Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Repaid: A 20 year debt



"Can I speak to Emdad Rahman please," asked the voice. "Speaking I replied."

This was not a business related call. The gentleman spoke good English and proceeded to tell me that he had spent years trying to track me down and had eventually struck the jackpot by randomly ringing my place of work. He explained that he owed me and Dad a sum of money from years ago when we ran a grocery store in Bethnal Green. He gave me his landline and asked me to visit. I said I'd try the next day. 

To be honest we are owed a lot of money by customers who duped us by taking groceries on credit and never paying back. We're not stupid, we just had a lot of goodwill. It's been twenty tears since we had a family grocery business on Bethnal Green Road and 15 years since we sold up. I must admit I was wary and 90% tempted to ignore the guy, especially as bad memories resurfaced of me and my brother chasing up disappearing customer's who owed us a load of decent capital. The trick was to build up trust, a line of credit and then disappear/go into exile. Then there were stories of their demise being greatly exaggerated. 

However, my curiosity got the better of me and I called the said gentleman at lunchtime as requested. He said he was unwell and requested me to visit. I was a bit wary at this suggestion but agreed. I phoned the missus to keep her informed. 

I called the gentleman when I reached his door and made sure I waved and grinned at all the CCTV cameras on the estate. He came out and gave me £100.00 to settle his debt and asked me about Dad's health and to request his forgiveness. I told him to think nothing of it. We greeted and parted. Before I got into my car I flashed my pearly whites at the cameras before zooming off. 

There's another local guy who owes me a few hundred. I visited his house 15 years ago to remind him to pay his debt after he just disappeared into thin air. He complained to the council about me threatening him. Nothing came of it because there was no head, tail or substance to his complaint. However we never had the money paid back to us. The debt remains outstanding. I hope he reads this and his conscience starts eating at him too. 

Tonight the Doner Kebab's and Biriani were on Dad and I am royally stuffed. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

One Third Soup Kitchen

“It is not necessary to advertise food to hungry people, fuel to cold people, or houses to the homeless.” John Kenneth Galbraith

A very productive evening was over in 40 minutes. Saqib's mother had cooked up a delicious Biriani which went down in a flash. We were left scraping the bottom of the large silver pot before you could blink.

We had our regulars and Paul even had seconds. Today though there were lots of new faces and a mixture of young and old. The weather was ice cold and the mouthwatering steaming plates of food were a bonus. Three of the guests in the main picture did not even have  a hostel and were sleeping rough on the streets.

Two nice ladies had been observing us and when we had packed up we had a long chat with them before heading back home. The best thing about volunteering with One Third soup kitchen is you get to meet the regular guests, who have now become friends. It's nice catching up. The shift is quick and one can get back to their regular weekend activity quick time.

If you would like to donate a pot of food and you're local then please give me a shout and we'll arrange a pick up and drop off.

Mark Hateley: “John Barnes scored one of the greatest goals ever seen.”


Interview with Gasgow Rangers, Milan and England legend Mark Hateley.

Emdad Rahman: I grew up excitedly watching Mark Hateley terrorise defences. The Englishman was a swashbuckling hero of a figure. After the exploits of Frank McAvennie at Celtic, it was high time that another striking hero emerged in Glasgow. Scottish football wasn't shown much on the box in England, but young fans like me kept abreast of all the action through Shoot magazine, Sportsnight, BBC Football Focus, Saint & Greavsie and Grandstand.

Hateley had left English shores in 1984 and spent several seasons with AC Milan and Monaco before returning to Rangers. In 1992 English fans received a taste of what they had been missing during the “Battle of Britain” European Cup games against Leeds United at Elland Road. In the second leg Hateley controlled the ball 25 yards outside John Lukic’s penalty area and ripped home an unstoppable volley. Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson described the home reaction as “a stunned silence at Elland Road.”

There may be dark clouds gathered over Glasgow Rangers, but this is still very much a world renowned institution. We visited Ibrox to watch not only a game but also to spend some time being shown the ropes by this club legend. “It’s always a privilege coming here, as you can see very much for yourselves,” said Hateley. “It’s always a warm feeling. It’s always been that way. I supported this club as a young boy. I have had an association as a supporter since I was a kid. My Dad (Tony Hateley) played at Chelsea in 66 and there is a strong affiliation between the two teams. Big Derek Johnstone played for both Chelsea and Rangers. As a really young boy I knew a lot about this club even before I joined. And when you are a schoolboy and support a football club, you’re always going to be very, very close to that side of it, and if you get the opportunity as a professional footballer to come back and play for one of the clubs you supported as a kid then it’s a dream come true.

“Every day when I walk through the front doors here it just makes me feel fantastic. I saw you sitting at reception taking it all in and I enjoyed watching that. It’s the sense of history here. Don’t forget the architect of Ibrox built the old Highbury, so there were always similarities in both the grounds as at Fratton Park, where I played with Portsmouth.

“So, I seem to have had a connection with the architect of this great building throughout my career. But, as you say, you walk through the front door and the history just hits you straight away. Ibrox is such a fabulous place to be. The circumstances of the football club over the last few years have been very difficult, but as an ambassador you keep going – albeit with a heavier, more sombre sort of feeling; especially when you've supported a club all your life and are surrounded by people who have come to watch the club play all throughout their lives.
“It’s a heavy feeling and we share the ups and the downs. We've had three years of being on the back foot and we are trying to rebuild a historic institution and in my role I try and do that with a smile on my face.”

Rangers have an affinity and close relationships with Glasgow’s diverse communities and big Mark plays a major role in welcoming the world to Ibrox. “We host the Asian Cup here and we’re close to the people who run these high profile championships. There’s a lot of negativity surrounding Rangers but when we run our projects within the diverse communities they help to forge greater and stronger links. Just last week we had community workshops here and activities supporting Police initiatives in the community.

“That’s what I enjoy. We are more than just a football club. We are all about community. Without a community a football club is nothing. The community is the football club. Without the community you have no football club. They are the soul of the football club and there is no bigger soul than the one at this great club.”

As club ambassador Hateley was the face of Rangers during the memorable Commonwealth Games. He recalled when the Baton passed Ibrox: “When they were coming past the leader of the local Sikh community had the Baton. It was magnificent. He’s a friend of mine and he broke protocol and veered off the beaten path to come running towards me. We shared an embrace. It was incredible and typical of the relationship this club has with its local community. They are our greatest patrons.”
Hateley joined Glasgow Rangers in 1995 after spending six years on the continent with AC Milan and Arsene Wenger at Monaco. In 1984 Hateley joined Italian giants AC Milan during a transition period in their history. He became a crowd favourite and was nicknamed Attila by the faithful.

During the same year a young Hateley caused carnage on the continent as his goalscoring rampage led England under 21s to European Championship glory. It remains the last piece of silverware lifted by the national team at that level – and at any level until Robbie Fowler led England to victory at the 1993 European under-18 championships. “I was top scorer and we were unstoppable,” said Hateley, who was subsequently handed the UEFA Golden Player award which had been won by Rudi Voller two years earlier.

Hateley was mesmerising for Dave Sexton’s young lions – scoring four in a 6-1 demolition of France in the last eight, scoring the return leg winner, and despatching Italy as the Azzurrini were sent packing in the semis. Mel Sterland scored in the first leg of the final against Spain. “In the away leg I scored a volley from a Nigel Callaghan cross. Howard Gayle wrapped it up and then a lot of our careers just took off. I was just pleased to be there. In 1982 I had been sent off in the semis against Scotland and missed the final. It was great to make amends so spectacularly.”

