“If we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment”.

There is no better example of how true WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s comment about the role of the media in creating distress amongst the masses than the current situation in Greece. This piece looks at how that distress was created by an inconsiderate media.

Stereotypes and Narratives
During the height of the Greek protester’s clashes with riot police on the streets of Athens representatives of the media found some, or perhaps a lot, of the Greek public’s frustration directed at them.

The protester’s frustration at the state of their country and the way it is being dealt with has only being added to by their feeling that the media is stereotyping them, misrepresenting them, and that they are only voicing the concerns and opinions of the economic and financial elite rather than representing the reality of the Greek worker.

It is important to realise that the media like to create narratives and stereotypes – modes which are easy for us simple public to consume. A quick example that satisfies the media’s taste for a familiar narrative is the recent substitution of leading bad guys; Gadaffi replacing the tired old image of bin Laden, and the old favourite narrative of the US leading the way into a distant country to protect the civilians from their own leader.

It was only a few months ago that the main stereotype of the Egyptians was that they were somewhat pathetic, that they conflict with democracy, and that half of them were fundamentalist Muslims, and then suddenly they became the protagonists of the fight for democracy. This is a clear instance of the media changing the narrative when the stereotypes have collapsed.

Compared to the Greek story the Arab Spring was a much more straight-forward narrative – the images consisted of demonstrations, people demanding democracy, and more liberal rights. This is very easy for people to understand and relate to worldwide.
A situation like Greece is much more difficult to understand – it is much harder to see what they are demonstrating about, to understand why austerity is being imposed, and what is wrong with the Euro. And so covering the economic crises is more difficult for journalists than covering the Arab Spring.

Lazy Greeks
A lot of Greeks feel the mainstream western media only picked up on their story when it turned violent. To many protesters this misrepresents the initial peaceful nature of their movement. Also, the Greek’s frustration is caused by the media’s focus on what the politicians are going to do about the current problems whereas they rarely address what the Greek people themselves are thinking about all this.

According to many alternative Greek journalists there is a sense that the media are stigmatising their social demands and are trying to create a monstrous profile of the protesters.

In some countries, the media has gone as far as to suggest that the reason the Greeks are in such a financial predicament is because they are lazy and don’t work as much as other European countries. http://www.thelocal.de/national/20110624-35869.html

According to the Operation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), however, that is not true.
In 2008 Greeks worked on average 690 hours more than the average German, 450 more than the average Brit, and 350 hours more than the OECD average.

According to Eurostats data from 2005 the average age of exit from the labour force in Greece was 61.7; higher than France, Germany, Italy and higher than the EU average. http://economicsnewspaper.com/policy/german/french-study-southern-europeans-to-work-longer-and-harder-than-german-31077.html

In fact, according to a Eurostat survey published recently, it is the Irish who are lazy, averaging a full two hours under the EU norm of hours worked per week. http://www.independent.ie/national-news/we-work-fewer-hours-than-rest-of-eu-except-danes-2809663.html

So to portray the Greeks as lazy is baseless and only adds to the protester’s frustration that the Western and international media are not focusing on the problems that need to be addressed. It would also lead one to ask the question why would such news outlets say such a thing?

Greek Anger
This anger directed at the media has been bubbling for a while as the protester’s found their own countries’ major news corporations to be missing the big picture.

Everytime a Greek turned on their television they saw, and still see, representatives from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the E.U. talking about the problems in Greece and what the Greeks need to do. The media, perhaps understandably, think that the IMF knows best. Yet this is the same IMF that didn’t see the big financial crises coming.

Europe editor of the Economist John Peet makes the point that in a complex financial and economical crises the media tend to depend too much on official sources, briefings from finance ministries, the European commission and/or the IMF on information and the way of thinking and so don’t relate the feelings of the protesters as much as they become somewhat smothered by the more assured, and mostly well presented, business figures.

As a result the Greek people target the media because they see it as part of the problem and it has evolved or snowballed so that the protesters are now united by their hostility towards the media.

The Same old Story
Greece’s domestic media landscape is similar to many other countries – several outlets in the hands of a wealthy few, and many of those groups are conglomerates whose non-media companies do a lot of business with the same government their news outlets cover.

The majority of people in the media get their revenue from other sources such as shipping, construction, and banking.
The media serves as a tool to negotiate with the government and get the big jobs in big contracts from the state.

