Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday night is 'Now we are sixty-one we...

....salute Ryan Giggs, whose birthday it also is.

C shares hers with Robert Burns but I am very happy to share mine with (Sir) Ryan. I think he is the most wonderful footballer of my adult life. He has in body and spirit what I would wish for my poetry. And, as a player, he is as honest as they come. Even those who hate the team admire Giggs, because what, after all, is there not to admire? I am sorry he could never enjoy greater fame for the international team but do admire him for sticking with Wales, not because Wales is a better entity than England but because there is an admirable way of being true to where you feel you belong, and his is admirable.

It is ten years now since that extraordinary solo goal against Arsenal (included in the video), which is up there with any solo goal you are ever like to see, and that includes Maradona and Messi, and what is more, at a more dramatic stage of the proceedings than either. But it's not just the solo graces, but the team graces. When he is playing even half-way to his best, the team changes, has more energy, more imagination.

Most players of his kind - fast, light, elusive - have retired by the time they are thirty or so. To begin with they have been cut down so often they are injured out of the game. And of course they lose speed. And the sheer will and concentration. He is thirty-six today, same age as Lord Byron when he died. Lord Giggsy. Not bad, not mad, and not dangerous to know unless you are the defender marking him.


Diane said...

Such a very happy birthday to you. x

George S said...

Thank you, Diane!!

The Plump said...

You can thank Swinton for Giggs. His father, Danny Wilson, came up from Cardiff to play stand off for the Lions in the 80s. Great player on his day, which, being an erratic character, was erratic. Giggs took his mother's maiden name and not his father's faults, hence the greatness.

Happy birthday btw

Anonymous said...

I am reading, and thoroughly enjoying, your translation of LK's War and War. I've noticed that you write the name as Korin, but in several articles and reviews I've seen it written as Korim. Are these just typos or is there some reason for the discrepancy? Just curious.

Happy 61st!

George S said...

The Portly One - I do thank Swinton but am not sure young Ryan did. As you say, he rejected his father. He played for England schoolboys, then came the divorce and he stuck with mum. He was never eligible for England anyway, I learn.

Interesting extra. His paternal grandfather is from Sierra Leone - Giggs says he suffered from racism as a child.


Anonymous - that was an arrangement with LK. He wanted to change it for reasons of his own.

The Plump said...

And one additional bit of trivial information - the first time Giggs appeared on TV at Old Trafford was 1986. It was the rugby league international, GB against Australia, he was a ball boy and caught one of the many Aussie conversions that day on the full behind the sticks.

Would life be complete without that information?

George S said...

Would life be complete without that information?

They think it's all over... It is now.

Poet in Residence said...

...but the Irish names, dad Danny and son Ryan?

George S said...

Need Danny be Irish? Was the man in the lion's den from the emerald isle?

Ryan is a different matter. Good point.

On the other hand some names just sound attractive to those who find attration in them.

Poet in Residence said...

Good point also George. By the way, I think Szirtes is a great sounding name.
One of my childhood heroes was John Surtees (sp?) the motorbike ace. I saw him a couple of times at Oulton Park. Once I remember he came off coming out of Esso Bend - phew! he was lucky that day. His bike bounced over him. They both slid down the road for some hundreds of metres. I also saw his rival Jeff Duke, Another great rider, another great name.

Billy C said...

Belated birthday greetings George.

I mainly agree with you about Ryan Giggs but I think Maradonna is the greatest of all players of my generation. Although, as you know, I am NOT a Man Utd supporter, great respect has to be given to Sir Alex for nurturing this prodigal talent to the height of greatness in his profession - as he did with others.

George S said...

Could be, Billy, but I haven't seen Maradona play regularly, week in week out, for going on seventeen years. Not that I have seen Giggs so regularly either but I do know about Giggs what I don't know about Maradona.

The point was that the goal against Arsenal in 1999 stands up to Maradona's goal against England, or Messi's against I have forgotten who, and that coming as it did, at the point in the match as it did, with the odds being as they were (Keane off, Bergkamp having missed penalty, and going for the Treble) it was more dramatic than either.

And, when it comes down it, Giggs seems a far better human being than Maradona and that weighs with me.

Stephen Foster said...

Hw as the best player we saw down Stoke last season, that's for sure. He dropped into left back at one pint and just strolled about tackling the ball off our right-sided midfielder (not winger) moving forward a couple of paces, looking up, and playing the perfect pass.

He really is a class act.I think the only mistake he's ever made was going out with Dani Behr (sp?), but really, that's not all that much of a mistake...

Stephen Foster said...

He was ... etc plus all the other typos.

(These blog posts are so emmbarassing where all the wrold can see my frist drafts...)

Billy C said...

"And, when it comes down it, Giggs seems a far better human being than Maradona and that weighs with me."

Oh, come on George, if we're talking about footballing talent then let's stick to football. Of course Ryan Giggs is a much better human being and only a fool would dispute that. But if we're discussing skills then I would place Maradonna above Giggs. In fact, my opinion is that Maradonna is the greatest footballer ever and placing Giggs below him in my personal rankings is not tantamount to reducing my opinion of the latter. I happen to be one of Gigg's greatest fans and watching him play makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I've been fortunate enough to see him play twice in this last two seasons and on both occasions I've been enthralled. The boy is a genius and that's for sure.

As for the goal he scored that you referred to as equal to that Maradonna scored against England, I would say not. Yes, Giggs goal was fantastic and worthy of years of drooling, but Maradonna's was against the cream of English football and he made them all look like schoolkids.

winger, didn't George learn you anything? I hope he whops you big time when he's scolding you during your next game of ping pong and when I tell Swiss that you've made a fool of yourself on here, he will make your life hell. :)

Poet in Residence said...