On the south coast Hateley had scored 25 goals for Portsmouth and that coupled with his international purple patch led to a call up to Bobby Robson’s full England squad. Less than 20 days later Hateley was signed by Italian giants AC Milan. He recalls the fiery Milanese derby of 30 years ago. “My winner in the Milan derby has secured me life long hero status at the San Siro. Alessandro Altobelli put Inter ahead but we levelled through Agostino Di Bartolomei.” A cross by Pietro Virdis from the right was met full on by Hateley, who out-jumped former Milan star Fulvio Collovati to steer a bullet header past Walter Zenga into the Inter goal. It was Milan’s first derby win in ten attempts. “Magic! It was magic,” said Hateley.

At Rangers Hateley became a cult hero. “There are a lot of golden memories but my favourite moment in a Rangers shirt would be probably the first season when I was here. It was the hardest for me because I’d had two years when I hadn’t played a game of football after numerous operations on my right ankle. I had come from Monaco, so it was a really hard season for me to get back my form, my strength, and my confidence.

“We played Aberdeen in the last game of the season here and they needed only to draw here in 1990 to win the league. We’d just won two leagues back to back and it was the beginning of nine in a row. That day I scored two goals. I played against Alex McLeish and he made me look a great player that day, he really did. I scored one of my type of goals. It was a header from the edge of the box from a Mark Walters cross and it just flew in.

“From that particular moment in the last game of the season it was like all the shackles had come off me and all the confidence had come back, all the strength had come back, the hair had grown and I’d got my strength back. And you know what the fans are like here. They went mad! Crazy! But that particular goal against Aberdeen in 1990 was the beginning of the love affair.”

You can’t speak to Mark Hateley and not speak about the famous John Barnes goal at the Maracana – conjured from an assist by the big man. “You mean the tap in,” he laughs out loud. “Did you know we were both born on the 7th of November? Both Scorpios. I’m three years older than John Barnes. I know it’s hard to believe he’s younger than me. I see John a lot because we work out with Al Jazeera Sport out in Doha and we talk a lot of football. That goal was 30 years ago. I helped make the first one for him. On my chest, laid it out and then boom… He went on that amazing mazy run. John Barnes scored one of the greatest goals ever seen. “Barnesey repaid the favour to me,” He grins again: “He put this horrible ball into the box and I nodded in. A typical header. Both our careers went into overdrive after that.

“People always ask me what’s my favourite goal. Goals are all great for strikers. But you have goals throughout your career that become more important because they elevate you and the circumstances surrounding that goal against Brazil were incredible.

“The week before that I had just played in the European under-21 final and won and scored against Spain. It was the last English team to do that at under-21 level. I scored six in the tournament, including four against the French in the semi final… as you do.” (We laugh together).

“I got called up from the success of the under 21s and went straight into the squad and during the triangular tournament I got ten minutes against Russia at Wembley as my gift for doing so well, and also for doing well at Portsmouth where I scored 25 goals – 22 in the league that year. So it was a steady build up. Somebody got injured. One of the strikers got injured, so that meant that there was one more place in the squad left to go to South America. So I got dragged in. I got the arm around me and was asked if I’d like to come along.

“I thought I would be pushing the skips and doing the teas and the coffees for the senior pros. I got there. I was in the right place at the right time. On the night before the game we had another injury and before you knew it I had the arm around the shoulder again and told I’m now playing. “So it was me and Tony Woodcock up front and if you look back you’ll realise that Tony Woodcock and I were one of England’s most successful pairings. We only played four or five times together but the ratio per goal, per appearance between us is good.

“It was that set of circumstances, two players getting injured, that led to me getting to play the game. I grabbed it. That was a great England side as well. There were a lot of good players in Ray Wilkins and Bryan Robson – Mark Chamberlain, who’d already played a game I think. Barnesey had already played too.

“It was the beginning of a new dawn – to be at the game was just ridiculous and to be at the Maracana was just a schoolboy dream. And then you’re playing. I’ve always seen myself throughout my career as a goal maker, not a goal scorer. I used to provide the ammo for other people like I did here for McCoist and having an assist for Barnesey and his amazing goal was enough for me. We went 1-0 up and looked like we were going to win. And then John puts this ball into the box and I was up against the big boy centre half Mozer who went on to play at Italia 90 and have a great career at teams like Benfica and Marseille. It was very similar to the first goal I scored for Portsmouth that year at Craven Cottage against Fulham. Same cross, same header, foot of the post. So I started the season and ended the season with a typical centre forward’s goal which sent me on the path to a very successful career.”

We talk about favourite schoolboy heroes and Hateley has a name rolling off his tongue right away. “Zico was my ultimate footballer, brilliant individual, brilliant team player. He played for everybody and had great ability. The other was obviously my Dad, who was a centre forward – but Zico was the player I looked up to purely because all in he was such a fantastic team player.”

Hateley has played alongside some great strikers, but his favourite is a fellow Rangers legend and current manager. “Ally McCoist, I would say. There were far better players than him without a shadow of a doubt. I played with Ramon Diaz who partnered Maradona and led Argentina, Gary Lineker, Paolo Rossi at AC Milan. Tony Woodcock was a great player to line up alongside but for me McCoist was the ideal performer because I knew what he was going to do. I knew he wasn’t going to run around, but I also knew he would stay with me. We were barely 15 yards apart and I knew exactly what he was going to do, knew exactly where he was going to be and I never had to look for him. It all happened naturally. He was a great goalscorer and possessed a great footballing mind as well. We were two decent intelligent guys and when you have intelligence with any duo up front then it all goes bang! We scored just under 300 goals I think, in five seasons. Don’t forget Alistair missed seven months with a broken leg. Ours was one of those dream partnerships that a football club gets once every 100 years.”

Hateley is hopeful that Rangers can gain promotion and take their place among the elite of Scottish football. “Our current season is touch and go. The performances haven’t been great. Our cup performances in the Scottish Cup so far have been great as we’ve beaten three Premier League teams. That’s what confuses the fans in that we can beat Premier League teams but struggle in the Petrofac Cup, like we did against Alloa. I think that’s the head scratcher for a lot of people. Alistair has had a pop at the players’ attitude, and rightly so. The manager takes a lot of flak and I think he has bought home a realisation of the standards expected of players at a club like Glasgow Rangers. Here you win every game, nothing else is acceptable. Performance levels have to be up there all the time. You can’t afford to drop off 25% of your game. You have to be at 95% or 100% all season. Every time we get played against, it’s a cup final.

“Scottish football needs a fighting fit Glasgow Rangers in order to prosper. The last three years have proven that. We haven’t had a sponsor for the league for two years and that speaks volumes. The TV deal has dropped down and the likes of Motherwell, Partick Thistle, Kilmarnock, St Mirren,

Inverness Caley have lost immensely. Imagine the knock-on effect on the rest of the Scottish teams. The standard has dropped dramatically and the quality between the Premier League and Championship is very fine. At this end it’s more competitive at the top. Celtic could lose nine games and still romp home to the title by ten points. During our nine-in-a-row years we had a season when Celtic only lost one game during the season and we still won the league. That’s how high the standards were. Remarkably, the Scottish national team has flourished as the Premier League has suffered. It’s quite remarkable what Gordon Strachan has achieved.”

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Estádio da Luz e Benfica


Stadium of Light is a footballing wonder show

Emdad Rahman: The playing surface has seen some of the greatest players in the world take to the stage for As Águias (The Eagles).

Eusébio, Rui Manuel Costa, Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola, Ángel Di María and Nicolás Gaitán have all mastered their trade whilst playing for Benfica.