It’s obvious if you own the companies that take money from the state in order to do several constructions (such as infrastructure etc) and you also control the media, that the discourse of that media would be affected by the interests of its owners.

Another major piece of the problem is that economics still does not have alternative economists. There is no other choice or alternative to the current mode of economics.

“What happened to this country? Oh it spent too much money. What should we do so? Well, let’s give them loads more money of course. And if that doesn’t work? Give them even more!”

There is no other alternative, no other road to take. 

“There needs to be economists with a different agenda, which is not IMF, neo-liberalism, or to pursue austerity all the time. Until then it will be the Greeks are wrong, IMF are right, the EU are right, when really it should be the other way round.” Samah El-Shahat, Economist Al-Jazeera.

The Greeks believe this is a macro-economical story.

“It will not stop here- it will go to Portugal, Ireland, Spain, UK…we have an invasion, the invading forces don’t wear uniforms, they wear suits, and they don’t carry weapons, they carry laptops. And they are telegenic and talk in sound bytes; they look and sound better than the Greek chorus of discontent on the streets.” – Dimitri Galanis, Correspondent Tovima Newspaper. http://www.tovima.gr/

Few bands have won such deserved praise as the XX

On the night after Jamie XX took to the stage at Forbidden Fruits in Dublin (I wasn’t there, and I don’t want to think about how good it could have been), it occurred to me just how important that he, Jamie Smith, and his bandmates Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim have become to music in just two short years. By now, we all know how good their debut album was, but one thing that had eluded some critics at the time – and what I would consider their best asset – was their uncanny ability to identify and exploit the precise direction that contemporary music was going in.  The sparse, dubstep and Rn’B-inspired sounds on the record can now be seen in artists as varied as Katy B (who has got plenty of abuse on this site) and (the excellent) James Blake. In short, their next album will probably be another brilliant, cutting-edge piece of 24-carat lovely gold.

Both Gil and Jamie enjoyed huge success from their recent collaboration

Not much is known about when the band will get together to record a new LP, but the signs are promising, given Jamie’s sublime collaboration with the late, great Gil Scott-Heron. We’re New Here served the dual purpose of augmenting the XX’s status as one of the most forward-thinking outfits on the planet, while exposing the Godfather of Hip-Hop’s wonderfully dark oeuvre to a new generation. Heron left this world during a time when his music was being rediscovered, a fitting way for a largely-forgotten legend to go out. Jamie has kept our lust for XX-related stuff  ticking over with some great remixes over the past few months, such as this faltydl-hip-love-jamie-xx-remix as well as this great mix with Oneman for Fact Magazine http://www.factmag.com/2011/04/13/fact-mix-239-jamie-xx-oneman/. These may possibly give us an idea as to the creative direction of the next XX album, and although neither of their two singers possess the same charisma as Gil Scott Heron, it never stopped them before. I’m going to do something a little bit unwise and predict with absolute certainty that the 2nd XX album will be a MASSIVE success, both creatively and commercially. Anyone who can do this deserves to be exceedingly wealthy… 

Obama sin Laden – The Magic of the Media

Posted: May 5, 2011 by fonnaguschakra in Environment, Media, Politics

Julian Assange, founder and spokesperson for WikiLeaks, makes an interesting point about the state and role of media today:

“One of the hopeful things that I’ve discovered is that nearly every war that has started in the past 50 years has been a result of media lies. The media could’ve stopped it if they had searched deep enough; if they hadn’t reprinted government propaganda they could’ve stopped it. But what does that mean? Well, that means that basically populations don’t like wars, and populations have to be fooled into wars. Populations don’t willingly, with open eyes, go into a war. So if we have a good media environment, then we also have a peaceful environment.”http://rt.com/news/wikileaks-revelations-assange-interview/

With that in mind it is interesting to look at the “bin Laden is Dead” story and how government officials have used it to create an environment of confusion, anger, patriotism, and ultimately division. This piece looks at how this environment was created.

Inconsistencies

John Brennan - Obama's counterterrorism chief

A lot of the inconsistencies, discrepancies, and confusion in the narrative has come from the mouth of one man in particular; John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser. It would be reasonable to assume this man would be debriefed thoroughly following an event in which his whole job is based around seeing as he was one of the main figures who brought this historic piece of news to the world’s attention.

A man in his situation would surely want to make sure he had all the facts checked and re-checked so that he could present the news to the world and answer any inevitable questions comprehensively. On Monday Brennan claimed that the al-Qaida leader was carrying a weapon and fired at troops before he was shot dead.

