Dancing Like Nobby Stiles

Dancing Like Nobby Stiles

A piece written for Alex Strangeways-Booth for the BBC. With Passion ft Chris Tomlin – God’s Great Dancefloor (Reyer remix) and David Crowder Band – Undignified (writer Matt Redman)

The winsome, toothless dad-dancer Nobby Stiles

Dancing like Nobby Stiles

Sometimes it’s good to be undignified..

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember this? In 1966 England managed to lose and win the World Cup in the same year. Before the tournament, while on display at a stamp exhibition in Westminster Central Hall in London, the Jules Rimet trophy was stolen from under the guards’ noses.

During their noon patrol, the guards found the rear doors of the building forced open and the display cabinet broken into. The trophy, which had been awarded to World Cup winners since 1930, had been nicked.

Three days later, the Football Association received a ransom note. An undercover police officer took fake money to an arranged spot and met Edward Bletchley, a petty thief. He was arrested, but didn’t have the cup, insisting he was only a middleman. The thief was never found but Pickles, the dog who found it was turned into a national hero, even invited to the celebrations after England won the World Cup.

His owner David Corbett shared in this celebrity and allegedly danced down the road with joy – in a manner similar to Nobby Stiles at the end of the final. Dignified no. Victorious, yes..

We hate to lose things. Football matches, world cups, or the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was Israel’s holiest artefact, lost in a humiliating battlefield defeat to the Philistines. Why? Because David’s predecessor as king, Saul, had lost his relationship with God and was turning to snake oil salesmen and tarot card readers.

The Philistines went on a kind of celebration tour of the country to show off their prize. But instead of excited crowds lining the streets, there was death and destruction. God objected to being taken on a victory tour by unqualified people who couldn’t even dance.

The Philistines realised that they had taken a poisoned chalice, sent it back to Israel and parked it in a field. David, who had spent years on a campaign to reclaim the Ark, was delighted. He could just send a cart with some hardy mules and collect it. The trouble was that God didn’t like Reliant Robin-style transport and killed one of David’s top men as he was leading the wagon.

Dancing David, who had been made to look like a fool, got angry and told his men to take the Ark to the house of the Levite Obed-Edom. David had done his research and discovered that only Levites were allowed to carry the Ark. The Ark spent 3 months with Obed-Edom during which time his house was blessed to the level of a FIFA expense account.

Properly packaged and with Levites in control of the logistics, the Ark moved in a stately manner into Jerusalem. Unable to contain himself, David body-popped like a dervish, Dad-dancing in front of the Ark.  His wife Michal remarked dryly that it wasn’t very dignified for a king to dance like a wild-eyed, teeth-missing former undertaker.

David answered like this: “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes….” (II Samuel 6:22)

When it comes to our relationship with God, the best thing we can do is not gain status, but lose our inhibitions.

David was a King, but he was also a dancer and a musician; he wrote Psalms and made loads of mistakes – and yet God blessed him

So what is the difference between the slightly embarrassing Nobby Stiles and the uber cool German Captain Uwe Seeler? Uwe lost the cup and most of his hair. And Nobby won the World Cup – the one that was lost and then found..

As convention-free people, we are proud to be undignified because we get the Ark over the line.

Roy Stannard 13.2.22

God Speed

Gary Speed 8th September 1969 – 27th November 2011

God Speed

God speed you. Black and white Emperor.

Pure breath of granite hewed from the ground of Flintshire

where dragons fly and the hills sigh for the business of dreaming.

You were already formed as a warrior

As the Merlin alchemists mixed your being together

In the days before the men of Harlech began to sing your name

when your promise whirled and eddied from the valleys,

tendrils of smoke from the miners’ fires gathered

and formed on the terraces of Leeds, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton

where working men admired the chiselled stare, the rapier pass and the Aquila dribble

A club man that darted, never clubbed.

You served in the football trenches with McAllister, Batty and Strachan,

going over the top with them,

comrades in no man’s land, where even the enemy ceased firing to admire you.

You were the midfield General, the Captain and Sergeant of armbands

You played them at your own game

You did not go gently into the night

You were the black on the white, the raven hair and pithead eyes burning coals on the turf.

 You saw the whites of their eyes and flayed them with black and white stripes.

And yet, the gentle cleft of your jaw, the downhill saunter of your nose,

 were a softer frame for the imperial neck, a pedestal, a clenched life raised in victory,

the full motion slide on grass, cutting your legend into the soil,

a fighter blooding his territory with over 500 battle cries.

Many were victories, but you couldn’t win them all.

Your fame will grow with your passing.

When your foe faced you, you vanquished him.

But when he came to live within, you vanished.

God Speed you. The Emperor who did not fade to grey.

Roy Stannard. 30th November 2011 (for Gary Speed 8.9.69 – 27.11.11)

Fair Trade in Football?