Football in Portugal is one of the country's most important pastimes so during a two day trip to Lisbon we visited the 65,000 all seater Estádio da Luz e Benfica, one of the best stadiums in Europe and the home of one of the world's most historic clubs.

The home of Benfica is more popularly known as the "Stadium of Light" (not to be confused with Sunderland AFC). The Estádio da Luz is found in the "Light area" of three Lisbon parishes - Benfica, Carnide and São Domingos de Benfica, and named after the "Our Lady of the Light" Church.

The new build is more compact than it's predecessor. It has 4 tiers and holds 65000 within it's seating capacity. This makes the Estádio da Luz is the biggest stadium in Portugal. The current stadium was knocked down and rebuilt in time to host games including the Euro 2004 final which Portugal lost to Greece.

The new Estádio da Luz was built in place of the old Estádio da Luz. Construction works started in 2002, and Benfica played their last game at the partly demolished old stadium in March 2003. The first team to play at the new stadium on the 25th of October 2003 were Uruguayan Club Nacional who lost 2-1 to the home team.

During the Euro 2004 Championships, the Estádio da Luz hosted three group matches, the quarter-final between Portugal and England (2-2), and the final between Greece and Portugal (1-0). The stadium also hosted the 2014 Champions League final.

A group of ex pupils of the Real Casa Pía de Lisboa founded the club during a meeting held in the back room of a Lisbon pharmacy on 28 February 1904. The colours chosen were to be red and white, its emblem an eagle and its motto E Pluribus Unum (Out of One, Many). In 1919 Benfica became the first club on the Iberian Peninsula to stage a floodlit match.

Fast forward and under the watchful eye of the legendary Hungarian Bela Guttmann, Benfica won the Portuguese title in 1960 and 1961. In 1961 Benfica picked up their first European Cup after beating Barcelona 3-2 in the final. They went onto successfully defend their crown the following season when the amazing Eusébio scored a brace as Os Encarnados (The Reds) came back twice to hammer Real Madrid 5-3.

Benfica is said to be the only club in the world whose official anthem is sung by a tenor, Luís Piçarra, and the classic musician António Vitorino de Almeida wrote a symphony to commemorate the club's first 100 years.

We enjoyed meeting the beautiful eagles and our tour guides were both eloquent, informative superb. The tour was exceptional. In fact the museum tour was the best we have had the pleasure of visiting so far, and that includes Camp Nou, Bernabeu, Anfield, Old Trafford, Emirates, White Hart Lane and Ibrox.

Benfica organise guided stadium tours around Estádio da Luz that include access to the VIP areas, players tunnel, dugouts, and the away team dressing rooms. The stadium also houses the Benfica museum and there is an outstanding section dedicated to Eusébio, who is more fondly referred to as "the king."

Águia Vitória and Gloriosa (Victory and Glory) are the two eagles who live within the confines of the Estádio da Luz. Visitors can have their picture taken with the beautiful eagles. I was able to get close up to Vitória and spend a few minutes observing this magnificent creature. The two Benfica eagles are seen as living symbols of Benfica. During each day they rest on a perch behind one of the goal areas.

During a packed match day and prior to kick off Vitória flies around the Estádio da Luz several times and lands on top of Benfica's club shield, creating a real life version of the club's emblem.

Tours run every half an hour between 10:00 am and 5:00 pm. There are no tours on matchdays.

Tickets can be bought at the club store at the stadium or by emailing visitasestadio@slbenfica.pt.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Jimmy Adamson: The man who said "no" to England

Emdad Rahman: Sir Bobby Charlton described Jimmy Adamson as a "tall, slim, elegant player who to my astonishment never played for England." Adamson is Burnley's greatest ever player. He was born in Ashington, Northumberland and made 476 appearances for the Clarets ranking him sixth in the Clarets all-time appearance list.

As captain Adamson played every game as Harry Potts' Burnley became League Champions in 1959-60. The Turf Moor trio of the cultured Adamson, Irish schemer Jimmy McIlroy and England wing star John Connelly helped the Clarets to lift the Championship by one point on the last day of the season after a win over Manchester City.

The following season Adamson led Burnley as they locked horns with the cream of Europe. French champions Reims were sent home before England's champions lost to the Germans of Hamburg. The boys from Turf Moor almost completed a domestic double as they agonisingly finished second to promoted Ipswich Town in the race for the Championship and losing to Spurs in the FA Cup Final.

Adamson also skippered the team to the 1962 FA Cup Final which they lost to Tottenham Hotspur. The mercurial right half was also named Footballer of the Year in 1962.

When Walter Winterbottom retired, Adamson, who was his assistant at Chile 1963, turned down the most prestigious job in English football. The F.A then turned to the authoritarian Alf Ramsey, who himself, had taken unfashionable Ipswich Town straight from the Third Division South to the League championship. Later Adamson even joked that his decision had helped England win the World Cup after Sir Alf led the Three Lions to World Cup glory at Wembley in 1966.

In 1970 Adamson famously predicted Burnley to become a powerhouse of football - the 'Team of the Seventies', but a small club like Burnley had to sell to survive and this greatly impacted his vision. He was controversially given his marching orders in 1976 and took over at the helm of Sunderland before a further two tough years at Leeds United left him walking away from the game which he had contributed so much to.

Adamson enjoyed and excelled for almost three decades at Turf Moor but it was all cut short abruptly. Author Dave Thomas wrote in “Jimmy Adamson – The man who said ‘no’ to England,” that things began to go wrong at Burnley for Adamson in the year leading up to his dismissal, his decline accelerated after he left Sunderland and joined Leeds United. By the late 1980, he had simply had enough of the whole football business; of malicious fans, working under the shadow of Don Revie, unsupportive directors, and the sheer, never ending, day to demands of running a football club.

It all ended with the ignominy and stress of a libel action he took against Leeds United, some newspapers and his successor Allan Clarke.

Although Burnley chairman Bob Lord; described by Adamson as "the megalomaniac dictator that destroyed the club," is seen as the pantomime villain it is strange that no one looked at the sour relationship he had with Adamson from his perspective.

After Leeds, Adamson became a recluse and only returned to Burnley in 2011 to open a corporate suite named in his honour in the Jimmy McIlroy stand. By that time his health was in the decline and he had outlived his wife and both his daughters. His own mother had committed suicide more than half a century ago after he had taken her to Burnley to be near to him.

The elegant Jimmy Adamson remains a football great. In the golden seventies he fashioned a passing team that is still revered by football fans and the achievements of him and his team mates will never be repeated at Turf Moor - That is unless a modern day oligarch takes over the reins.

Dave Thomas writes an intriguing story. One full of unhappy memories, of hopes and broken dreams. The Burnley legend was a football enigma, alternately affable, brooding and off-hand. A supremely elegant player of the ‘50's and early ‘60's, a title winner and a revered coach, his poignant story is one of broken dreams, failed d ambitions and personal tragedy – a story of what might have been.

www.pitchpublishing.co.uk

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Scintilla Cricket Club Colts storm into semis



Emdad Rahman

In their first competitive games Scintilla Cricket Clubs youth team proudly flew the flag for Barking & Dagenham as they stormed into the semi finals of the Essex East London Colts Indoor Cricket League at Forest Gate Community League. 

Inspired by the exploits of the senior team that won the Essex County Cricket League Premier Division last summer the young lions put in some great performances to reach the last four. 

Coach Ayaz Karim said: "It's a brilliant achievement and showed the character of the squad. I'm very proud at how the boys have performed. There's lots to improve on and we will be preparing fully for the semis."

