Category Archives: International Sport

Last night’s controversial red card decision – our expert referee speaks!

In light of the controversy surrounding the Manchester United v Real Madrid match last night and the sending off of Nani by referee Cuneyt Cakir, we asked Keith Hackett, author of You are the Ref: a Guide to Good Refereeing for his reaction. It makes fascinating reading, and raises a number of points not currently being discussed in the media.

Keith writes:

‘There are clearly two standards of Law interpretation operating between English officials and the rest of Europe. In European games there is a lower tolerance level for the ‘raised boot’ challenge which will be punished with either a yellow card (Reckless) or red card if the Referee deems it to be serious foul play. English teams therefore have to adapt to these differences in law interpretation.

If the challenge in the game last night was met with a swift yellow card no one would have complained. The referee however decided to give himself a lot of thinking time and may have consulted with his colleagues to receive their view before surprising the majority of spectators by issuing a red card. Our coaching of Referees at the top level is to advise that we do not want any surprises of this type, and UEFA continue to hold regular training camps for Referees. Through the use of video clips we aim to get uniformity of decision making involving all Referees.

However, the question I pose is what homework did the clubs do on the Referee? If they had done their research then they would have understood the high probability of a red card from this referee in particular. He demonstrates great courage on the BIG decisions – that is why he is rated highly amongst his peers.

You are the Ref: A Guide to Good Refereeing covers in detail the law on foul challenges. Managers. Coaches Referees and Spectators should purchase a copy!’

Keith Hackett  is a former international referee and now  General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL) –  the referee’s governing body and, is the Referee Ambassador for the FA, Premier League and UEFA.

Paul Trevillion, renowned artist and illustrator provides the stunning images.


Top 10 Weird and Wacky Sports

We freely admit in Team Sport at Bloomsbury that we’ve published a fair few books on a plethora of sports from around the world, and there’s plenty more in the offing. But we got a-thinking about what weird and wacky sports there were out there. We may not be planning to publish books about them, but here’s our resident satirical sports-writer, Jonathan Eyers with a list of his top 10 weird ‘sports’.

(And click on the images if you want to see some of these crazy sports in action.)


10. Cup stacking

Almost exclusively a pastime of preteen Americans, this ‘sport’ involves laying out rows of plastic cups, stacking more rows on top of them, and then dismantling the stacks again – all as quickly and as accurately as possible. Penalties for knocking over your stack include death (not really). Clearly America will make a competition out of anything, including preparing their kids for careers in the service industry. Incidentally, competitive eating (surely also the sole preserve of Americans) would be at number 11 on this list.

Cup stacking

9. Birdman rallies

ico-birdman1They might call these eccentric/embarrassing (delete as appropriate) spectacles Flugtags now to try and convince the world they are a German invention, but the first birdman rally was held in Britain in 1971. Actually, it’s not hard to imagine the grey-faced, red-flared, Seventies breed of Brit showing up to watch someone throw themselves off the pier, given the mass unemployment, three-day week, power outages and regular strikes. As with everything else, some people take it all far too seriously, and the most hardcore of enthusiasts can reach over 100ft in their human-powered craft. Points are won both for distance and entertainment value. A bit like boxing.

8. Kabaddi

Kabaddi is the Tamil word for ‘holding hands’, but the key thing about this 4,000-year-old sport from the Indian subcontinent is actually holding your breath. Described by some as a bizarre mix of wrestling and rugby (without a ball), it sounds more like one of those games we played as kids that involved charging at each other. Two teams of seven take turns to be on the offensive and defensive. Each controls half the court. The team on the offensive sends a raider onto the other side of the court to knock out (not literally) as many opponents as he can. The catch is that the raider must hold his breath until he is back on his own side, and the defenders will be doing everything they can to stop him getting there before he runs out of air.


7. Wife-carrying

This bizarre sport originated in Finland, which holds the international championships every year. Male competitors must carry their wives over a 253.5m obstacle course, and the winning couple is the one that finishes it in the fastest time. Fortunately for those husbands whose wives are not enthusiastic about being heaved through the mandatory pool of water, it doesn’t have to be your own wife. However, she must weigh at least 49kg, or she has to wear a rucksack for added weight. Wives can be carried piggyback, over the shoulder or ‘Estonian style’ – the wife hangs upside down with her legs over her husband’s shoulders whilst she holds onto his waist. All other sports could learn one thing from wife-carrying – the official rules require all competitors to enjoy themselves.