A Fair Deal Football

In 1879 the football club Darwen in Lancashire shocked polite Victorian society by employing and paying Fergie Suter and James Love, two Scottish footballers.

In private players had been paid in kind for a while – some in cash, others in food and drink.

By 1885 professional footbal was legal and six years later a  £4-a-week wage limit was nervously introduced as the Authorities were afraid that the Corinthian ideal of the gentleman footballer was in danger of disappearing.

By 1922 the maximum wage had grown to £8 a week (£6 in the summer), and clubs also gave a loyalty bonus of £650 after five years.

In 2009 John Terry of Chelsea was earning £130,000 a week. It’s reasonable to suspect that he’s put in for a wage rise since.

By way of contrast, in 1908 Walter Tull was apprenticed as a printer and playing for his local  team in Clapton. He was an outstanding talent and was quickly discovered by a Tottenham scout. Spurs paid Walter the maximum signing on fee permitted at the time – £10 – and his wages were £4 a week. Walter was only the second man of mixed race (after Arthur Wharton) to play professional football in Britain.

Walter Tull at Spurs

He played at the highest level for Tottenham and then Northampton Town (a club much more prestigious then than now). His inspiring story has been told by me in another post. He gave up football and a chance to sign for Rangers in 1914 to join the Army, going to Italy and then France. He didn’t return.

Football has become about big money and small characters. Even the ball itself has become a metaphor for big business and exploitation.

In 1995 first reports started to surface about the structural abuse of child labour and exploitation of adults in Sialkot, Pakistan. Children and women were working for long hours in poor conditions for a pittance. Footballs were made in Pakistan and to a lesser extent, India for many years by people with no cultural link with the game. They were paid laughable sums and were prevented from having employment protection in law.

Footballs to this day are still hand-stitched, assembled one-by-one in primitive conditions where 5 to 6 balls a day is the average worker’s output.

Major brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Mitre (UK) have recently discovered a conscience in these matters because links with child labour are not a great football association in the hothouse supersales arena of world soccer.  

Research done by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute (NLI) captured in the paper –  ‘Child Labour in the Sports Goods Industry – Jalandhar, A Case Study’ 1998 (known as the ‘NLI report’) concluded that around 10,000 children were engaged in stitching footballs in the district of Jalandhar.

A Child Worker in Pakistan

Stitching footballs is a home-based industry in which the manufacturing-exporting companies produce the panels of the balls in their factories and hire contractors who act as middlemen between them and the home-based workers who stitch the balls. Almost half of the stitchers are living below the poverty line and four out of ten households are headed by illiterate adults. About 90% of the households belong to the so-called ‘untouchables’, or Dalits as they prefer to call themselves. Their human rights are violated in many spheres of life, especially when they dare to assert and organise themselves. Dalits and their children are the main victims of bonded labour and child labour.

The NLI report estimates the average daily earning of an adult male in the sports goods industry to be around Rs.20 (less than half a US dollar) which is about one third of the present minimum wage of Rs.63 a day. Almost half of the working children have health problems, the most common of which are joint pains and backache.

Since 2006, meanwhile, a British company, led by young co-director James Lloyd in Brighton has designed a range of balls that do not depend on exploitation and child labour to make a profit.

Fair Deal Trading is based on rigorously monitored Fair Trade principles, paying fair wages for sensible hours of work and providing a hinterland of benefits and health cover for workers employed in Pakistan.

Imran Khan is one such worker. He has been working in the Ethletic factory, Vision, since 2005, manufacturing sports ball bladders. He currently earns Rs. 7000 – much more than the minimum wage.

Because of his employment, most of the benefits of the Vision Fairtrade projects are available for him and members of his family. He does a significant amount of his shopping in the Fair Price shop, saving about 3% on the grocery bill – significant savings for a family of ten (parents, six sisters, two sons) on a silly budget.

He can use the Vision pick-up and drop bus purchased with Fairtrade Premium money – saving up to 1000 Rs/month: His daughter has benefited from the Fair Trade health care scheme in place.

The footballs produced are of premium quality, unlike the factory produced, machine stitched Adidas balls used in the last World Cup to universal derision, not least from players. The sponsorship pumped into the competition secured their place on the pitch. Players watched in bemusement as these balls ballooned their way around the pitch, completely out of control.

In the meantime, Ethletic balls, which have fair wages and a future for the indigenous economy sewn into them, can’t even break into the squad of approved balls used in the Premier League, much less the European Championship or World Cup.

So while most Premiership players earn above £50,000 a week, workers in Pakistan are being paid 1/50,000 of this in order to protect the positions of the major football sponsors. Yet, the high street is going bananas for Fair Trade. The Industry is worth £1.4 billion per annum. It just hasn’t reached Football yet.

If you read this and feel ashamed, lobby your local club. Better still, get them to buy their footballs from Fair Deal Trading.  http://www.fairdealtrading.com/

That way, given a level playing field and a fair wind, everyone wins.

A fair day's pay for a fair day's work?