Tottenham Hotspur are once more leading the way amongst Premier League football who are helping the underprivileged. Two exciting new initiatives link the club with homeless people and with sport for people with a disability.
Today Spurs announced that they have become a Global Team Football Ambassador for the Special Olympics. It’s a bit of mouthful that smacks of being put together over 18 months by 7 committees and three PR firms. Forget the title – there’s an uplifting message there if you stop and take a look. The club will support the creation and development of 10 new teams, but at least as important is the underlying message of the enduring power of football to promote respect and inclusion for people with learning disabilities.
Great quote from Ossie, ok, he probably didn’t come up with it himself but it’s still worth repeating in full:
“For me it is a very special occasion. Tottenham Hotspur and Special Olympics are both very close to my heart and so to see Spurs take on a bigger role globally with Special Olympics is fantastic.
“There are millions of people with learning disabilities and they are often a forgotten group. The partnership will help create opportunities for Special Olympics athletes and transform the way communities and groups think and act in regard to disability.”
This follows on the heels of the news that Spurs will sponsor the Indian team at the Homeless World Cup in Milan after donating $100k to the Sport for The Homeless Slum Soccer programme.
It’s easy to be cynical about things like these and the founding involvement in the 10:10 environment emissions initiative that I blogged about last week. So I will. The Indian hook-up will generate publicity and flog a few replica shirts.
But even a curmudgeonly sceptic such as myself can see these are good things. The homeless and the support for people with learning difficulties, both causes close to my heart, will do a hell of a lot of good, and full credit to the club’s board for taking the lead.
So let’s go one step further. Next season, Mr Levy, ditch the Mansion logo and emblazon the name of a charity on the front of our shirts. Take that message around the world, that’s how I want the world to see my club. Anyone as long as the logo’s not red. Something to look forward to.
Even though this blog is still wet behind the ears, I cannot believe that I have not yet raved about the boy genius that is Luka Modric. Maybe I have, so let’s do it again.
His leap of annoyance as Keane’s lame shot was pushed over by Reina could well be the most significant moment of Spurs’ season. Keano as usual tried to be too clever. The ball demanded to be clipped across the keeper with the instep. He should have taken his cue from the guy who set it up. A straightforward pass slotted into the space, precise and perfectly weighted, beguiling in its simplicity and one of many similarly composed and assured touches on Sunday afternoon.
The position from which it was delivered proved how involved he will be this season. Coming off the left wing, not drifting aimlessly but with purpose, he is less easy to mark, possessed of freedom born of the certainty that the unselfish Palacios will cover.
That gesture: if he’s involved then he wants his teammates to respond in kind. The fact that it was a public display means that he is no longer overawed by more senior colleagues. Finally, it proved it matters. Tottenham Hotspur matter.
If Modric plays, really plays, then we play. Last year comparisons with the incomparable Ardilles seemed fanciful and overblown, but nevertheless I went right ahead and made them, Now we’ll see it. The short rapid strides, pass and move, shaping the pace of play, charming the game as it falls under his spell.
This precious talent is overawed by the Premier League no longer. I still have a paternal eye on his frail frame but he’s big enough to look after himself. The TV experts often airily dismissed him last season solely due to his stature. One immutable law in Punditland is ‘small plus foreign equals inadequate’. But Luka was brought up in the battleground of the Croatian leagues where as a young man he was an easy target. He’s stronger than he looks and he problems, such as they were, were the usual requirements of a young man settling in a new country with a new team with a manager who did not buy him.
And let’s not forget Harry Redknapp, who has spotted the potential of this shining diamond (but not geezer) and is building the midfield around him. This is the sort of tactic that I referred to last week around the importance of Redknapp’s nouse in our campaign this season. Now just hold onto him in the window, for goodness sake. We love you Luka, I do….
In a few moments you will read the words of a great Tottenham footballer. Properly, fully, righteously great is what I’m saying here, as opposed to ‘great’ in the modern sense of the word, which in the otherwise vacant mind of many a media hack has come to be defined as ‘slightly better than average.’
Great as in supremely talented, to the extent that his gift enabled him to rise to the very pinnacle of his sport. Yet his virtues would be decried in this day and age. Skilful admittedly, but he could work harder, cover more ground defensively, not take a breather every now and again. With the insight born of the conclusive 57th replay in ultra slow motion, Andy Gray would pick holes in his stamina and positioning. Tut tut.
We mere mortals who delighted in his dexterity, we knew. Our hearts beat faster when he came onto the ball, skipping over the ground, bursts of short staccato steps, hunched shoulders, arms outstretched to offer balance and a measure of protection for his diminutive frame from muscular defenders anxious to disrupt his flow.
Sure he was not a 90 minute man and the fags didn’t help, but it’s what he accomplished in those 20 minute spells when he did play that counts. Then the whole game danced to his tune. He set the pace, a skip, a touch, pass and move, into space, teammates guided towards the pass that would follow not in a moment but in two or three passes time.
A World Cup winner, he held the ultimate prize but remains humble and content with a life in the game, even though that game has hurt him a time or two since then. A lesson here for the preening precious narcissists we call professionals. Celebrated in his own country but in the drab surroundings of north London he was loved, truly loved, never to be forgotten.
And now, years later, we discover Ossie Ardilles’ real dream. To play once more this wonderful, beautiful game, just for the sake of it. If only.
“ Osvaldo Ardiles concludes his autobiography, Ossie’s Dream, published next week: “And if you asked me, ‘What is your dream, your real dream?’, well, apart from managing a national side in a World Cup, it’s simple: I would give anything to be able to play one more match. I don’t mean a kickabout with some mates. I mean a real, proper football match. Just to walk into the dressing room, all the kit laid out, the new socks, the boots … everything ready.
“Just to do a little run on the spot, a bit of jumping to warm up, then to walk out of the tunnel on to the turf of a real stadium. Just to hear the roar of the crowd and to let my mind compute all the emotions and thoughts and strategies simultaneously: my loved ones, my loyalties, my fitness and, above all, who is going to be marking me? Just to hear the whistle blow, and for the game to start.”
Extract taken from Richard Williams’ column in the Guardian today.