This sporting life

I’ve never been enthusiastic about doing sports myself. At school I had to take part in whatever the Physical Training teacher decreed for the day’s exercise, which often meant running in the local forest tracks because it took a good while and exhausted us so that we weren’t much trouble afterwards.
For a few years I delivered newspapers before school and feel that that can be counted as sport, particularly in the winter when I had to steer my trusty bike along pavements in all weathers and then run for the bus to get to the school in time. Nevertheless, nowadays it’s walking, cycling and occasionally swimming for me and for all this Ylöjärvi offers an excellent environment.
I do like watching sports competitions and games and during the summer enjoyed both tennis and cricket here; both very British sports, although the origins of many games are argued over by various countries.
Did the Scots really invent golf? Is bowling just a younger cousin of boules? Who first thought of football, baseball, volley ball? There now seem to be so many varieties of any game that I don’t even know what they are. Futsal? Salibandy? I suppose the rugby football can be allowed to have started at the famous English Rugby public school but I wouldn’t like to argue about it with anyone who thinks he knows better.
The British are very keen on the sports they feel are their own and which they took with them to all parts of their Empire. When the colonies and dominions became independent, the sports stayed and now cricket and rugby in particular are played with skill and passion in those countries and the international competitions are followed with equal enthusiasm.
I was surprised to find that there are enough cricket teams in Finland to create a League and when I noticed that the final for the Finnish Championship was taking place in Tampere, I had to go and see it. The teams were smaller and the game structured shorter (not taking several days as the classic games can do) but the final between Turku and Tampere teams was good to watch. Cricket doesn’t look like something that can raise passions in the spectators but the seemingly sedate toing and froing is a serious matter and the British papers write pages about the tactics and successes/failures of the teams, and the star players are admired as much as any football player. The Cricket Commentators on Radio or Television themselves become stars and add to the viewers’ or listeners’ enjoyment.
While I was watching the Tampere cricket, I could hear various rugby matches being played on the adjacent field. Last year I heard about a ladies’ international rugby match played in Rahola and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon, even though the French team beat the local one. Both teams played to their best and behaved gracefully, whether winning or losing, and that’s how it should be.
Tantrums never used to be part of the high-class tennis until some “brats” appeared on the scene in the 1970s. They were good players but apparently needed to psyche themselves by putting on a show of bad temper, arguing with the judges and insulting the ball boys/girls. The arrival of the great Swedish players evened things out and we were cheering Borg, Wilander, Ekberg and others in all the matches they played.
Apparently, a film has been made of the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final of 1980 between John McEnroe and Björn Borg; The Brat and The Ice Man, as they were often called. I’ll keep an eye out for it; it may keep me entertained until the next year’s Tampere Open.
You notice that I haven’t said much about the games most popular in Finland: ice hockey, football and baseball. With my British background, I only know football and it seems that there and in ice hockey the money plays a bigger part than even the best players on the field.
Baseball is a “foreign country” to me but maybe I should take some interest now that the Manse PP won the women’s championship. I’ve heard it’s different from the game played in America, which makes me no wiser; as any knowledge I have from that comes from the Peanuts Cartoon and life affirming films like Field of Dreams and The Natural.

Paul Dockree

 

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