Obama and his team watch events unfold, but soon forgot all they had watched

On Tuesday we were told by US officials that bin Laden did not have a weapon at all. Instead we are told; “The bottom line is the team that entered the room was met with resistance and took appropriate action”. “I’m not aware of him having a weapon”. http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/178088.html

Unfortunately it is impossible for me, or you, or anyone else to get the original information from the source because this info was disclosed during a background, off-camera briefing for specific reporters, most notably Politico which is run by Frederick J. Ryan Jr., former assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

(Politico is also owned by Allbritton Communications who have several media partners with who they co-report and distribute their content, including ABC, CBS and Yahoo! News). http://www.politico.com/aboutus/

This off-camera briefing was so because the officials had to speak on condition of anonymity since aspects of the operation remained classified.

Later on Tuesday the White House Press Secretary Jay Carney held a press conference to clear things up and publicly revise the administration’s account of the raid.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney

They reiterated what they had said on Monday evening about bin Laden being unarmed but directed questions about the manner in which the Al-Qaeda leader “resisted” to the Pentagon. At the Pentagon early on Monday, however, a senior defense official announced that bin Laden used a woman as a human shield so he could fire shots. “He was firing behind her”, he said. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0511/54162.html

Carney also cleared up discrepancies about two women who were allegedly killed at the compound. He noted that one was killed on the first floor of the building in “the crossfire” while on the second floor he explained that when a U.S. “assaulter” approached bin Laden, the Al Qaeda leader’s “wife” rushed the assaulter. She was shot but not killed. When asked was she armed he replied “no”.

What is interesting about this whole confusion surrounding the exact details of what happened is how we are led to believe it was a highly successful mission executed to a very high degree of precision involving constant communication back to President Obama in The White House.

Yet it seems, although troops on the ground in the middle of a “firefight” could relate information through headsets, satellites, and audio to give a wealth of information to commanding officers, The White House’s Press Secretaries cannot seem to put the narrative together in a cohesive, consistent manner which they can present to the world after the events have happened.

In such a situation surely the priority would be to create an unquestionable account of a series of very serious events to avoid anxiety and doubt amongst the masses.

Implying Pakistani Involvement

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani

Almost immediately after the news broke of the death of bin Laden, American rhetoric implied that Pakistani authorities must have been aware of the Al-Qaeda leaders presence not far from their military base and even that he received assistance from Pakistani officials.

On Tuesday Brennan told NBC’s TODAY that “clearly there was some kind of support network” for bin Laden inside Pakistan. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42873092/ns/world_news-death_of_bin_laden/

However he did decline to blame the Pakistani government directly for helping bin Laden but said “We’re not accusing anybody at this point, but we want to make sure we get to the bottom of this”.

While this still implicates Pakistani government involvement heavily, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Marine, a Senate Armed Services Committee member announced “I think this tells us once again that, unfortunately, Pakistan is playing a double game”. She also called for Congress to put limits on funds for Pakistan if they were found to be aiding the terrorist leader.

This is surely only increasing distrust between the two countries and could be seen as unnecessary for an American lawmaker to make publicly, at such a difficult time, comments regarding the sincerity of Pakistan’s operations.

Another U.S. senator Lindsey Graham simply said; “You cannot trust them and you cannot abandon them”. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin told reporters “it’s hard to imagine that the military or police did not have any ideas what was going on inside”.

All this seems to be redirecting focus and avoiding unanswered questions. While everyone is questioning the trustworthiness of Pakistan’s involvement most are forgetting other inconsistencies in the narrative and nobody is asking whether U.S. special forces violated international law when they carried out their operation.

In fact the Pakistan government is in much more of a position to be questioning the U.S. as effectively American soldiers entered their country without permission, which some may define as invasion.

The Pakistani government said in a statement that the raid “of unauthorized unilateral action cannot be taken as a rule”.

“The government of Pakistan further affirms that such an event shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the U.S.,” said the statement, calling such actions a “threat to international peace and security.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42873092/ns/world_news-death_of_bin_laden/

What is not repeated on news stations is the fact that U.S. aircraft would have required permission from the Pakistani government to enter their airspace but instead the American forces entered illegally, making use of “blind spots” in the radar coverage caused by the hilly terrain surrounding Abbottabad. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2011/05/20115381148250187.html

The former chief of the ISI (Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence) Hamid Gul noted “they sneaked in and carried out a raid, which is an act of war actually”.

