flag. This was war.

Except that it wasn't. Instead, there followed the kind of peace which passeth all understanding even more passethly than Fabien Barthez's goalkeeping.

It had to be happy-dust at work. And a sprinkle of same over Uefa brought glad tidings to Little Orphan Celtic and Littler Orphan Rangers, the Scottish waifs who - with only rags to cover their emaciated bodies - wander the world seeking refuge lest they starve or freeze to death; or maybe both. The Scots, said Uefa, shall have two (McCheers! McWhoopee! ) Champions League places the season after next.

An extra Continental place is no more than fair, for both teams are composed mainly of Continental players whose only crime is that they aren't good enough to make it in Spain or Italy. It's also wonderful news for non-Scots, for it might shut up that orphanic McMewling and McPuling for a bit; though it's doubtful that there are enough happy-dust ingredients in the entire cosmos to bring that about.

The happy-dust worked a near-miracle in cricket, which was in danger of suffering a compound fracture as India squared up to the rest of the world over the Virender Sehwag affair. He was banned for one Test (ICC); no he wasn't (India); missed a game against South Africa, but that was ruled a non-Test (ICC); 'twasn't so (India); must miss first Test against England (ICC); yah, boo, sucks (India).

Enter Milord Teabags of MacLaurin, spitting on his hands and rolling his sleeves up. Leave Sehwag out or stuff your Test series (I paraphrase slightly), roared the former shopkeeper turned Grand Panjandrum of the England and Wales Cricket Board. When we will drop him, fired back Jagmohan Dalmiya, Archnabob of all things cricketous in India, is never; and maybe not until half-past never, at that.

Well, there's a pickle. It was like one of those cliff-hanging endings to an episode of Dick Barton, Special Agent on long-ago wireless. Would India persist? Would England stage a walk-out? Would the ICC cast India into outer darkness, the sub-continent not being one of its chums any more? Outcome: blissful harmony, Sehwag out of the team, everyone everyone's best mate again.

It could only have been happy-dust.

Rugby union, especially in Wales, looks a most likely candidate for clouds and clouds and clouds of this excellent prescription, but there was no sign of even a particle. This suggests that the chap who didn't forget the No 1 item on his "Things to do" list is Welsh; an outsider might have given it a go; one of our own boys would know that even the happiest happy-dust can't dent our gloom.

The Wales-Australia match and its aftermath said it all. We couldn't even beat the most butterfingered Australian team there ever was. It was an awful, awful, awful game; no, make that awful, awful, awful, awful; more mistakes than that Estelle Morris woman ('er as does the teacher-tormenting for His Blairship in succession to Blunkett bloke) apparently perpetrated in her A level exams.

Mind, that didn't stop her becoming headmistress of all the teachers in Blairland. So can this Welsh team accomplish some similar marvel? Don't ask. And national morale has evaporated. We're not even world-class excuse-makers any more;

we've given up blasting the ref; we whimper pathetically about the bounce of the ball, forgetting that if the ball did bounce our way we'd drop it.

Lions skipper Martin Johnson moaned about coach Graham Henry in his tour book. Anyone not written a tour book?

Dumb question. And in his Wales coaching cap Henry came under fire from Llanelli's Gareth Jenkins for not taking proper care of arrows; though if the Welsh team had done the shooting he'd have been well safe.

Here's a fellow who wants to apply a rugby union principle - use it or lose it - to ice-hockey: Buffalo Sabres forward Slava Kozlov. Demoted to the bench for the first time, he instructed the Sabres to play him or trade him forthwith. That'll come as a shock to the system of players - I name no names, I specify no sports - ever whining about being asked to work for their living.

Former Olympic medallist Steve Cram must have had a tidy happy-dusting. Losing the 2005 world championships would be good for British athletics in the long run, he optimistified: more cash for the grass-roots, and it wouldn't affect the UK's ability to host large events in the future. No? Next time Britain goes for anything bigger than the Commonwealths it had best have its stadium and mod cons in situ already.

Should our happy-duster have happydust to spare, if he has any heart he'll waft a tidy dose over German Skurygin of Russia (or maybe Russian Skurygin of Germany - he's a confusing chap). Not only has he copped a two-year ban for using dodgy substances, but the world 50km walking championship he won in 1999 has been re-allocated to the runner-up, Ivano Brugnetti of Italy.

Richard Caborn (the latest 'im as does the sport for His Blairship) would spurn your happy-dust, being the optimist's optimist. His super wheeze: two hours, minimum, sport a week for all schoolkids.

Terrific. Can't be faulted. Now all he has to do is replace all the school playing-fields which governments have flogged and then find a bunch of teachers with two hours to spare in between bumf-processing marathons.

The squabble between a chap name o Alex Popov and another name of Patrick Hayashi over who should have a ball - the one Barry Bonds belted for his record 73rd home run - must go to trial, ruled a New York judge. Until ownership is decided the ball won't be having a ball, as it must stay locked up. Bit hard on the poor critter:

banged up by Bonds, then by a judge.

That prophet they reckon is not without honour save in his own country - Zab Judah knows exactly how he feels. Ever the crowd-pleaser, when his latest pugilistical outing ended over-sharpish Judah did his best to make it up to Las Vegas punters by introducing a new sport: stool-chucking.

Did they give him a medal? They did not.

They gave him a six-month ban and a $75,000 fine.

Kobe Bryant (LA Lakers) tried to emulate his crowd-pleasing ways by raising Cain when ordered to quit the court against Golden State, but he chucked no stools (so fine only $7,500). Perhaps they can't afford stools in basketball. So there's your Christmas list settled: stools for stoolless basketballers, happy-dust for spoilsport boxing brasshats and a good lawyer to come to the rescue of a certain battered, banged-up, bailless baseball.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 3, 2001
Words:1458
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