The Reader Organisation in South Africa

From Niall Gibney, Community Development Assistant

As part of my apprenticeship development, it was noticed that the furthest I had ever travelled was Benidorm with the ex (how classy am I?) or Disneyland Paris with my old school. Both top tourist destinations I know. Then one day we gave a presentation to the LFC Foundation (Liverpool Football Club’s Charity) and the Director of The Foundation got speaking about a project they were going to visit in South Africa called Whizz Kids. It was suggested that I travel with the LFC coaches but represent The Reader Organisation – I still had to wear a Liverpool coat and training gear though.

We visited a number of schools for football coaching and reading and I gave away copies of A Little, Aloud for Children to a really poor school in the province of Kwazulu-Natal. After this, I read a story about chickens with kids whose first tongue was in Zulu!

The whole experience was amazing but I’m going to leave you hanging though until next week when I’ll be doing a day by day account of the trip (and just how amazing it was).

In the meantime, you can read more about the trip on the LFC blog, The Kop.

Readers of the World: England (and the Premier League)

Two Readers of the World posts in two weeks? Don’t say we don’t spoil you here at The Reader Online…this time around it’s a special edition, timed to coincide with the big finish to Euro 2012 (you know, that little football tournament that’s been on for the past three weeks). Unfortunately, the Three Lions weren’t victorious, but England’s pursuits in getting young football fans interested in literature is a different success story altogether. And now over to our commentator, Niall Gibney:

It’s time once more to resume our trip around the Readers of the World. Last time we visited West Indies for another sport-themed trip; for this installment we’re not going too far in our special football edition of ROTW…

Okay well I guess I just took the opportunity to write about England in this ROTW and some of you might be a bit unhappy that I’m not going to mention Shakespeare, Wordsworth or Dickens and instead I’m talking about Cahill, Walcott and Shwarzer. Okay, so it is not quite as intelligent but still highly valuable in an effort to get some UK kids into reading – which I think is something we can all agree with.

The idea of the scheme Premier League Reading Stars is to get children who might not usually engage with reading the chance to develop into avid readers. They do this by downloading a literacy pack from The National Literacy Trust’s website and watching videos were the professional footballers set special ‘reading tasks’ with which the kids must complete to get rewards. Now I know what you’re thinking, does it really take some of the world’s most disgustingly highly paid football stars to infuse our next generation with a love of reading? In some cases that’s a yes, which is quite sad when the teacher alone should be enough to instil a love of reading in children. An article on The Guardian’s website spoke of a piece of research which pointed to academic standards falling during a major national sporting competition – I’m not usually the one to blindly follow any piece of research just because the men with the money said it was so, but yeah I can understand this statement – I mean from an 11 year old Liverpool lad’s perspective… “Why bother reading miss?” “The footys on!!” < now I can’t say that I entirely blame them as the Euros are real and live, whereas to the kid a bit of literacy hour is drab and dead.

Everton star Tim Cahill with The B.F.G

So the idea then our oh so constrained teachers is to bring the real, live and exciting tournament in to the world of literature – just like Tom Palmer has with his series of football books and most especially his latest offering called Black Op (almost the same name as the Call of Duty series) (that really popular army game your boy child is most probably playing on as soon as the school bell goes.) Black Op is set in Poland the week before Euro 2012 and brings the world of espionage into the world of football, two things which interest most boys. Though this is probably another stereotyping cop-out surely it’s got to be miles better than these impressionable youths having nothing at all to read? It’s fair and common knowledge that we would rather they were reading some of the greatest, most mind-expanding literature available but to be realistic that’s just not going to happen (at least not at first): it’s all about ‘the hook’. Here at The Reader Organisation we think they are on the right path, as I’m sure our Glasgow based project worker Patrick Fisher has probably read his fair share of football related books with kids and also the Wirral team had a major World Cup 2010 reading drive which was really successful. I think it is really hard in this modern age and we all probably have to jump on the band wagon a bit and at first fight the perceived ‘uncoolness’ of reading before the kids even open a book never mind enjoy it… but then when its actually opened – shhhhh children don’t tell anybody but you might just enjoy it!