But the rest of the world turns a blind eye to this and focuses its attention on the easy target – Pakistan.

However it is interesting to keep in mind, when reading the following excerpt from aljazeera.net, that the ISI had been sharing information regarding the compound in Abbottabad with the CIA and other friendly intelligence services since 2009 and up to mid-April.

“Speaking to Al Jazeera on Tuesday, Robert Fisk, a journalist with the Independent, a UK newspaper, who has previously interviewed bin Laden, said that people should stop talking about the ISI as if it was a single entity.

He said: “They’re [the ISI] not all one unique institution, they are differing in their views, some of them are pro-American, some of them are very anti-American, some of them are clearly sympathetic towards Islamists, extremists, whatever you like to call them.

“I called up one of the men I know last night and put it to him, ‘look, you know, this house was very big, come on, you must have had some idea.’

“What he said to me was ‘sometimes it’s better to survey people than to attack them.’

“And I think what he meant was that as long as they knew where he [bin Laden] was, it was much better to just watch rather than stage a military operation that may bring about more outrages, terrorism, whatever you like to call it.””

Although this piece of information is not too credibly sourced it does help us think about the situation in a different light, assisting us in using reasonable deductions to come to a conclusion that we have made with our own minds, not with what was fed to us through images and repetition.

Unprecedented Burial

The fake photo of bin Laden's face superimposed on some other corpse

The hasty burial of bin Laden has raised many more questions than it has laid to rest. For an operation which, we are told, was so meticulously planned and executed to such a high degree of precision the U.S. forces that killed the terrorist leader obviously hadn’t such a comprehensive plan for what to do with his body.

After shooting the unarmed bin Laden in the chest twice and head once (at such close range that his forehead smashed open revealing his brain, an image so “gruesome” that the rest of the world is deemed unfit to view it), U.S. officials decided the most reasonable way to dispose of his body would be to travel over 1,500km to the Arabian Sea and, “in accordance with Islamic tradition which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours”, lower him into the ocean.

We were told by U.S. officials that burying him on land could have led to his grave becoming a shrine or a centre of contention even though the Wahhabi/Salafi tradition reject such things. “Even Saudi kings are buried in unmarked graves”, the Guardian tells us. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/bin-laden-body-buried-sea

The Guardian also points out that the 24 hour rule has not always been applied by the U.S. in the past. It notes the bodies of Sadam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay were held for 11 days before being released for burial. And let’s not forget they were Muslim as well.

Many Muslim websites have noted that burial at sea is permitted but only in extraordinary circumstances and being buried in the earth is much more preferred.

Some have viewed the sea burial as offensive; “It is not acceptable and it is almost a crime to throw the body of a Muslim man into the sea. The body of Bin Laden should have been handed over to his family to look for a country to bury him.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/02/sea-burial-osama-bin-laden

There is much more room for debate regarding the burial or non burial of an Islamic extremist terrorist but if the Al Jazeera journalist’s source is to be believed a constant close surveillance of the former Al-Qaeda leader would have created a lot less problems that the invasion of a country, the killing of an unarmed man (amongst others), and the rattling of already fraught relations between two nuclear-armed countries.

Instead, a country celebrates the death of a human being (however ‘human’ he may have been) because it’s “who we are” (in the words of Obama). I suppose that means Americans are a vengeful, hatred-filled country, hell-bent on “completely wiping out” a group of people who oppose their beliefs http://world.globaltimes.cn/americas/2011-05/651176.html .

Effectively that is how they have represented themselves and so it raises another question; in what way are they really any different from Islamic extremists?

“Believing” in climate change. That’s what it has come to now for a lot of people.

Unlike religion the climate debate does not base it beliefs on faith. The scientific climate debate is not about believers and deniers. There are climate scientists who are proponents of climate change and there are those who are sceptics.

While the overwhelming majority accept that climate change is happening, the real discussion is about whether humans are causing it or not. And instead of just choosing whatever tit bits of information about climate change you heard from a documentary, a pub conversation, or an expert on the news, you could just simply look at the following facts and decide for yourself.

Our earth’s atmosphere is comprised mostly of nitrogen, oxygen and other smaller gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. Most of the sun’s radiation passes through these gases because it has a shortwave length. The radiation heats up the ground and is reemitted as longwave radiation – which is the kind of infrared heat you feel from a hot stove or radiator. 

