Posted: 11/25/2009


      Last week I attended the second annual(I hope) Carnegie Sporting Words Festival with Harrogate International Festivals.

      Unlike last year which went on for 3 days and 2 locations, in Leeds and Harrogate, the 2009 Festival was a Friday and Saturday at the conference facilities at Leeds Carnegie Stadium, home to Yorkshire cricket England Test Matches, and Leeds Rhinos Rugby League and Leeds Carnegie Rugby Union.  We had a Friday for students interested in the media as a career, while Saturday had a Five Live Fighting Talk broadcast plus lectures and discussions on rugby, cricket and soccer. GEOFF HURST AND THE HAND of GOD with former FIFA referee and now pundit and author Graham Poll, with his mate and well respected soccer writer Mick Dennis was the highlight.

       I actually bought the book and had it signed by Poll, after a very interesting talk. He was the referee that gave 3 yellow cards at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Stuttgart between Australia and Croatia,and returned home to watch the rest of the matches on TV. the first person to call him at home with a sympathetic voice was David Beckham. After a South American was given the opening match it was expected that Poll might get the final. Due to his mistake there was no chance and the same referee did the final as well, taking 90 second before sending off Zidane for that outrageous head butt.

     Funnily, or tragically, one of his topics was Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal at the Estadio Azteca in the 1986 quarter-final with England. The Tunisian referee claimed he didn't see it and the Bulgarian referee did, or didn't, but felt the referee had made his own decision. Of course within 3 days of Poll's talk we had that goal after Thierry Henry clearly handled it twice in the Stade de France against Ireland.  Evidently the European referees didn't feel a North African should be in the middle on such an important match, and they should be linesmen. Maybe there was resentment. They didn't speak a common language.

     His book, published world wide by Harper Collins, also talks about West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher and his 'crime of the century' hit on French player Patrick Batttison,in the FIFA World Cup semi-final in 1982. Also the 'Russian Linesman' at the 1966 World Cup Final which I wrote about  a few weeks ago from Baku, Azerbaijan. David Beckham's red card from Kim Milton Nielsen at France 1998 v Argentina gets some ink. I have followed the Danish referee' career and I think he has no 'simpatico' or soul for the beautiful game. He was eliminated in the first round of the Danish 'Come Dancing. Get a life Kim!

     Most of you won't remember World Cup 1978 in Argentina but I was there and gave a live studio report daily in Cordoba for a local channel. Welsh referee Clive Thomas who knew the rules but always went by the book, disallowed a goal by Brazil from a corner against Sweden in Mar de Plata. He had only added 8 seconds on. Nelhinho took the kick and Zico headed in past goalkeeper Ronnie Hellstrom. By that time Clive 'The Book' had whistled time and marched to the tunnel.  1-1 and no goal. A soccer narcissis, and not the only referee that loved himself and wanted attention. Poll's book is a very good 'read'.

      Last night I went to watch a splendid and exciting  Unibond Cup match at Ingefield, home of Ossett Town for the visit of  Sheffield FC.The World's First Football Club. What a friendly little club at TOWN.! A neat and tidy ground with a warm social club with TVs and a bar, and even better, Tracey's  PUDPOT, Yorkshire Pudding Cafe( evidently the only one in England) next to the pitch. There were only about 100 fans,half from Sheffield, and at the entrance I was told that next time I came it might be the frozen food aisle at TESCO's supermarket, who are interested in buying this prize bit of real estate across the road from Ossett Bus Station.

     I was so taken by Tracey's friendly nature and her superb pork pie, chips, mushy peas and gravy for 2.50-simple delicious, that I missed the only goal of the match half way through the second hald. Sheffield FC scored a 'disputed' goal and advance to the next round. A new hard working and visionary CEO Simon Turfey is evidently now in charge, and wants to build a new stadium and get all the town and its teams, fans and youth players on board