Captain Rokhan Khan said: "I'm proud to captain this team and we are all very pleased with the way we bonded today. 

"We are lucky that we have an inspiring senior team and individuals who we can approach for advice. We will not be complacent in the semis and will give it our best shot against our competitive rivals."

The Colts now go into next weekend where they will play a semi final. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Remembering Pete at the Soup Kitchen


My mate Peter Chatfield left us before the prime of his life. He was still a young whippersnapper but nobody knows their date of death. 

Peter's friends, family and Sam's colleague collected some money and Sam passed it to me to put to good use. 

I spoke to Shaheed at e1 Grill and hey presto! We had a huge pot of the mist delicious chicken biriani. 

We were exposed to the elements. It was freezing but our guests were bang on form. All our regulars turned up, ate, drank, mingled and took takeaways home. The food was amazing and we were done serving in record time. 

It was a fitting tribute to the late Peter Chatfield. We miss you every day mate. May you rest in peace and tranquility.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Red Dons rule Kingsmeadow



AFC Wimbledon 1-2 Liverpool
FA Cup 3rd Round

Bad visions of eighty eight
When the Dons seized Wembley
But Gerrard the Liverpool great
Banished the dreams of Neil Ardley

Plough Lane spirit at Kingsmeadow 
A goal spiced up the home feast
Like the Crazy gang of long ago
By Ade Akinfenwa the 'Beast'

Stevie G lined his shooting stick
Tanning those Wombles hides
Striking home a classy free kick
The difference between the two sides 

number7
© emdad rahman

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day at the Whitechapel Mission



"The first time I was homeless was when I went to Atlanta. I was in a homeless shelter, then when I got a job I used to miss the curfew for the shelter. So I ended up sleeping outside in the streets."

Jay Electronica

My best wishes to all my celebrating friends. The Whitechapel Mission accepts everyone who visits and this morning fellow volunteers and I served breakfast to our homeless guests. I missed Phillip in his absence. He has had serious health problems this year and I pray he regains his strength again. 

Brendan, Bernadette, Fiona, Conor, Jim, Nikki and I made up the team serving today. We were assisted by Sue and Tony and the atmosphere was buzzing throughout. 

We served the guests with breakfast and they all received cake, mince pies and a small festive gift. 

It's not just about food though. A lot of the visitors just want to chat and feel human. It's a harsh world outside. Some even help with emptying dishes into bins. At the Mission they get a chance for some respite, some have a nap. Others shower, shave, refresh and charge their mobiles. There was lots of cake today and everyone got a sugar rush. 

105,136 breakfasts have been served at the Whitechapel Mission during this year, an average of 288 a day.

In 2015 I'm running the British 10k for homeless guests who visit the Whitechapel Mission. If you'd like to sponsor then please click this link https://www.justgiving.com/numero07/

Hope you all have a great holiday with your families and loved ones. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Adieu Thierry Henry

Les Bleus legend is the Premier League's greatest

Emdad Rahman

In his homeland he may not have a human size bust but here in England there is no denying the stature of this football great.

For sheer ability, magnificence and panache the Frenchman stands out amongst the pantheon of the Premier League's greatest performers.

Discovered by Arsene Wenger at Monaco, Henry became stifled on the wing at Juventus, and it was not until the dreadlocks were shaved and his destination led him to the red half of north London that we saw the the first signs of Gallic greatness from this mercurial genius.

Monsieur Wenger had different ideas in mind and switched Henry's on field position - from being a speedy winger to one of the world's most feared strikers. Ian Wright had left a major void to fill and the introduction of Henry to the frontline revolutionised the role of the modern day striker. It was not just about scoring twenty goals. You now had to do it in style and from outside the six yard box.

With a water tight back four commandeering the space in front of David Seaman, Henry became the first line of defence. He was backed up by the formidable presence of Patrick Vieira. It is therefore no surprise that the silverware at Arsenal flowed - the Premier League title twice and the FA Cup three times. An appearance in the Champions League final.

France's greatest goalscorer ever served two spells at Arsenal scoring 228 goals in 377 games. After joining Barcelona he also won the Champions League in 2009 as well as adding two La Liga titles, the Copa del Rey, Spanish Supercopa, Uefa Super Cup and Fifa Club World Cup during three seasons at the Nou Camp.

After finishing with NY Red Bulls Henry now joins Jamie Carragher and co at Sky Sports. "He was certainly the toughest opponent I ever faced and possibly the best player the Premier League has seen," said Carra. "I would have loved him to be on the same team as me during my playing career, I'm delighted we're finally on the same side."

"Happy retirement to my hero and idol @ThierryHenry," Daniel Sturridge tweeted. "Wish you all the best in the next chapter.

At work I have the knowledge of Gooner Sam and Spurs Terry to keep it all in sync during our catch up chats. I've recalled the debates we have had about Henry and used my own memories to come up with a list of best five goals. Hope you get half as much pleasure reading about them as I did watching them.

2002: Arsenal v Tottenham

A flawless counter attack led to Henry sprinting past opposing Tottenham players from inside the Arsenal half. The thoroughbred racehorse then clinically beat Kasey Keller into submission. The subsequent sliding knee celebration is now celebrated as a statue outside the Emirates stadium. I've been to see it several times and it's always a buzz.

2000: Arsenal v Manchester United

Gilles Grimandi played to feet as Denis Irwin muscled in. Henry flicked the ball up and a half spin later he unleashed a dipping volley from outside the box past the helpless Fabien Barthez. "Absolutely unsaveable, absolutely magnificent," bellowed Andy Gray.

2012: Arsenal v Leeds

It was the much anticipated return of the king. Henry came on as a sub for Marouane Chamakh and the Emirates rose in jubilation. Alex Song fed a through ball and Andy Lonergan stood no chance as Henry slotted home coolly. As the world witnessed the chest thumping and raw emotion I simply stood up as a Liverpool fan and applauded.

2004: Liverpool v Arsenal

This Good Friday treble was a season saver for "The Invincibles." The Gunners had suffered recent exits in the FA Cup and Champions League to leave their treble dreams in tatters.

They were unbeaten in the league but Liverpool took advantage of the recent loss of confidence to take a 2-1 lead. Henry's solution was to shrug off a back problem and score a hat trick. The pick of the bunch was a merry dance involving the Reds defence, a pulsating run which left Jamie Carragher floundering before the Gunner picked his spot past Jerzy Dudek.

2006: Real Madrid
This one was in front of the travelling Gooners in the Bernabeu. After seeing off Brazilian Ronaldo, Henry darted past Álvaro Mejia, Guti and a charging Sergio Ramos to leave Iker Casillas clutching the Madrid night sky.

Adieu Thierry Henry - For me he's been the greatest player the Premier League has seen.

The Christmas Truce of 1914

Sub zero in the trenches of Armentieres
Amidst the ravaging spectacle of war
It’s the most unheard of events in years
A certain killer comes to the fore

Putting aside the stench of the death tax
Then came much aerial bombardment
Cacophony of despair and poison gas attacks
Mustard gas sprayed with much resent

No ghetto blast in the dressing ring
No frenzied skipper in full swing
No chest thumping, head butting
No wooden doors unhinging

Lone German voices mixed with death’s moan
Joined in union with the English enemy
Only warm carols, silent, soft in tone
Echoing beyond the darkened stymie

Crossing no man’s land in hope and glory
‘Deutschland Uber Alles’ clanks like chains
‘We come in peace’; singing ‘Tipperary’
A change of wind blows across death’s plains

Will there be a melee, a scrum or a brawl?
Bully beef swap for smokes as amity flows
Thus a Scot brings out a football
Braveheart wee willy Wallace’s face glows

Helmets for goals, no offside on dry ice
Chasing a sphere of peace, a free for all
‘Watch that gunge and detonating device!’
Marauding hunting packs chase that ball

No longer a faceless enemy clan
Mud football is today’s game plan
King George’s soldier hugs the Kaiser’s man
Each foe part of a peace plan

Hearty 3-2 win as Fritz beats Tommy
That so loathed, became for an instant, loved
Not a shot fired in this festive party
London & Bonn for a moment beloved

So sworn enemies unite merrily
Football the great healer shares it free
Hate, replaced so lovingly
Real men, they were truly gutsy

The dawn of Boxing day and Cap’n Stockwell’s three shots signal the end of the truce.