Although these gases allow shortwave radiation to pass through them they absorb the longwave radiation. This causes them to vibrate. And of course vibration is heat.

This heat is radiated throughout the atmosphere by these gases and as a result creates the so called greenhouse effect. Two of these three gases are being produced by human activity – carbon dioxide and methane.

At the Russian Vostok research station in Antarctica an ice core was drilled looking back 420,000 years in time. Using these ice cores climatologists were able to measure both the temperature and the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere looking back thousands of years.

But interestingly the data showed that the carbon dioxide increases lagged the temperature increases by 800 years. So if carbon dioxide is supposed to cause global warming the lag time would suggest it’s the other way round.

This is where people get a bit carried away without reading the rest of the facts.

There is a trigger that sets off a circle of events, each tipping the earth into a cooling or a warming phase. In scientific terms this circle is called positive feedback.

We know that a similar positive feedback happened during the ice age. When the earth went through a cooling and warming phase it snowballed so that a tiny bit of cooling ended up freezing half the planet and a tiny bit of warming ended up thawing it out again.

But each time something had to act as that initial trigger.

A strong contender has always been regular cyclical deviation in the earth’s position or orbit changing the amount of sunlight the earth received.

Whatever it was during the ice age this change melted a tiny part of the ice sheet and released carbon gasses from the soil and from the warmer oceans. The carbon gasses that were released trapped more longwave radiation and warmed the planet a bit more and that released more carbon gasses and so on.

Climate change proponents have never suggested that carbon dioxide increase was the trigger for past warming, only that the trigger released carbon gasses which set off this vicious circle of heating.

So the lag time isn’t disputed and the reasons for it are part of the global warming model but without a trigger this positive feedback wouldn’t even begin. Luckily the earth’s orbit will remain steady for another 16,000 years.

The problem is anything that causes a tiny increase in temperature can cause this circle of events and the premise of climate change proponents is that our industrial output of carbon dioxide itself is now the trigger.

In Siberia melting ice is thawing out millions of square miles of marsh producing tonnes of methane gas which is a more potent gas than carbon dioxide but much less abundant in the atmosphere. Even so the methane adds to global warming creating more marshland which releases more methane.

The Objections.

One well rehearsed objection is that increased output from the sun is driving climate change, known as solar forcing.

Scientists agree that the earth’s climate warms and cools in concert with the varying energy output of the sun but the question is; is that the cause of the recent rise in global temperatures – over the last 40 or 50 years?

Almost 30 years ago a paper was published with very strong evidence which suggested just that. Eigel Friss-Christensen and K. Lassen of the Danish Meteorological Institute looked at the pattern of solar activity over the last 250 years and it matched almost perfectly with global temperature changes (“Length of the solar cycle: an indicator of solar activity closely associated with climate”).

To get the graph they had to filter the data which involves smoothing it out to account for background variations and local anomalies. This is standard practice and they did this for most of the graph but they didn’t do it for the most recent part of the graph because the data needed to do it wasn’t available at the time of publication.

When it did become available it showed a very good correlation between global temperatures and solar output for most of the last 250 years but not the very period that covers a dramatic rise in global temperatures. While global temperatures have been rising solar activity has been more or less static.

A lot more recent papers also show that solar activity explains most of the temperature changes over the last few hundred years but not the recent period in rising global temperatures.

The bottom line on solar forcing is that a lot of studies have been done and it is not an issue that is being ignored. Output from the sun is an important factor in driving the earth’s climate. But over the last 40 years there has been no significant increase in solar output.

Solar forcing simply doesn’t explain the recent rise in global temperatures.“Variations in solar luminosity and their effect on the earth’s climate”.

Another idea put forward is that cosmic rays seed clouds and when solar activity increases, particles from the sun (i.e the sun’s magnetic field) keep these cosmic rays away from the earth and that reduces cloud cover – Hennrik Svensmark and Eigil Friis-Christensen -“Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverage: A missing link in solar climate relationships”.

Friis-Christensen and Svensmark provided data that showed a correlation between low atmosphere cloud cover and the intensity of cosmic rays arriving at the earth between 1980 and 1995. But this hypothesis hinges on increased solar output in the last 40 years and this isn’t the case.

So the key point most climate change proponents are trying to get across is that human activity looks like it is the trigger that sets off a circle of events, each tipping the earth into a cooling or a warming phase.

