WEEKENDER: Games’ feelgood spirit is a lesson for football

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South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

WHEN I was a boy, the Commonwealth Games was as much an exercise in geography as a feast of sporting entertainment.

Regularly, I had to resort to thumbing through the pages of my Child’s Atlas of the World to find out where exactly were many of the countries whose sporting representatives were swimming, running, bowling or boxing.

And since then, these Games for me have held a fascination as a showpiece for sporting endeavour more true to the spirit of taking part, than have the increasingly corporatised Olympic Games.

Of course, there are territories able to compete at a Commonwealth Games that are unable to at an Olympics because they are not recognised as fully blown countries, so the current extravaganza is very much a shop window to the wider world for them.

And though it is early days, it’s been pretty good so far. There has drama – and tears aplenty – in the swimming pool and the triathlon is always gripping. Forget the swimming, cycling and running – its the changeovers in between that appear to be the most fraught, with the likelihood lurking of penalty points for not putting your items of clothing in the right box.

Even the opening ceremony was not the usual firework-fuelled bore-fest that such occasions so often turn out to be.

It was great to see so many of the competitors who paraded into and around Celtic Park on Wednesday evening smiling, waving, enjoying themselves. All that, and folk dressed as giant Tunnock’s Tea Cakes too. Brilliant.

I believe this opening ceremony should set a precedent for future football World Cups.

The opening ceremony in Brazil was high on the host nation’s razzmatazz, while the Gross Domestic Products of several small countries appeared to have been spent on the pyrotechnics – but where were the squads?

I believe, with Glasgow’s feelgood ceremony fresh in the mind, FIFA should order that in future World Cup finals squads should form an integral part of opening ceremonies, parading into the stadium waving at adoring fans.

An end, I say, to multi-millionaire footballers being squirrelled away in hotels and training complexes ‘preparing’ for their opening matches. They should be compelled to parade behind the flags of their nations and gather on the communal field of play for a pre-tournament hug. And they should don oversized fancy dress in the style of something with which their country is associated. I’m looking forward to Lionel Messi parading around in a stiflingly hot, padded corned beef tin at the Russia 2018 opening ceremony.

Back in Glasgow, Prince Imran of Malaysia, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation had a little local difficulty in opening the baton to extract the message penned by the Queen, cutting a finger in the process, before gallant Sir Chris Hoy, the Braveheart of the Bike, came to his aid.

World Cup opening ceremonies should learn from this too. FIFA presidents of the future – and Sepp Blatter should be impelled to stay on just for this purpose – should be ritually embarrassed before a global TV audience.

They should be obliged to grapple with a symbolic football-shaped device that is near-impossible to open, but which draws presidential blood, ahead of reciting a message about how the Beautiful Game is a galvanising force for good in an increasingly fractious world. Or some such bilge.

Anyway, back to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, and the only negative aspect of the evening was the outfit worn by the men of the England team.

Commonwealth Games uniforms are meant to give an indication, a flavour, of a country, and some were just fantastic, particularly the African nations.

But the English chaps’ blazer and trousers combo was mind-numbingly dull. The trousers in particular. What colour was that? Let’s be charitable and call it beige.

I seem to recall the mighty Liverpool FC having a beige away kit for a season in the mid-1990s, the depths-plumbing awfulness of which must have been a contributory factor in the club’s failure to secure Premier League success in the years since.

But the English men’s uniform trousers at these Commonwealth Games are on a par. As I write this, I note that a couple of the men have already tasted success at these Games, so they don’t seem too traumatised by this very public fashion faux pas.

But it could have left them permanently scarred.

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