 6. Ferret legging

ferret legging Another product of the Seventies (remember, they didn’t have the internet and there were only three TV channels back then), this endurance sport came from Yorkshire, where it was popular with coal miners. Its popularity has waned in recent years, perhaps because it’s considered slightly cruel to trap two live ferrets down an old bumpkin’s trousers for five and a half hours (the world record). Winning at ferret-legging simply entails not letting the things out before any of your fellow competitors. The former world champion used to wear white trousers to better show off all the blood that the biting, scratching beasts extracted from his legs and… other places. They sure don’t breed ’em like that down here in’t south.

To be continued …

Tennis: A Call to Ranks

Guest Post by Anna MacDiarmid, Editorial Intern for Team Sport

Olympic Stars - Andy Murray and Laura Robson

Olympic Stars – Andy Murray & Laura Robson

The first major event on the tennis calendar, the Australian Open, is well underway. And the question on every tennis fan’s lips is: who will raise the trophy this year? British number one Andy Murray has already won one trophy this year, defending his title at the Brisbane International. 2012 was a fantastic year for British tennis, along with most British sport, with Murray winning an Olympic Gold Medal and the US Open, ending the UK’s long wait for a Grand Slam Champion. Can he top 2012 with a Wimbledon win? We shall see. While Murray is the only British male tennis player in the world’s top 100, things are looking up for female tennis, with young players Laura Robson and Heather Watson entering the top 50 this year. My question is: why must we tennis fans rest all our hopes on so few contenders?

Britain is the home of tennis, so why is it we produce so few Murray-like players? Most people love to sit down to a good Wimbledon match with a Pimms in one hand and some strawberries and cream in the other, so why do we not play tennis with such devotion? This is set to change; with such a good year for British tennis last year, as well as the lasting Olympic Legacy British sport is keen to promote, things are starting to look up. Tennis does have a reputation for being an expensive sport, and I can understand this as a tennis player myself. It is rare to find a court you can play on without paying £5 a game and often you have to pay an extortionate fee to join a club. However, things are set to change, with more free courts popping up around the country as well as taster sessions allowing people to try out the sport.


Grab a racquet this Spring!

One excellent organisation promoting just this is Tennis For Free ( TFF works with schools, tennis clubs and local authorities throughout the UK to create more opportunities for tennis communities to utilise public park court facilities for free. One of their main projects is to provide free equipment and a 2 year coaching programme delivered by qualified coaches to all ages and standards for 50 weeks of the year, for free. Their website is also an excellent resource for finding courts you can play on around the country (…for free). Just enter your postcode and browse the results for your most convenient court.

January is the month to take up a new sport and get fit, so I say take up tennis, let’s start producing our own Federers, Djokovics and Nadals. This game really is fantastic for all areas of fitness, not only does it improve your aerobic fitness, but also builds muscle and improves balance as well as being great fun! The average player will cover between 3 and 5 miles during a competitive match and burn up to 600 calories per hour. Also tennis players repeat the same movements over and over which helps to tone the body. Don’t wait for the summer, pick up your racquet and get on court.

Editorial Intern for Team Sport at Bloomsbury, Anna is a keen tennis player and has been playing on and off for about eight years; she secretly hopes to hit the big time. While admitting racquet sports are probably the only kind of exercise she really enjoys, she does also like swimming, and desperately wants to try scuba diving in a tropical underwater world one day.


Listen Out: Olympic Author on TalkSport Radio

Tune in your radios, turn up the volume, and sit back and listen to Richard Witt on the Hawksbee and Jacobs show tomorrow (Wednesday 4th July 2012) on TalkSport Radio between 1pm and 4pm.

Richard, author the Olympic book A Lifetime of Training for Just Ten Seconds, will be talking about the book – a collection of quotations from Olympic athletes and commentators. Inspiring, devastating, and often hilarious, it is a fascinating insight into the Games and its cast of characters. This live radio interview will no doubt be full of the same. Don’t miss it.



A Question of Sport Answered

A Question of Sport, Bloomsbury style

Yes, it’s finally been a week, so here are the answers to last week’s quiz.