Of course there are so many variables to consider when discussing such a complicated process as the ever changing climate, and each one of us certainly makes a difference whether you want to believe that or not.

But one far too frequently overlooked contributor to climate change, which has huge implications for humanity, is overpopulation, which will be discussed at a later date.

It was the day before our flights when we finally got our tracksuits and it was all thanks to Barry Goodwin. He was just another listener to Spin 103.8 when he heard Jamie’s appeal of sponsorship for gear. He got in contact with us and drove to Maynooth to deliver them to us himself so to him we are so very grateful.

The Irish Football Tennis team

Thank you Barry.

He was in stark contrast to the Buy and Sell who offered us €800 for tracksuits in return for us to change our name to The Buy and Sell Irish Football Tennis Team. Changing our name like that would have ruined the whole story.

So we agreed nothing.

We were thinking of putting Football Tennis Ireland’s soul for sale in the B&S as a kind of ironic middle finger to them but we were too busy being international athletes anyway!

Remarkably some guy in Spin 103.8 also had connections in RTÉ and wrote a proposal to the Aprés Match lads to do a piece on us! One of the proposed features was a “One part aftermath follow up documentary some weeks later showing the boys in Green after the World Cup saga”!

We knew it wouldn’t go anywhere but it was still funny as hell hearing it even being talked about!

Also a quick word needs to be said about NUI Maynooth who got great coverage out of us representing them and the country. They were absolutely no help to us at all. We left messages on the presidents office phone line, sent emails to them, tried contacting the sports department but all to no avail trying to see if they could help us in any way. When it snowed and we couldn’t practise outside on the tennis courts we had to book the sports hall. When we got in at 9am they told us we had to leave because there was no running water or heat. As we left the hall we found the heaters were hot but suddenly nobody around to complain to. As for running water the engineering building thirty feet away had running water.

So it need to be made clear that NUI Maynooth were no help. We had to make a trip into Leixip on the snow and ice covered roads to pay €30 an hour to train.

It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon when we got our flight to Istanbul. A window seat for myself, and the No-Show and Jamie beside me. The rest of the lads filled the seats in front and across from us. We just looked at each other as the plane went into full power;

“I think we took this one a bit far boys”, said Jamie.

“Well we’ve another 3,000km and four days to take it yet”, I said.

And it was there the reality of the situation finally decided to kick in. What we were doing had never been done by Irish people before. We were the first, clueless and naïve, but suddenly there was a lot of responsibility. We actually had to represent the people of our country. These eastern European teams would see the whole of Ireland by what thought of us. So we had to do well. Each one of us.

The triples final between Hungary and Romania

The fixtures were handed out when we got to the sports complex. The first game was Jamie vs. Croatia’s finest – the third best in the world. This was exactly what we didn’t want. We were hoping to get to watch a few games to make sure we had the rules right, but there would be no time for that. The whistle blew and suddenly Jamie had to perform. We said on the plane over it would be great to get a few points and in the first game against one of the best who had been playing for almost ten years Jamie had already achieved that. He lost 11-2, 11-2 but he had done us proud.

In the next game against the Macedonians, who aren’t any less experienced or talented, Captain Jamie was actually beating their best player 8-6. In the end he lost out 11-8, 11-7 but spirits in the FTI camp were high. We had a bit of belief.

Next up was the doubles where Jamie teamed up with Kevin to take on the Turks. The lads were doing brilliant. They were beating the host country 9-3 at one stage and had caused the Turkish coach to substitute both players.

“Come on boys!”

“Ye have ‘em rattled lads!”

Kev’s serves were forcing mistakes from the Turks and were as consistent as the No-Show Sheegar’s ability to not show up for training. But it was tense.

The Turkish subs made a difference, upsetting the lads’ rhythm and eventually they managed to fight back to a 12-10, 11-8 victory. But the lads had won a few fans who were watching on. The Romanian coach was impressed with how we were doing and offered to send on their training program to us. It would be handy enough having the training program of the world champions in singles and doubles!

We were delighted with how it was going but next up were the Hungarians in the triples. These guys were all over six foot, were sponsored by a bank, and played in leagues in Hungary. We decided to stick Jamie and Kev in with myself since the lads were doing so well. That meant swapping them for Emmet and Hynes who I had trained with for the last nine weeks. This didn’t work to our advantage at all as we were not used to playing with each other in triples. We lost the first game something like 11-2 and the second game 11-5 which doesn’t sound that bad but the Hungarians were admittedly taking it easy on us. They suggested a few things to us and were very helpful and we were glad to see them win the triples in the final.