Oh yeah and I almost forgot – Go England prove us wrong for a change! [Ed: at the time of writing, the dream was still in sight…but the penalty shoot-out wasn’t.]

The Fleetingly Beautiful Final Fitness Diary

Don’t you just want to cry? Really? I know you will miss reading these fitness diaries. I can’t say that I would blame you, after all we’ve had (not in any particular order): a near death experience, a visit to Wembley, sneers and jeers, “proper wierd stretches”, man rubbing another man’s calf (more weird stretches then), freaky three-a-side football, adventurous swimming (no, not skinny dipping, why the one track mind?) and last but not least a member of staff who thinks she can read poetry while running 5km (find out how she got on next week).

So then, in the words of Macaulay Culkin in the childhood classic film Home Alone: “You guys give up yet? Or are you thirsty for more?” Because I’ve got two more just for your amusement, and our, well, public humiliation

Sophie Povey, Assistant National Development Manager:

I’m embarrassed to admit that unlike in previous years, I haven’t done any training at all, not even a brisk walk. I’m hoping that my one session of Zumba a week will drag me round, but I’m starting to think that this unfortunately may not be the case. My current mantra- ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ 🙂

Anna Fleming, Young Person’s Project Worker:

My near death experience, part 2:

Following the mishaps of running on Liverpool pavements, when I visited home this weekend I took the opportunity for safer training. Once again, I made a grievous error of judgement, and I failed to factor in the fact that I live in Wales. Wales = hills, steep hills. The first 2.5k was horrifically steep ascent, the last 2.5 was an equally horrendous descent.  No falls, bumps or bruises this time, however it took a couple of days for me to catch my breath again, and I still bear the muscle ache. On the plus side though, it was very beautiful, and there was much less public humiliation: the only spectators were fields of sheep and a couple of farmers, all of whom seemed to think I was borderline insane. And I am inclined to agree.

It would be absolutely fantastic if everyone could help give the looked after children who we read with a big help. All funds raised will go to this great cause, and you can make a donation by clicking here.

Sir Alex tells players to get to the library

Over the weekend, libraries found a new supporter- Sir Alex Ferguson Speaking out against Manchester United player’s use of Twitter, he’s said:

There are a million things you can do in your life without that. Get yourself down to the library and read a book.

Sir Alex, would you like to nominate your favourite for Libraries We Love? Perhaps you’d like to sign our petition and support our work with public libraries?

Any suggestions for what Ryan Giggs should read?

(Strawberries, now football, whatever next on our blog…)

Update 25/05/11: Sir Alex has today been announced Manager of the Year. He’d get my vote after his supporting words about libraries (not that it would count, I think you need to be a league manager to be able to nominate someone).

World Cup Blog #5

Sorry it’s a bit late! Final blog will follow shortly…

So that’s the semi finals done.  Two great games, for very different reasons, have led to the Official 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa being guaranteed to go to a first time winner. Having dispatched Germany and Uruguay respectively, Spain and the Netherlands will now thrash it out mano a aanreiken on Sunday to decide which team gets to have their name etched onto the famous trophy.

In the unofficial 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa Reader Sweepstake that means that Phil Davis and his Oranje boys will be taking on the plucky tiki-takas of Jon Davis’ Spain for the ultimate prize of pride. And money.

The first semi final saw the Netherlands exact the rough justice Ghana, and most of the world, wanted to see, opening the scoring with arguably the best goal of the tournament and then ultimately squeaking through courtesy of a contentious strike by Sneijder that could have been disallowed due to Van Persie’s offside shins. Uruguay suffered from inadvertently replacing star striker Diego Forlan with the former Great Britain 400m hurdle champion Sally Gunnell. Needless to say that despite riding tackles with wonderful proficiency, she didn’t quite have enough ability to score on the highest stage and was substituted before the end.

