Dylan Cleaver on sport
Sport analysis and comment from Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Hand of Clod is surpassed for idiocy

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El Diego gave us the Hand of God, Thierry Henry the Hand of Frog, now Robert Green is destined, according to the disparaging headline that featured in two red-top Sunday papers, to be remembered as the Hand of Clod.

The unfortunate Green and his wrists of wet spaghetti let past a shot from American Clint Dempsey that barely had enough steam to make it across the line.

After all the talk of the new Jabulani ball playing wicked tricks in the air, this one baffled the West Ham keeper by dribbling along the ground.

The Fleet Street press are notoriously unforgiving of those they feel are getting in the way of Mother England reclaiming what is rightfully theirs, the World Cup. In 1998, David Beckham awoke to the headline "Ten heroic Lions, one stupid boy" after being sent off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. In case he was wondering, he wasn't one of the Lions.

Beckham would have to wait four years for redemption; Green will probably get another shot on Saturday against Algeria.

If noted disciplinarian Fabio Capello decides, however, that one horrendous blunder is one too many, it could be that Green becomes the Peter Bonetti of his era.

Bonetti was a servant of Chelsea where his lightning reflexes earned him the nickname The Cat.

But few remember that.

He will always be the man that let a weak Franz Beckenbauer shot squeeze under his body during the 1970 World Cup quarter-final. England were leading 2-0 at the time and went on to lose 2-3.

In a weak group, Green's howler should not prove terminal and, to be absolutely blunt, the World Cup needed a talking point.

Unless you're a fan of the incessant vuvuzela, it has been a tepid start to the tournament.

Don't let the hype fool you, at the time of writing there had been 450 minutes of soccer with about seven points of interest.

This often happens during pool play.

The big sides tend to ease their way into the tournament and the minnows are hell-bent on avoiding embarrassment - it makes for some turgid fare.

For the last 15 minutes of England's clash with the United States, both sides decided a point was nothing to be sniffed at and closed the shop. The only danger of either side winning was if the US could somehow contrive to get Green involved again, but alas.

Misery had company this weekend.

Step forward Jamie Heaslip.

The Irish have never managed to beat the All Blacks with 15 men on the field. How he thought they could manage it with 14 is beyond comprehension.

This was no moment of madness. It was not a crime of passion. He saw Richie McCaw's head in that ruck and he aimed a shot at it with his knee, not once, but twice.

He knew that because he was on the side of the ruck, not buried in the back, his act would be in full view of at least one of the officials. He also knew, having played plenty of rugby, that the sanction for such an act is bound to be a red card.

The inescapable conclusion? Heaslip wanted to get sent off.

He bottled it. His subconscious told him that he wasn't up to it and he wanted out.

Either that or he has hippopotamus syndrome - an incredibly small brain-to-body-size ratio.

In that he is not alone, either.

Step forward New South Wales' assistant coach Andrew Johns.

The former playmaker is clearly not blessed with brain cells and the ones he had he laid waste to during his well-documented party days.

The story goes that during a speech in the State of Origin camp ahead of Wednesday's second match, he described Aboriginal Queensland centre Greg Inglis in derogatory terms that, reportedly, included the phrase "black c***".

Timana Tahu, to his credit, decided he wasn't just going to roll with the punches as many in his situation have before and left the camp, deciding he could not in all conscience be coached by a man who had such little respect for his culture (Tahu is Aborigine on his mother's side, Maori on his father's).

Yesterday Johns released a statement, which included, among other pearls, this gem of a quote.

"I look forward to sitting down with Timana and learning from him what is acceptable when it comes to sensitive issues such as this."

You have to shake your head.

We have made it through slavery, through colonisation, through apartheid ... and we still need to be told in person that calling somebody a "black c***" is unacceptable.

Of all the dumb things that have surfaced in the world of sport this weekend, perhaps Green's is not so bad after all.


Valerie Vili. Back in the winner's circle at the Diamond League meeting in New York. In the absence of biggest rival Nadezhda Ostapchuk, Vili notched her first win under coach Didier Poppe and moved to the top of the league standings.


The All Whites v Slovakia. Could it be anything else? Sky Sport 2/TV One, 11.30pm, Tuesday.

- NZ Herald

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