Goodwill to all men.

© Emdad Rahman

An Austrian at Ypres called Adolf complains at such bizarre integration

#footballremembers

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Remembering Peter Chatfield's life on his birthday


"I have no idea what's awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing."

Albert Camus, The Plague

Peter,

In harsh throes you planted the tree
Peter's gift, a beautiful legacy
Happy and honest as the day is old
Your razor sharp wit broke the mould

Those who loved you all those years
Bonded with your new family's tears
We beg for mercy as we rise to pray
May the lamp of deeds shine your way

If I could keep one thing from the past
It's the cheeky smile that will always last
Love for you bruv has grown and grown
Pete, you'll never walk alone

© emdad rahman
Dedicated to a simply wonderful friend #peterchatfield

Peter Chatfield

One day Pete said to me
"Here, grab that black book off the floor
"I know you've got an injury
"But I'll still back you a score"

© emdad rahman

Today would have been Peter’s 62nd birthday. It's taken me some time to write this about my friend. His death, though not a shock, was numbing and I miss him every day. Pete was a real go getter. Outspoken, brash, opinionated and loveable. Even when he was angry there was not the slightest bit of malice in him.

Peter’s greatest gift is Peter’s Legacy and the good volunteers at Eden Care were inspired by Pete to carry on supporting people nearing the end of their lives. 

I'm editing my own Pete-isms and will publish them soon. I hope you'll all get as much pleasure as I did listening to the big man.

God bless Pete and may your journey be a luminous one.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Baking Artist



Emdad Rahman
 
It is not unusual for Daisy Brydon to spend 50-60 hours plotting artistic baking creations.

The talented baker was presenting masterclasses and pulling in the crowds during the Foodies Festival at the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane when we caught up to share a chat and cake. I was introduced to the sweet version of Yoda - an immaculately designed model of the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. The loveable high general of Clone Troopers really did look cute enough to eat. 

As a child, Brydon discovered a love for all things cake and spent a lot of her youth creating, baking and persuading her mother and grandmother to help her sell her delicious wares to passersby on her street. “It was a doorstep shop and was my first foray into a world I have fallen in love with,” she said.
 
“As I grew older my studies in photography really helped to develop my creative side and inspiration. I’m not the academic type and I really enjoyed creating challenging sculptures.”
 
The arts beckoned and the quirky Brydon pursued a career in acting. After a decade she took a break from acting to pursue her passion for baking artistry. “So, I was an actress for ten years,” she said. I started to suffer from a little bit of depression and it was through my insomnia that I sought comfort in baking at night. 

"Then I was filming a TV series and my cast and crew wouldn’t let me sleep with their baking requests. We filmed during daylight and I baked at night. It was the best therapy.

“I made a birthday surprise and fell in love with cakes. My passion and talent blossomed and by the end of 2012 I had launched Daisy Brydon Creations. I now specialise in 3d sculptures.”
 
Brydon is building up a yummy reputation and is now a much sought after bespoke baker. “I did all the foodies during the summer,” she added. I did Cake International up in Birmingham and will be doing the one in London next year.
 
“Internationally I’ve just been to Australia to meet my business mentor and make plans and to meet others like me from other companies. It’s all very exciting at the moment.”
 
She must be doing well. Her list of clientele include Matt Le Blanc, Wilson Luna and Jessica Hynes.
 
Brydon’s cakes are made to order and are never outsourced. “Everything is baked fresh for each client, ensuring you receive the highest quality, not just in the decoration, but in taste too.”
 
Brydon is set for a successful career ahead and she speaks about her plans. "My long term future plans are to have my own show. I love teaching. I love inspiring people. One of my passions is to teach disadvantaged kids and also to teach, support and mentor offending teenagers and youth who are in prisons."
 
Inspiration and mentoring are key to success and Brydon has experienced both. “My inspiration is definitely Duff Goldman from Charm City Cakes in Baltimore.

"For anyone who wishes to indulge in food art like me I say go for for it! You don’t need to spend a lot of money on training. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on equipmemt. A lot of the equipment you can use from home and youtube is a great place to learn. I'm self taught and I haven't taken any courses."

Brydon’s mission is to create memories through awe inspiring cakes that taste as good as they look and will have people talking for years. “I get inspiration from everywhere, from art and fashion to furniture and architecture.”

With such artistry and attention to detail it's not difficult not see why this baker will soar the heady heights. 

www.daisybrydoncreations.com

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ben Day: “Boxing didn't change my life – it saved it”

Emdad Rahman: Tucked in behind Chrisp Street Market is the Lansbury Boxing Club. Like the best ones it’s old fashioned. I’m here to meet Ben “the Entertainer” Day, unbeaten Light Welterweight and owner of the Ringtone Gym in Euston. We had to be quick. Day had put on his gloves and was ready to start training. “My trainer will go potty if I don’t start soon,” he said, referring to Alec Wilkey.

Day trains daily at the Poplar gym in preparation for his mid December fight against Ben Kneller at York Hall.  

He’s led a coloured life and each time he’s hit the canvas of reality Day has risen up stronger.

Ben’s favourite boxer Prince Naseem Hamed: “He had everything; a showman through and through, he had the substance to back it, a big heart and a great ambassador for boxing.

“Naseem Hamed has inspired me and takes top spot in my favourite boxers list. I am honoured that he has visited my gym.  I met him through my friend Yasin. It was a whirlwind experience. I got a call from the man himself – “Come and meet me in Marylebone for coffee,” he said. Next minute I’m in a Bentley and face to face with a boxing legend.

“I give unconditionally to people and that’s why I believe that Naseem Hamed graced me with his presence. It’s one of my proudest moments.”

Of the modern day boxers Day reserves the greatest admiration for Roy jones as a hero but Floyd Mayweather is one of his favourites. “He’s a colossus. I've been to the States and trained with his uncle Jeff Mayweather four times. It's not training anymore its friendship and we are constantly in touch.

“I have an upcoming fight with Ben Kneller at York Hall.  I'm older and wiser at 36. I've had two white collar fights and turned pro. No one has done that. He may be a journeyman but he’s got nothing to lose. I have been inactive 13-14 months. I was about to go live on Eurosport, but my opponent was overweight so the Boxing board stopped him. It’s been mentally frustrating but I believe it’s made me stronger. Behind every misfortune is an opportunity. My mantra is that there are no failures, only temporary setbacks.”

Day has battled the demons that plagued his younger self. He has fought them, defeated them, banished them and turned his life into a success story.

“I used to drink heavy. Bought up by my father, I lost him to Motor Neurone Disease. Since the age of 15 I have been alone. I have battled ferociously ever since.