Spain had the pre-match confidence boost of Paul the Octopus picking their clam for his tea over Germany’s, only the second time he’d gone against his adopted home nation. For the first time in the tournament Germany looked toothless as Spain passed rings around them culminating in Carlos Puyol’s towering header. When the German defence was questioned afterwards as to how the goal came about Per Mertesacker, the implausibly tall centre back, said ‘his hair was just too big. We couldn’t get anywhere near him. If we’d grown our hair too maybe we would have had greater chances but you don’t learn these things till you get here.’ Germany’s captain Philip Lahm commented ‘Whilst we’re disappointed with the result, we’ve four years to grow ours out now so next time we’ll be back hairier and stronger’. When asked if he thought Paul’s prediction played on his team’s mind Lahm simply said ‘Yes’.

As I write this Paul the Octopus, the all seeing eye of football, has predicted Spain to win on Sunday. Given his 100% success rate so far in predicting the outcome of the Germany matches, only a fool would ignore this bold statement of prophetic fact.

To celebrate the final four I’m going to have a delightful four course meal with national beverages. So far my menu looks like this:

Uruguayan Starter

Empanada Gallega- a small fish pie with onions and green peppers

Spanish Main

Paella de la Mar- paella with all things fishy with the option of added octopus in homage to Paul…


German Dessert

Rote Grütze- a dish made from mixed summer berries and cream

Dutch Cheese Board

A veritable feast of Gouda, Edam and Leyden  

I’ll let you know how I get on in after the final. Here’s to a mind blowing final weekend!


World Cup Blog #3

The weekend and last night saw the climax of the second round of group games in this year’s edition of the FIFA™ World Cup; The Official 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa. These games all benefited in the entertainment stakes from the fact that neither France nor England had any part to play in them and as a result provided plenty of talking points outside of ‘What’s Wazza doing?!’, ‘Why hasn’t he put hobo man-boy Joe Cole on?!’ and ‘Is it only the 68th minute?! Dear God help us all…’

Harry Kewell kept up Australia’s impressively executed game plan of having a man sent off in each match. Leading one nil at the time, ‘Pea-heart’, as he’s affectionately known to some, decided that then was the moment to reduce his team to the aesthetically more pleasing number of 10. Ultimately it didn’t cost his team all three points as Ghana thought it would be best to try and score from no closer than 50 yards in their search for a winner, unless ,of course, they were awarded another penalty. When questioned afterwards about his unorthodox tactics, the Socceroos coach Pim Verbeek commented ‘We’re just sick and tired of hearing the chant ‘C’mon Aussies legs eleven!’  And in any case, I’ve never been one to turn my back on a country’s proud tradition. Pea-heart did what he thought was best and has joined Aussie legends Tim Cahill and Brett Emerton in doing the right thing.’ When questioned further about the possibilities of keeping all eleven players on the pitch Verbeek was heard to say he didn’t want to ‘shame the nation’.

Cameroon surprisingly became the first African nation to be eliminated from the tournament, largely due to England’s ineptitude against Algeria the previous evening but also due to the tactic of using Geremi, to try and beat players for pace. Their ultimately unsuccessful game against Denmark was exciting though and although I only saw the first half live, probably one of my favourite games of the tournament so far.

On the back of this, Sunday brought renewed optimism for further excitement and all three games didn’t disappoint, Slovakia fell to Paraguay in the early kick-off due to two well taken goals by Vera and Riveros and the fact that Slovakia’s coach failed to bring on a ‘Camoranesi style’ negotiator in search for an equaliser with the score still at 1-0.

New Zealand’s tactic of not listening to Camoranesi paid off however and, despite his desperate attempts to coax a winner out of them, they conceded no further goals in a stupendously equal 1-1 draw. The result leaves Italy much in the same position as England but if the World Cup was judged on national anthems, and singing, the Italians would have it won already.