Hello Billy C, excuse me for poking my nose in burt I feel I must jump to George's defence; honest grace energy and imagination
are some of the words GS uses to describe Giggs. And that's right.
What can you say about Maradonna? I can't imagine a manager like Alex F at Utd. putting up with his drug abuse and tantrums for a start. George Best was better than Maradonna if you want to compare like with like. I saw Best at his best; he jinked through some defence or other at Old Trafford, beat about 6 players all of whom appeared nailed to ground and scored with a deft touch almost like a snooker player cutting a red into the middle pocket.. It was so good, such a magical moment I've never forgotten it, I really thought for a moment, it was quite silly, that the lace of the football had somehow got tangled up with his bootlace so brilliant was his control. Anybody can play with dynamic boots and balls like helium balloons. Ask Beckham!

Billy C said...

Hello PiR. Forgive me, but I had a wry smile at your words. You, like George, have brought up the matter of the conduct of the individual rather than the subject matter, which is about the greatness of the talents of those we're discussing. I am not, and never will be, an apologist for Maradonna as a man or a person. My comments are based entirely on his skills as a footballer. So I won't go into that side of things.

Since I was a small boy, before George made his entry into the world, I was an avid football fan. Much of my life revolved around the game and instead of trains or planes or cars, the Annuals I had for Christmas and birthdays were football ones where I could feast my eyes on my heros of the day. Mathews, Steele, Franklin were my local Gods and then there were others from outside my area who took my schoolboy fancy such as Tom Finney and Billy Wright. And there were many more. Time has dimmed the memory of their individual performances but as I grew older, new mediums evolved to refresh my memories. Television opened up a whole new world and I was able to watch my passion on a much wider scale than at my local football ground. The 'Mathews Final' I watched at a friend's house and I recall even now, the excitement of that wonderful day. And then there was the despair, tinged with respect, when the Mighty Magyars destroyed us. That was a sad day, but it also taught me something. No matter how great the disappointment of losing is, there is a positive by knowing that you have witnessed real greatness. And so it has continued throughout my football supporting life.

You mention George Best and then condemn Maradonna. That's hypocritical of you. Yes, Best was an all-time great. I should know; I saw him many times in the flesh because at the time, my own team were in the same division and we played Manchester United every season for years. George was a genius in the game. Likewise the 'Cheeky Chappy', Dennis Law, and that unfulfilled great, Duncan Edwards. Yes, I've seen every one of the old-time greats in British football during my time as a supporter. One game I saw, the Mathews Testimonial, I watched most of the world's best stars including Lev Yashin, Puskas, Di Stefano and Masopust. Other players I've actually seen include Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbaur and Pele.

And then the game moved on, the media expanded and others who we would not normally have seen came into our sights. So I make no apologies for making judgements based on film and tv coverage. I'm sure much of yours and George's experience comes from the same source.

Best we've discussed and he was a 'great' - a Will 'o the Wisp. Brilliant. So too, Giggs. The way the boy keeps control of the ball at top speed is amazing and wonderful to watch. Pele showed the world what skill really was and, rightly, is a benchmark for genius.

But there is one player who possesed all the qualities of those I've mentioned. And more. Small in stature but built like the proverbial tank, Maradonna could dribble like Best, swerve like Mathews, run with the ball like Giggs, score goals as easy as Law, head the ball like Nobby Steele and had the amazing ball control of Pele or Puskas. But besides all those things, he had one talent that none of the others had: he was virtually unstoppable unless he was overwhelmed by numbers or by the most cynical of fouls. And that in my view is why he's the most complete footballer to ever grace the beautiful game, which I love so much.

You don't believe me? Just go to YouTube and seek out the available clips on him.

Take care now.

George S said...

Well now, I could leave it to you two to fight it out, but Billy assumes I have said things I haven't. I haven't said he was the most talented, or better than Maradona in every respect (though I doubt a life on YouTube is evidence enough for anything). What I did say, if you actually read the words, is "I think he is the most wonderful footballer of my adult life"

Billy, I think I am entitled to think that because by 'footballer' I include all the other things I mention as virtues. I still think of sport as something to do with, comprehending, notions of sportsmanship. It counts to me, at any rate.

It is one of the reasons why I also loved Bobby Charlton. Charlton wasn't comparable with Best because they did different things. Charlton would have been comparable with Haynes and Netzer and, perhaps, Gerrard, and so forth.

Frankly, Billy, people can carry on arguing about whether Maradona or Pele were the most talented footballers ever. I can put up with daft parlour games but I don't give myself over to them.

As I said 'I think' - and I do continue to think what I said then. There is a subjective 'I' in there. The word 'wonderful' means to me that I have been struck with wonder. It is wonder, delight and gratitude for the whole phenomenon. It is a marvel that the virtues continue to exist in an age that puts winning above everything else. That is what I think about 'my' adult life.

Which is putting aside the fact that Giggs probably has won more than anyone else (and no, I am not interesting in quarelling about it.)

I wrote the post out of gladness on my own birthday because I wanted to celebrate his.

End of story.

Anonymous said...

My apologies, George.

Billy C said...

My apologies, George. (It came up as anonymous in the other post.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting, that switch from Korim to Korin. Well, War and War is fantastic. I have no knowledge of Hungarian whatsoever, but it reads absolutely beautifully. So thank you so much for making it available to me. I recently watched - is that the right word? I need a new one - Tarr's Satantango and was completely floored. Is the translation of LK's Satantango in the works as well, or at least somewhere on the horizon for you?

George S said...

Think nothing of it, Billy.

Anonymous of Krasznahorkai interest: I am currently, and fitfuly, translating Satantango, way overdue. Overwork in every possible department of life is to blame.