The Hungarian team that won the triples and came second in the singles and doubles

We kept the same triples team for the next game against the Russians though, thinking that the only reason we lost to the Hungarians was because they were so good. Looking back at the Russian game now I think we could have done a lot better if we played with our usual formation. That’s nothing against Jamie and Kev, who were in top form, but our usual formation gave us confidence because we knew what each of us had to do. We didn’t play particularly bad against the Russians but we lost the second game 11-5. They are a team we feel we could beat next time and we had learned our lessons.

That was it for Day 1 and we had learned a lot. We knew we could beat the Georgians and Indians the next day and we were confident we could give the Serbians and good game as well. This was to see who would make up the 9th – 12th places in the competition. But for now it was back to the hotel for dinner and a well deserved pint. These were long days, starting off at 9 in the morning and ending around 8 in the evening and we were wrecked, physically and mentally.

Day 2 and up at 7.30 thinking we were meant to start at 9 but for some reason the bus was late and we didn’t leave until 9.30.

“Could have done with that extra hour in bed”.

But off we went eventually to the final day of games. It was the singles first again and Jamie against Serbia’s finest. After some great rallies Jamie got into his rhythm and beat the Serb 11-7! We were delighted to win a game but knew we had a chance here to win the two sets. Back out on the court the Serb upped his game and so did Jamie but in the end after winning the second game 8-11, the Serbian won the decider 9-11 with two very tense games. Jamie had done us proud again but he wasn’t finished there. The Indians were up next and there was no stopping the Pontoon man! He wrapped them 11-2, 11-2 to give Ireland its first competitive wins in Football Tennis!

Soon after he had to play Georgia’s finest but lost out 11-9, 11-7 after winning the opening set 11-7. It was a very contentious game with several close calls and a very argumentative Georgian but we knew we’d have another chance to beat them in the doubles and triples.

And we did.

In the most tense game yet  Kev and Jamie ended up going to sudden death with the Georgians where the next point won. After a great serve from Kev the Georgians couldn’t control the ball and Ireland had beat them.

Fantastic!

Then it was the triples again. This time we decided to keep to the team we had trained with. Our first game was against the Indians and we should have won it. A large portion of the crowd were shouting for India because they were underdogs but that just shows how much of an impact we made on everybody at the competition.

The Indians are full members but we were favourites. We had lost, but we didn’t fail!

We were disappointed with the loss to the Indians but then we had a good game against the Serbians. We lost 2-1 to them in close games but we hammered the Georgians after. Some great calls from Coach Rogers of where to put the ball from the serve kept them from getting any rhythm and I duly obliged by picking their left foot or serving through the middle. When they did get service Hynes’ returns were controlled and composed and Emmet and the No-Show both won some fantastic points at the net. It was great that our last game was against the Georgians and we won. As we walked off the court the Serbians congratulated us. They were happy to see us beat the Georgians as well!

After that we could relax and watch the finals where our friends the Romanians and Hungarians were competing. The

The singles and doubles winning Romanian team drinking some Romanian poítín

Romanians won the singles and doubles but the Hungarians won the triples. When we got back to the hotel for dinner the Romanian coach came over to our table and offered us some Romanian poitin which could have easily have been just pure white spirits. But the gesture was appreciated, we had represented our country well.

So that was it. After a twelve hour day we had beaten four teams to give Ireland its first competitive Football Tennis wins and finished 10th in the world. The whole thing is documented with over 10 hours of footage of games and interviews with the president of FIFTA and some of the coaches. It might be a couple of months before its all finished though.

But Football Tennis is only getting bigger and a lot of the coaches and organisers hope to have it in the Olympics in the next 5 – 10 years and they want Ireland to be represented there too! Could ya imagine that?!

Relieved, wrecked, and contented we boarded our plane the next morning in Ataturk airport…to a round of applause! A group of Irish people we had met on the plane over there had coincidently gotten the same plane home and gave us a bit of a buladh bos when we boarded! Not only that but we were on Turkish news on the tv screens on the plane as well! So tens of millions of people saw us in Turkey representing our country!Amazing!

So its been some adventure. For now the Euros in North Cyprus, the Las Vegas competition, sports council funding and all that craic can wait. We will sit down together, reflect, laugh, and think about the future soon but not yet. We will let you know of course but Christmas has crept up on us.