Arguably my favourite game of the tournament happened on Sunday evening with Brazil facing the mighty Ivory Coast led by Didier Drogba and the heroic lothario Sven Goran Eriksson. Ivory Coast looked fairly impressive in the early stages until Brazil decided it was time they attacked and Luis Fabiano chose to kick the ball really hard and fast. That’s the way it stayed before Fabiano again decided to do something outrageous, this time handle the ball twice, before kicking the ball really hard and fast. Ironically the double handball irritated Maradona most of all. Pot. Kettle. Black.  The game then played out to players from each team falling to the ground far too easily and rolling around as much as they can. Whilst the Brazilian perpetrators only succeeded in winning free-kicks, Abdelkader Keita fell so convincingly for the Ivory Coast the referee felt compelled to send Brazil’s Kaka off. Harsh measures indeed but if you play with fire often enough you’ll get burned. Kaka will most probably enjoy his rest now and do something memorable in the last 16. The defeat, coupled with Portugal’s 7-0 trouncing of DPR Korea means that Friday’s Group G finale will most likely be the last chance we get to see Sven in an oversized puffer-jacket reluctantly making substitutions in order to change the game. Incidentally almost as interesting as Portugal’s goal fest was the increased sense of ire on Cristiano Ronaldo’s face as all his teammates scored except him. Sadly we’ll never know how far his lips can pout as he tapped in the sixth after scowling for the previous 80 odd minutes.

In Group H it looks like two from Chile, Switzerland and Spain as Honduras lost again. Spain looked classy enough in winning 2-0 though Vincente Del  Bosque declared himself ‘unhappy’ with the result. Similarly Chile’s boss urged his side to be ‘cautious’ and declared ‘we are not to celebrate’ despite winning two from two. If that’s what winning does to these sides then let’s hope they never have to deal with failure.

My meals have been a Ten Shrimp Australian Barbie, Lasagne and Piri-piri Portuguese Chicken. All rather lovely and all bursting with World Cup Taste. Given that Wimbledon’s now started and I’m torn between my two favourite sports, I’ll leave you not with a football poem but with a poetic recording of the other beautiful game. Enjoy!