1) Andrew Strauss (1pt)
2) Monty Panesar (1pt)
3) Graeme Swann (1pt)
4) Trevor Brooking (Alan Sunderland scored the winning goal for Arsenal in the 1979 FA Cup final, Ricky Villa for Spurs in 1981. Trevor Brooking did it for West Ham in 1980.) (1pt)
5) Paul Lambert (1pt)
6) Soviet Union (1pt)
7) Sampras 7, Nav 9 = 63 (1pt)
8) Virginia Wade (1pt)
9) 26 Scrabble points (1pt)
10) 9.96s (1pt)
11) 1916, 1940 and 1944 (3pts)
12) Darts board – 6 (1pt)

There was a total of 14 points on offer (points in brackets), so how did you competitive folk do?

0-4     You’re Eric the Eel. Better luck next time.

6-10   Well done. You’re Andy Murray. Close, but no cigar.

11-14  Congratulations, you’re on fire. You’re Usain Bolt.



A Question of Sport

You’d have to have been living under a stone not to be aware of the incredible Summer of Sport almost upon us.  So, in order to whet your appetite, we’ve hand-picked a dozen tricky questions that will bring out your competitive instinct.  Test your knowledge on some of the events sure to hog the back pages over the next few months.  Enjoy!

On your marks … set … go!

Some nice easy ones to begin with:

Below are three well-known England cricketers who’ve got themselves into a right old muddle running between the wickets.  Hopefully you’ll be able to help them out before the first Test Series of the summer gets underway this week:




The curtains have just come down on yet another highly entertaining domestic football season, yet with Chelsea’s upcoming Champions League Final appearance on the horizon, we thought we’d test both your British and European club-team knowledge of the beautiful game:

4)      Who, in 1980, achieved what Sunderland did in 1979 and Villa did in 1981?

5)      Which current Premier League manager became the first British player to lift the Champions League trophy?

Away from the domestic football scene, of course, looms Euro 2012.  So, never one to shirk an easy link, here’s a question about it:

6)      Spain was the last country to win the tournament in 2008, but which country, in 1960, was the first?

Now to one of Britain’s most feted competitions which, unfortunately, is likely to sit in the shade whilst the world watches London 2012That’s not to say the quality of tennis should be any less enthralling though, so, to get you in the mood, here are a couple of questions that focus on great Wimbledon moments:  

7)      Pete Sampras and Martina Navratilova hold the record for the most Wimbledon Singles’ titles won.  If you multiply their titles together, what number do you get?

8)      This year marks the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but which Brit was the last player to be crowned Wimbledon Singles’ champion when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee? 

And finally to London 2012, the cherry on top of the icing on the cake of a phenomenal summer of sport:

9)      If Marathon is worth 13 points and Decathlon is worth 15 points, how many points would High Jump be worth?

10)   In 1992, Britain’s Linford Christie won gold in the 100m, but what was his time?
a)      9.97                b) 9.94                  c) 9.96                   d) 9.99

11)   Which three Olympic Games were cancelled due to World War I and World War II?


The tie-breaker

All square after eleven questions?  Rather than settle a dead heat, this final question is designed to sort out the medal positions once and for all – let the first person to call out the answer be crowned Bloomsbury Sports Quiz Champion!

On your marks … set … go!  

12)   This sport might be a popular pastime with sportsmen and women across Britain when rain stops play.  However, which number comes next in the sequence:

20           1              18           4              13           ?                

NB: Remember to check back here in a week’s time for the answers.

Contributed by James Rennoldson, Sports Quizmaster Extraordinaire

6 Tries, 162 Conversions, 239 Penalties, 36 Drop Goals, 1 Legend

Yesterday marked the end of an era for not only England rugby, but world rugby, with the announced international retirement of Jonny Wilkinson.

Capped 91 times for England, Wilkinson has scored a record-breaking 1,179 points for England, played in 4 World Cup campaigns and reached two finals.

A legend  Wilkinson was the second-youngest English player at 18 years and 314 days when he began his international career 13 years ago, and there was no doubt from that first entrance that he was going to be a great player. His career defining moment coming in the 2003 World Cup final against Australia when he kicked the drop-goal 17 seconds from the end of extra time, taking the score to 20-17 and securing England victory.

Blighted by injury, the extraordinarily determined England fly-half has fought back against each setback and it is this dedication to the game which has been inspirational – not only to his teammates but to players around the world.  Wilkinson has always been a great ambassador for the game with his diligence and determination and much can be learned from his example.


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