The Football Tennis Family

We would like to thank everybody for their great support, it really made a difference. To all the radio stations, newspapers, tv stations who helped carry the story we thank you as well.

Boob.ie also went through an enormous amount of effort promoting the story and mediating between companies about sponsorship so we are very thankful for that too.

And to FIFTA and the Turkish people who were all so incredibly friendly and genuine, thank you for having us!

Football Tennis Ireland: 10th in the world after nine weeks of practice!

 

Hard done by: Hughton's work had only just begun

In the run-up to the new season, I wrote about how Newcastle United could be a team to look out for, with their down-to-earth manager and their young, talented squad (pieced together on a shoestring budget), the newly-promoted former giants looked as though they had finally achieved a certain level of stability after years in the doldrums. http://universalgrassroots.wordpress.com/2010/08/15/newcastle-united-the-tragic-heroes-of-football/

And indeed, this proved to be the case as the early stages of the season unfolded, with the Magpies picking up wins against the likes of Everton, Arsenal, Chelsea, and most notably Aston Villa (6-0), and Sunderland (5-1). Inevitably, there were low points too, such as Hatem Ben Arfa’s terrible leg injury, suffered at the hands of a defeat by Man City, and dismal performances against Blackpool, Blackburn, and most recently, West Brom. Having said that, the Toon Army currently sit 11th in the league, ahead of the  likes of Fulham, Everton and Villa. Why, then, has owner Mike Ashley decided that now was the right time to get rid of manager Chris Hughton, who had achieved so much in his 14 months in charge. A 55% win rate from 70 games, 102 points in the Chapionship last year. Statistics tell their own story, and these particular ones show that Hughton was the man to raise St James’ Park club from their mediocre status.

The first thought that came into my head when I heard the news this morning (Dec 6th), was the similarity between Hughton’s dismissal and that of Sir Bobby Robson, four games into the 2004/5 season. Parallels between the late, great Geordie and their newest casualty are plentiful; Robson had taken over in 1999, with the club rooted to the bottom of the Premiership, before slowly turning them around with a series of shrewd signings and a positive attacking style, reminiscent of the great Kevin Keegan era. Robson even brought them into the Champions League, because he was given the time, money and patience to do so.

Sir Bobby, 1999: Brought the good times back to Tyneside in a way few could have imagined

Hughton has been the best Newcastle manager since Robson, but time,  patience and money are no longer in fashion in Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct @ St James’ Park. The grim inevitability of the whole situation is perhaps the worst aspect, it has long been established through media sources that Ashley has wanted a more “showbiz” manager, after Hughton had essentially taken over by default when Joe Kinnear fell ill. Martin O’Neill currently stands at 7/2 to replace the former Ireland defender at Tyneside, but, considering the way in which O’Neill left Aston Villa, this move seems unlikely. Villa chairman, the American tycoon Randy Lerner, is seen as one of the more decent and rational money-men in the game, but O’Neill walked out when he discovered Lerner was unwilling to fork out too much cash during the summer transfer window.

Ben Arfa's capture was a stroke of genius by Hughton

The reasons behind Hughton’s sacking are much like the reasons you would dump a girlfriend before Christmas – so you don’t have to buy her a present. Hughton had identified a number of January transfer targets which could have helped the squad keep the momentum going after the testing Christmas schedule and beyond. Utrecht’s £8 million-rated Ricky Van Wolfswinkel was one such target, and talk of Robbie Keane, Niko Kranjcar and even Manchester United’s Anderson had been mentioned as potential new arrivals. Clearly, Ashley was not prepared to spend money on a manager he didn’t have faith in. When we look at Hughton’s dealings in the transfer market, however, we can see he has a keen eye for a bargain. Free transfer Sol Campbell has proved a worthy understudy to Fabricio Colloccini,  loan signing Hatem Ben Arfa’s talent is known the world over (although Hughton’s departure may jeopardise a permanent move to the North-East), while Cheik Tiote’s dominant performances in midfield have been one of the few consistent elements in what has been a rollercoaster season so far.

Sad as it may seem, the damage has been done now, and the Newcastle board will live and die by the decisions they make in the next few weeks.

Amazing Football Tennis Ireland Video

Posted: November 25, 2010 by undergroundfisherman in Sport
Tags: , , ,

This is the story of a gang of lads (including Stevo who writes for this blog) who managed to qualify as the Irish Football Tennis team in the upcoming World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Here’s their epic promo video