World Cup Blog #2

World Cup Blog #2

What a week it’s been, or rather, what a second half to the week it’s been. Having eagerly anticipated a glut of goals in light of the shocking goalkeeping seen last weekend I felt rather foolish on Monday as three more shot shy matches were played without any sense of urgency. There would have been fewer goals too had Marcelo Lippi not sent expert negotiator Mauro Camoranesi on for Italy with the instruction to remind all the Paraguay players they had never beaten them in a World Cup match and that they really were being unfair in holding onto their lead. It took just four minutes for Camoranesi to inform all his opponents before the charitable Paraguayan goalkeeper saw sense and jumped out of the way of the ball, allowing the diplomatic draw to be reached.
Still these games were seen as mere aberrations for Brazil, wonderful goal-tastic Brazil, entered the tournament on Tuesday and against the pathetically ranked 105th best team in the world; North Korea, could always be relied on to supply us with what Alan Partridge would simply call ‘Liquid Football’. They got there eventually but at half time it was beginning to look as though no team wanted to be outdone in the ‘I don’t think it’s appropriate to score too many goals and entertain the millions of people watching’ stakes. This was the first game, quite remarkably, where both teams scored and there was still a winner, although it could be argued that due to Simon Poulsen’s own goal, The Netherlands/Denmark game beat them to it. Yun-Nam Ji‘s last minute strike to half Brazil’s lead was perhaps the most surprising event of the tournament to date and came after New Zealand had gained their first ever World Cup point with a 93rd minute equaliser against Slovakia earlier in the day.
North Korea’s moment of glorious failure was in the limelight for all of 18 hours however as recently crowned ‘European Champions of the World Spain’ reverted back to their previous moniker of ‘Great Underachievers of the World Spain’ and lost to Switzerland despite having over twenty shots on goal, prompting hasty rewrites of the headline ‘Swiss roll over’ to ‘Swiss roll all over Spain’. It was only 1-0 but suddenly the World Cup had got exciting. No longer was the only justification I meekly offered for watching so much football the possibility of something unexpected occurring citing the Roman phrase ‘It won’t happen…but if it happens!’ In this game it did happen, and because it had, I’ll be glued to even more games in the hope that it might just happen again.
The tournament looks like it’s going to belong to the Americas with Uruguay mercilessly destroying the home crowd’s optimism in a dominant 3-0 victory over South Africa before Argentina followed suit the next day by dismantling South Korea 4-1. Unlike the earlier games, these goals came about from attacking class and not defensive blunders and it’s possible that both these teams will now progress and meet in the next round in what promises to be a more competitive match up than any of the games involving France. Les Bleus’ match against Mexico proved to be another difficult night for sometime manager sometime tarot card reader Raymond Domenech. Famed for claiming Leos don’t make good defenders and refusing to select former superstar Robert Pires on the grounds that he was a Scorpio, Domenech’s popularity reached an all time low after his team’s 2-0 defeat. Although grudges are never healthy it was refreshing to see the French team, given their contentious means of qualifying, deservedly defeated by a side in green, even if the justice is tenuous.
Serbia’s unexpected victory over Germany on Friday, which saw Lukas Podolski become the first German player to miss a World Cup penalty in normal time since 1974 and Joachim Loew the first German manager to preside over a group defeat in 24 years, coupled with Slovenia’s entertaining draw with the U.S.A means that the only two teams not to be involved in anything even approaching exciting are England and Algeria. Friday’s evening kick off was probably the most tedious match I can ever remember watching from start to finish. Ever. I’m not going to spout the same old patriotic rubbish as other outlets bemoaning the lack of ‘pride’, ‘passion’ or any of the other buzz words that get bandied about nor will I say that as it’s England we should have some sort of divine right to progress. Having felt like I wasted a portion of my life far longer than ninety minutes watching the game however I will say that if England don’t improve by a significant margin on Wednesday, they won’t deserve to go through. I’d sure like them to but the way everything’s been blown out of proportion since the final whistle, Capello’s style, Rooney’s outburst, Stuart Pearce’s habit of chewing his food slightly longer than he should etc. Etc. I fear it’ll be difficult for the players to change their mentally that soon.
I’ve continued to shape my meals around the world cup this week. On Tuesday I welcomed the Samba Boys’ first game by making Vatapá de Galinha, a wonderful chicken and peanut style curry, before grabbing some Calarames Rebozados on Wednesday in honour of Spain’s slow start. On Thursday I had the modest meal of French Onion soup, before shamefully turning my back on an Algerian meal of lamb and berber couscous in favour of the all American classic, hamburger and fries. For this I can only plead time constraints. Again, if you have any recipes that you think I’d like or indeed ought to try, please do email a reply and let me know. Here’s to the next week!

World Cup Blog #1

I introduce you to Patrick Fisher, our Reader World Cup Blogger. Ever wondered what it would be like if The Reader Organisation did football commentary…

So that’s the end of the official 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa opening weekend.

The unofficial 2010 FIFA™ World Cup South Africa Reader Sweepstake had taken place earlier in the week, sparking jubilation, despair and apathy in equal measure as the excitement of possibility was reinforced by Brazil, decimated by North Korea or not even entertained by Switzerland. Still, you have to be in it to win it and until last night Australia had just as good a chance to do well as anybody else.

Opening weekends are usually seen as the benchmark for what sort of tournament we’re going to have. Four years ago Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 with a couple of stunning goals that led to a month of classy strikes and, England apart, relatively exciting matches. In 2002, the first game of the tournament saw Senegal beat defending champions France 1-0 paving the way for multiple ‘giant killings’ of the traditional top nations epitomised in South Korea’s jaunt all the way to the semis.