“There were bad times. I got into debt and lost my job through drink driving.
Every birthday, every Christmas was tragic. I totally forbid this abomination but it was for me a great blessing. When I was 27 and rock bottom a bloke grabbed me and stuck me in a ring. I have been there ever since. Boxing is amazing. Joe Bloggs can be somebody, it’s a great leveller. Boxing didn't change my life – it saved it.”

Day has big dreams. He’s chirpy, charming but has a steely resolve. “I’m scared of my own desire at the moment. My ultimate goal would be a British title. Everybody dreams of a British title. The gym is taking care of itself and I would like to become a public speaker. I have completely changed my life around in four years. Not many people have been where I've been. It is a story worth telling.

Day runs a wholly inclusive gym for anyone and everyone. And he means it. During the interview he told me that on that very day five members of the local public were treated to a free boxing master class as part of a partnership with the NHS. It was a reward for reaching their alcohol free target and abstaining from the dreaded drink. “My purpose is to serve humanity. I know what’s valuable and what’s not. I'd love to be in a position to give and give.”

Last Saturday, Day hosted a charity night. "I have a dream" - Ringtone Boxing Gym's boxing show to support the fight against Motor Neurone Disease. Day’s late father died from the condition. "I saw what it did to him and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he said.

Fight night at the London Irish Centre was frenetic and jam packed with guests and well wishers. Fighters on the bill included Peter Henegan, Maurice John, Peter O’ Loughlin, Scott Valentine, Amit Ram and the very popular Neil Brailee. On the night Day said: “Just look around you. Look at the raw passion. Everybody is here to give. It’s heart warming.  Every penny from the show and my London Marathon 2015 goes to support those battling Motor Neurone Syndrome.”

Day introduced me to Gilly who presented a trophy to one of the winners. “She’s my boxing mother. She nurtured me like her own for a number of years. She’s never watched a punch thrown – live or on the telly, and tonight she’s here to support this great cause. It’s a bit of magic.

“Tonight is all about heart – the paying public, my family, friends , journalists, trainers and the boxers who have all come together to make this such a memorable night. I have shivers going down my spine and my heart is welling up with pride. Thank you to everyone who made this such a great spectacle.”

Ben Day’s next fight against Portsmouth’s Ben Kneller is at York Hall on Saturday December 13th. Tickets are available on 07816823586 or by visiting www.ringtoneboxinggym.com

Any additional donations are highly appreciated. Find out more on  www.mndassociation.org

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ben Day and Ringtone to hold charity night!


Emdad Rahman: "I have a dream" - Ringtone Boxing Gym's next White Collar show in support of Motor Neurone Disease Association is only 3 days away. 

The tickets are now available to buy on Ringtone Boxing Gym's website www.ringtoneboxinggym.com. 

Standard tickets are £25.00 each, ringside tickets are £40.00 each. Doors open at 6.30pm. 

Unbeaten lightweight boxer Ben Day is hosting the event. His father died from the condition. "Every penny from the show and my London Marathon goes to Motor Neurone Syndrome which is close to my heart," he said. 

Any additional donations are highly appreciated. Find out more on http://www.mndassociation.org/



Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Poetry speaks when otherwise there is silence"

Emdad Rahman interviews Poet Kai Coggin

"The best way to inspire creative young minds is to tell them that their voice is important, that it is unique in the world and there is no other voice like it." Kai Coggin

Kai Coggin is a full-time poet and freelance writer born in Bangkok, Thailand, raised in Southwest Houston, and currently a blip in the 3 million acre Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs, AR.

Kai recently authored Periscope Heart, which is her first full length collection of poems. My copy arrived with a personalised message and card. I read with good measure and took my time to digest the array of rainbows and sunbeams sent my way.

Kai holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University and writes poems of feminism, love, spirituality, injustice, metaphysics, and beauty. Kai has been published in Elephant Journal, Cliterature, The Manila Envelope, [empath], Catching Calliope and an anthology released summer 2014 called Journey of the Heart.

Kai released her first chapbook, In Other Words, in August 2013. Periscope Heart is her first full length book and was published by Swimming with Elephants Publications in September 2014. She is also a teaching artist with the Arkansas Arts Council, who loves to go into the classrooms to teach her love of poetry and creative writing.

Kai knows that words hold the potential to create monumental and global change, and she uses her words like a sword of beauty. She can be found most Wednesdays at Maxine's, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world.

She said: "I am most inspired to write poetry by moments of beauty that are delivered to me from a higher realm, a deeper dimension. Sometimes, I will be experiencing something beautiful and everything begins to slow down and become almost twinkly, like I have a chance to inspect all of the word-hungry details of the moment and taste every color and sound with the upcoming composition of a poem.

"I am always reminded of the quote by Anais Nin, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” This happens with my life and writing. I experience something, and as it is happening, I get this inner voice saying, “Pay attention, there is a poem here!”

"Beauty is a source of poetry for me, but so is the lack of beauty, both love and loss, darkness and light, spiritual striving and the hell of illusion. It is a spectrum of experience, and I never know when the inspiration will hit, but I always hope to be prepared to take it all in and do it justice with my words."

Part of Kai's vision is to inspire creative young minds: "The best way to inspire creative young minds is to tell them that their voice is important, that it is unique in the world and there is no other voice like it.

"As a former High School English Teacher, I saw the difference that this simple statement made with my students. When they were given the creative freedom to write poems about their identity, using their own untamed and unique voice, the products were cathartic and beautiful pieces of writing that conveyed the "under the surface” wonder of each student. To be inspired, they need to know they have a voice, but also, that their voices will be heard.

"Young people need mentors, teachers, family members, community leaders, coaches, band directors, orchestra directors, adults in general to step in and listen. Listening to a blooming child, giving him/her a safe space to create, and encouraging their individuality and power of voice; this is how to inspire creative young minds."

And how does poetry make the world a better place? "Poetry speaks when otherwise there is silence, when otherwise there is media or money at the mouth of an issue. Poetry speaks for the broken and the disillusioned, for the misfits and the rebels. I believe poetry has the potential to wake people from the sleep of life, and remind them of a subtle existence just behind the veil, where metaphors and imagery can paint anything into a poem. Poetry is expression, it is an expression of feelings, it is love and life and loss and and joy and destruction and millions of voices, simultaneously writing the story of the human experience.

"There will always be poets. Through the wars and the peace, through the growing pains of the new-world crowning in the birth-canal of a darkened past, there will always be poets. Poetry makes the world a better place because it is the collective voice of the people, the real people. It’s out there. It’s happening right now. Someone is writing a poem as you read this. Someone is permeating the noise with the sound of their own beating heart."

Kai's creative workshops are always different. She likes to gauge a workshop based on who is attending, who needs what, and how She can best utilise the time and space to provide the safety of writing in a non-judgmental and open creative field. Kai's workshops range from a single class or to a few weeks, and the focus is bringing the art of poetry to the forefront of peoples’ lives, even for a short time, to show them it is a beautiful process of discovery.

"Poetry is a gateway to expression that many people never try to use," she says.

"It may be confusing at first, this search to find your voice, but once it is discovered, there is no turning back and the process is exhilarating. I like to give aspiring writers, young and old, the basic tools for creating. Like giving a painter a brush and paints, I give writers poetic devices such as metaphor, imagery, meter, diction, simile, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, forms and freedom. I put these tools in the back pocket of their minds and provide prompts and ideas for writing. Then, we write together. I write while they write, so they can see that I am also going through the process, using the tools, and thinking poetically about the same topic."

Kai's future plans include becoming a world-famous author, once Periscope Heart hits the top of the New York Times Best Seller List: "I’m still waiting. As for now, I am a poet watching the world as it turns, floating with the moments that turn the mundane into the extraordinary."

Periscope Heart is an extraordinary collection of poetry.

The collection itself encapsulates the reader in a myriad of warm and glowing emotions.

Coggin is devoted to her art and the words within manifest like colourful rainbows. In fact it helps to read in parts - close eyes, contemplate, read on.

The best thing about Coggin's collection is the delicious anticipation and the sure expectation that there is more to follow this excellent compilation. It is a collection that will spark your verdure, vigour and vim.

Periscope Heart is available on Amazon and www.kaicoggin.com

Limited edition signed copies are also available. 

Photo credit: Jeremy Rodgers, of Hot Springs Hot Spots Magazine. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Interfaith lunch

As part of Inter Faith Week (November 16th - 22nd) Churches Together in Poplar organised a shared lunch at the Salvation Army Centre in Poplar E14.

Sister Christine Frost very kindly invited me to this Interfaith Lunch at the Salvation Army Hall in Poplar.

I loved the company and was awed to be among some of the most active members of the community. There's beautiful work from all races taking place in the borough and this super bunch are no exception.

Thanks to Meshiel, David and Ann, we had a lovely lunch of jacket potatoes with cheese, beans, salad, tea and cakes galore. Thank you also to David and Jenny who helped wait on us.

There is also a Families Together Fun Day today (Saturday 22nd November 3pm - 5pm) at the St. Matthias Community Centre. There will be a bouncy castle, entertainment, refreshments. All are welcome.

Foodbank volunteering diary

"Hunger makes a thief of any man." - Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)

Joey and I had to shift a load of longer shelf life food to the main warehouse in Bow so I joined him to lend a hand with the transportation.

It's fun catching up with Joey and the manual labour is a great workout for me. The timing is great for me too and I don't have to take out chunks of my evening.

Running a foodbank is a lot more than just stacking shelves and distributing. Amongst many roles, there's a whole science involved in arranging delieveries, collections, transportation and distribution.

We both made it onto the school newsletter too for the harvest collection.

Tower Hamlets Foodbank is having a Christmas Supermarket Collection and  volunteers are needed.

The collection will be on Saturday 29 November and will be at Waitrose Canary Wharf.

Volunteers and staff will be at the store from 9am until 5pm collecting food and other goods to provide to local people in crisis.

There are three time slots:

9am-1pm
11am-3pm
1pm-5pm

If you are able to help out on the day then please e-mail volunteers@towerhamletsfoodbank.org.uk



Steve Harmison believes current England bowlers can be better than 2005 Ashes stars

Emdad Rahman: Steve Harmison believes England have as good a chance as any other team in their quest to achieve Cricket World Cup success in Australia.And the ex-England and Durham fast bowler has cited England’s promising current crop of bowlers as the ones who will be able to make the difference.

Speaking at the launch of the Royal London sponsorship launch with the PCA Benevolent Fund Harmison said: "I'm happy with the preparations that have been put in place. The team management have taken pains to make sure that the lads spend a good length of time bedding in and getting used to being around each other. It will help create squad harmony and hopefully forge a bond that will prove difficult to break during the heat of battle at the World Cup.
 
"Sure, the England team prospects for the World Cup have been dismissed within many quarters but let's look at this way. South Africa, India and Australia are clear favourites but if teams like England can make it through to the knockout stages then anything is possible.

“Luck can also be a big factor during knock out games so you can't rule out anything. The bottom line is a weaker team may play out of their skins and raise their standards for a one off game. Their opponents may suffer a day off and this could combine to produce shock results that are not in line with the general form book. That's just cricket for you.

“I feel that a Quarter Final or a semi spot would be a good achievement for England to build on.”

It’s almost ten years since Harmison and the marauding attack unit of Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles, Simon Jones and Mathhew Hoggard were unleashed on the Australians during the 2005 Ashes.

Harmison believes the “phenomenal” Ben Stokes and Steve Finn can be the difference. England are now in Sri Lanka and with James Anderson and Stuart Broad injured it will be Finn who will lead the attack. “I feel these two could easily be a part of an attack that could outshine our famous 5 from 2005,” he said.

“Finn has returned from injury and needs to go out there and just bowl. With injuries to Chris Broad and James Anderson he will be the senior bowler on show. For me, if he is fit, firing and bowling well, he is a key player for England. I believe if they’re all bowling well – Anderson, Broad, Finn, Stokes, Moeen – That’s as good as 2005. I really do.

“I think Finn is the key because somebody who can bowl over 90 mph and make the ball bounce on any given surface and be aggressive, that makes the job easier for the rest.”

Ian Bell looking forward to Sri Lanka tour

Emdad Rahman: Warwickshire batsman Ian Bell has hailed the appointment of Mark Ramprakash to the England coaching set up and say's that the tour of Sri Lanka is crucial in building up team morale and rapport in the run up to the Cricket World Cup.

Bell spoke at the launch of the Royal London sponsorship launch with the PCA Benevolent Fund prior to the England Cricket team flying out to Sri Lanka.

"It's a great test for us," said Bell. The Sri Lankans are sure fire bets to be one of the favourites to lift the World Cup and our game preparations against them will be of tremendous benefit.

"With the World Cup months away what will be key for us is the the ability to put together a consistent run of form.

"The World Cup will be really exciting. England are capable of beating any of our competitors. The series defeat to India was not good for morale but we have plenty of character to pick up and compete with the best."

Bell, along with his team mates has relished the appointment of Mark Ramprakash to the position of national batting coach.

He added: "He (Ramprakash) is young, energetic and he knows a lot of the guys in the international set up. His experience and know how will be very helpful.

Matt Dean: "I'm confident that England will put on a good show at the World Cup”

Interview with England Visually Impaired Cricket Captain

Emdad Rahman: Matt Dean is in a confident mood. The right handed batsman has been playing blind cricket for over a decade and has progressed through the cricketing ranks
to become the captain of the England Visually Impaired One Day International team.

The right arm medium bowler has been a key member of the side since making his debut in 2004. He was captain of the 2008 tour of Australia, where England won 3-0, and scored an unbeaten 111 against the same opposition in a T20 in 2012.

Dean plays for London Metro and was attending a celebration of Disability Cricket event with the England Physical Disability and England Visually Impaired teams at Lord’s. He said: "In 2003 my sight became worse and affected my daily life. My Dad was keen for me to lead an active life. He took me along to play cricket at our local sports club and I haven't looked back since."

Until then Dean had never played cricket. "My Dad gently encouraged me to go to these local trials. I did and it turned out that I was supposedly a very naturally talented cricketer."

And that's when it all began for Dean: "There is no greater honour for me than leading the England cricket team. To be honest with you, when I came into the sport I literally expected to be playing at reserve levels. I didn't expect to break into the first team. But I did, and it went from there really. When I first started I didn't expect to be England captain but as the journeys gone on I've taken hold of the opportunities that have come my way and now each time I take to the field it's a real privilege."

Dean gushes as he speaks of improving his game by learning from cricket heroes: "One is David Gower. I liked his elegant style of cricket. He is someone one who has really appealed to me.

“Aside from that there's Alastair Cook. For me, he's been really important. I see him lead the current England team and I think he’s doing an excellent job of it. I’m an opening batsman and he’s an opening batsman and I just try to keep up with his scores.”

Dean reflected on his career: "It's a dream come true. Eleven years ago I was encouraged to play cricket by my Dad and now here I am on the verge of leading England into the World Cup. It's the stuff dreams are made of. Disabled sports people, including visually impaired cricketers, are now widely supported. It's a great thing and reflective of the changing attitudes in our
society.”