Prior to this tournament all the talk was about the showpiece being staged in Africa for the first time and the extra pressure on South Africa not to be the first host nation to be eliminated in the group stage. By the time the first match had kicked off the 84,000 odd people in the crowd had been treated to an excellent opening ceremony which culminated in the wonderfully refreshing scene of Bafana Bafana dancing and singing onto the pitch for the match. In a time when players are routinely criticised for showing any perceived lack of focus even days before a match, it was great to see the South African players determined to enjoy the occasion in addition to performing to the best of their ability. After all, football is a game. If the first game is anything to go by then we’re in for cracking goals and awful defending, a combination that guarantees entertaining football. Tshabalala’s strike for South Africa was good enough to win any game and it was a shame for the hosts that Mexico grabbed a deserved equaliser and that Mphela’s last minute strike came back off the post. Still a wonderful start and enough to suggest South Africa may just do enough to get out of their group after all, especially given France and Uruguay’s gentlemanly decision not to upstage the opening game by playing out one of the worst games in recent World Cup history.

Saturday continued much in the same vein with Nigeria and Greece showing that 32 participating teams means that some exceedingly average ones get in and after the Nigerian ‘keeper Enyeama pulled off save after save against Argentina, Robert Green showed he wasn’t going to be influenced by anyone else’s performance as England got off to an encouragingly expectation dampening 1-1 draw. I got the blame in my house for his mistake as literally seconds before I’d ‘bigged him up’ as a solid goalie worthy of the chance given his outstanding form ever since his debut for Norwich [Patrick is from Norwich]. Given the power surge reported at half time it appears the majority of us turned to a brew for some solace and maybe we’d be better served if John Agard’s poem ‘Alternative Anthem’ [link to video below] replaced ‘God Save the Queen’ for the match on Friday.

Goalkeeping blunders continued on Sunday with the Algerian ‘keeper diving over the ball against Slovenia, possibly in a desperate attempt to create a talking point given all the players were heard uttering to their benches ‘what’s the point in all of this we’re worse than France vs. Uruguay?’ before Ghana and Germany stole the headlines. Ghana for excellently lulling Serbia into a stupor so strong they forgot to play football, punched the ball clear and conceded a penalty allowing the Black Stars to claim the first African victory and Germany for deciding it was rather silly that after seven games only South Korea had scored more than once. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come and with Brazil playing North Korea tomorrow more goals should be in the offing. Anything to momentarily silence the vuvuzelas is no bad thing.

I’ve set myself the target of eating a meal each day inspired by one of the competing nations. Thanks to Bafana Bafana opening the tournament against Mexico, Friday was an easy one, fajitas, whilst Saturday brought up the opportunity for spicy South Korean pork. Yesterday was a dish of classic German sausages and tonight will be spaghetti al gamberetti e rucola in honour of Italy. My culinary expertise is fast running out though so any suggestions for national dishes of the participating countries will be greatly received and tried on a day that they play. I’ll let you know the results as the tournament progresses!

John Agard from Neil Astley on Vimeo.

Patrick Fisher is a Get Into Reading Project Worker

Featured Poem: ‘Tis So Much Joy by Emily Dickinson

England is, it seems, a confirmed nation of sporting enthusiasts (along with Scotland, Wales and Ireland, both Northern and the Republic of). Personal alliances put aside, collective spirit is cultivated through being part of the ‘Barmy Army’ in whichever sport is of your choosing – though I’m not too sure that nickname is applicable to slightly more genteel pursuits such as golf and bowls. The summer months always bring with them a range of sporting events and it’s when most of us who wish to partake in some sporting activity feel most up to doing so, as long as rain doesn’t stop play. Of course this year the mania has been ramped up considerably due to that little heard-of contest called the World Cup; it feels like those in the know (as well as those not so much) have been discussing The Three Lions’ chances and obsessing over team selection for years, not months or weeks. For someone who appears to be in the minority – that is, definitely not a sporting enthusiast – it’s all just a tad annoying. With kick off fast approaching, footie hype is reaching fever pitch (two football puns in one sentence – I don’t know if I should feel proud or slightly ashamed of myself) and quite frankly, it makes me want to equip myself with enough reading material to last me through the tournament and go hide under a rock, or preferably somewhere more comfortable. I’m afraid all patriotism seems to fly out of the window when it comes to me and football, and almost everything about the World Cup is irritating to me. At least I can be thankful there doesn’t seem to be much focus on the woefully named ‘WAGs’ and their handbags this time around.