Dean is not thinking too far ahead with regards to his cricketing future: “I’d love to still be involved in blind cricket. It’s something I haven’t put much thought to as I’m concentrating on the here and
now. I’m certainly not going anywhere soon. The players in the team see me as an older brother and I have a big role to play there. After I finish my playing career I’d love to stay involved in the game.”

The event at Lord's marked the Visually Impaired team’s departure for the Blind World Cup in South Africa and included a screening of a behind-the-scenes video of the Physical Disability team’s tour to UAE earlier this year. Dean is confident that his team will come good: “On Friday we fly out to South Africa for the World Cup. It’ll be constant 40 over games. We are a young team and we are ready to go. We play Sri Lanka in the first game and they are up there with us.

“India and Pakistan are probably the best two teams in blind cricket. We are looking to make an impact in the World Cup, hopefully reaching a semi final. Once we get into the knockouts anything is possible at that stage.

"I'm confident that England will put on a good show at the World Cup. If we can get past the Round Robin Games and make it through to the knockout stages then who knows what can happen."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top 5 Scotland v England clashes


Emdad Rahman: For me as a young fan growing up, England and Scotland football clashes were one of the highly anticipated games in the football calendar. There wasn't a lot of live football during the 80’s and it was a chance to see the best of Britain lock horns in a game that was anything but friendly.

Today’s clash at Celtic Park is the 112th meeting between both countries. It’s a fixture that has remained constant over 140 years.

Here are five memorable clashes in the oldest fixture in world football.

1872: Scotland 0-0 England

It was the historic year of the first game between the Auld Enemy. The venue was the West of Scotland Cricket Club’s home ground at Hamilton Crescent, Partick.

Queen’s Park were the dominant force in Scotland and supplied every one of the starting eleven. In contrast England’s players came from clubs. A crowd of 4,000 witnessed a historic 0-0 draw.

1928: Scotland 5-1 England

It was raining heavy and Scotland were in no mood to take prisoners. Billy Smith hit the post for England before Alex Jackson drew first blood for the Tartan Army.

England defended stoutly but Scottish pressure paid off just before the interval – Alex James’ left wand doubling the lead for the visitors.

The floodgates opened in the second half as the mesmerising Scots upped the ante, picking off their foes with stunning skill and exquisite co-ordination. Jackson headed a third and Alex James completed his brace. Scotland carved up the English rear-guard as they pleased. Jackson smoothly rounded off his man of the match performance by slotting his hat trick. England did not give up and self pride was somewhat restored after Bob Kelly scored a consolation.

The hypnotic show by the Scotsman earned them the nickname “The Wembley Wizards.”

1967: England 2-3 Scotland

This game is Scotland’s most famous win over their bitter rivals. It was one year after England had been crowned world champions. Although the English stepped out on to the Wembley turf on the crest of a 19 game unbeaten run their diehard opponents were oozing with flair and talent themselves. The starting eleven boasted four of Celtic’s “Lisbon Lions” alongside Billy Bremner, Denis Law and Jim Baxter.

It was Denis Law who struck first before Bobby Lennox doubled the lead. The decision to turn Big Jack into a makeshift centre forward paid off as the older of the Charlton brothers halved the deficit. Not for long though, and the Wembley crowd were silenced three minutes later as debutant Jim McCalliog made it 3-1 to the Scots. Geoff Hurst scored right away but Scotland held on for a historic 3-2 win.

The iconic moment of the match saw Slim Jim Baxter torment England as he played “keepie uppie” after slowing his stride down to walking pace. The bragging rights went north of the border as proud Scots announced themselves as unofficial “world champions.”

1996: England 2-0 Scotland

It was the summer of love as Terry Venables’ England dazzled the world with their slick brand of football. Hosts England met the Aud Enemy at Wembley in the second of their group matches at Euro 96.

Alan Shearer had discovered his scoring boots again in the first game and his rejuvenated form continued as he scored the first. The game then turned into the Gazza show as a certain Paul Gascoigne of Glasgow Rangers sent Colin Hendry into cuckoo land before unleashing a sublime half volley past team mate Andy Goram. It was the goal of the tournament, cementing Gascoigne’s reputation as a genius and one of the greatest players to have worn an England shirt. Unlucky Scotland also saw a Gary McAllister penalty saved by David Seaman.

1989: Scotand 0-2 England

Chrissie Waddle opened for the visitors but for me the iconic moment was when the marauding debutant Steve Bull came on. “Bully” replaced John Fashanu and scored to secure a 2-0 win in what became the final Rous Cup fixture between the two sides. 

I was convinced that the Wolves legend, a favourite of mine, would sign for Liverpool. Alas, it wasn’t to happen. However, the game was the making of Bull who continued his scoring form in the national team (4 in 13 games). He was selected by Bobby Robson to play for England at Italia 90. Bull still remains the last non top flight player to have played for England at a World Cup finals tournament.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Volunteering is no bed of roses



It's always important to be disciplined during any ambassadorial type work and on a dark, wet and cold November night I learnt a harsh but useful lesson in self discipline. 

Zak had gone to get water and as I waited for aktar to drop off the table near our distribution point, an Irishman shouted: "Who you looking at, you dirty fucking nigger?"

I replied straight: "I don't want no trouble mate."

He came up to me with his sidekick. My body tensed, sensing things could get physical. The sidekick asked me why I had pots. "It's for homeless guests."

The Irishman retorted: "You don't look homeless." I told him we served homeless people. The sidekick shook my hand. "You're both welcome to a plate!" I offered. 

The Irishman added: "I'm from Belfast and I would never ever trust a black bastard like you. We shoot you lot for fun." The minion shook my hand again and I glanced and was reassured by the blinking CCTV cam above Starbucks. 

I'm very pleased that I didn't take the bait and even raise my voice. It was the right choice, though there is a small voice niggling me for not retaliating. I really hope the fella reflects later and changes his outlook. 

I'm human, and truth is, I was really tempted to chin him one. But I kept repeating that I was an ambassador for One Third Soup Kitchen and I was here to meet my homeless friends and serve them some biriani and chicken curry with chick peas. Community work is not always a bed of roses and you have to take the good with the bad - the smooth with the rough. Thankfully this is the first negative encounter I've had since we started the Soup Kitchen. 

Whilst waiting for the boys to arrive the starving Piotr arrived and helped me set up. He got an extra large plate from the boys. 

Zak and Aktar were excellent company. There were plenty of guests, good banter and chit chat. 

Paul said he had helped himself to a buffet of four plates at The Taste of India at lunch but the aroma was too much and an hour later he too succumbed to a plateful of of magic from Moz's finest home cooked pot. 

The food was mouthwatering and we were left another pair of clean dishes. Plenty guests talked to us and a group of shoppers from Hackney said they were inspired to start their own Soup Kitchen after a long chat with the three of us. 

One Third Soup Kitchen runs every Saturday. Please pop in and say hi if you're around. 

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Magic evening at One Third Soup Kitchen



"The war against hunger is truly mankind's war of liberation." 

John F. Kennedy

Magic was the theme as tonight we set a new record. Kam bought biriani from home and the delicious contents of the pot vanished before you could say hey presto. 

The day had been warm but we were set up with a chilly evening. The kitchen was so busy with frenzied activity that the volunteers could have worn T shirts. It was all so fast paced it was almost like an open 45 minute circuit training session in Stratford City. 

Kam, Omar, Saqi and I were this able to enjoy a bit of a catch up before we left to pursue the rest of our evening. 

Thanks to Bhabi for the exquisite biriani.