It does make me feel something of an outsider, when England flags are draped from houses and attached to car windows and my sense of excitement fails to be roused. Perhaps my interest would be piqued if Fabio Capello or whoever is in charge of off-the-field activities would take a leaf – literally – out of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s book. They have appointed their first poet-in-residence to cover the serves and volleys (as well as everything in-between) of Wimbledon 2010. Matt Harvey is the one to take on the honour, as those at Wimbledon have formed a partnership with The Poetry Trust. I’m not necessarily a fan, but I have always preferred watching Wimbledon over any other sporting tournament; maybe it has something to do with copious amounts of strawberries and cream. It’s good to hear about its linking to poetry, and if it seems perhaps a little strange at first it does appear rather fitting. Sure, Wimbledon is a quintessentially British sport and it’s nice to conjure up images of spectators lazing with a punnet in one hand and a poetry book in the other between sets but it certainly has its fair share of passion – and competitive aggression – on court too, especially in recent years. And poetry is about passion, detailing it and sparking it off too. You need only to take a passing glance at the World Cup hullabaloo to notice that football has passion in abundance, so why not get some poetry into the beautiful game?

The links between poetry and sport have existed for a long time, whether they be odes to leisurely pursuits enjoyed on a sunny day or the more powerful, and at times rather bleak, pieces that describe the battlegrounds of the sporting arena. In many poems published in the era of war, various sports were used as a metaphor for the fighting fields – and some would say as propaganda – to prepare young men for the struggles they would face, to steel them physically and mentally and to stir their emotions towards pride and victory. Instead of heading in that direction, I’m focusing instead on something that is infinitely crucial to our advance in any competition – hope. Unwavering, against-all-the-odds hope. What I’d prefer to call blind and just-a-touch deluded hope given that our sporting glories, in football at least, are about as few and far between as our victories in the Eurovision Song Contest (although I’ll admit, I don’t think we’ll quite be at the bottom of the league in the World Cup tables, unlike Eurovision). This poem by Emily Dickinson is fittingly inspiring, and good for looking on the brighter side if things don’t go quite to plan on the pitch; the players can always take some positive from the words ‘And if indeed I fail/At least, to know the worst is sweet!/Defeat means nothing but Defeat/No drearier, can befall!’. I shall just sidestep the fact that Miss Dickinson is American, the nationality of our first opponents…I do not accept any responsibility if we are defeated by the US of A (or maybe I subconsciously want to sway the matter…)

‘Tis So Much Joy

‘Tis so much joy! ‘Tis so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I,
Have ventured all upon a throw!
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so—
This side the Victory!

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!
And if indeed I fail,
At least, to know the worst, is sweet!
Defeat means nothing but Defeat,
No drearier, can befall!

And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea!
Oh Bells, that in the Steeples be!
At first, repeat it slow!
For Heaven is a different thing,
Conjectured, and waked sudden in—
And might extinguish me!

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The Anthony Walker Foundation Festival 2009

The Anthony Walker Foundation Festival 2009 is taking place on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th August 2009, at Greenbank Sports Academy, Greenbank Lane and Sefton Park, from 9am till 6pm.

It is a free two day festival of sport, music, art and education which works to encourage racial harmony and better community relations. There will be workshops promoting social and life skills, football tournaments, art workshops, music and dance performances, plus much more!

For more information on the Festival, please visit the Anthony Walker Foundation Website, where you can also view the Festival brochure.

If you would like tickets for the AWF Carnival at Alma De Cuba, please email: