As a University student, the newly appointed Prime Minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi, always formed part of my Selected XI side. Even though many years have passed, I clearly remember him well as a rather quiet but very determined youngster who was certainly well-liked by his colleagues. He was a lateral defender, equally at home on either side.
He wouldn't shrug a tackle. He was always fair in his challenges for the ball and didn't lose many. He would time his overlaps, but was always fast on the recovery as the team lost possession. I remember him being fitter than most of his colleague; some even relied on his workload to cover their lapses and lack of speed. He was useful with his corner-kicks and other dead ball situations, though to be honest I do not remember any spectacular goals coming direct from his free kicks.
It was a long time ago, but I remember him well. A young lad who would go through the motions of the game without any particular fuss or screams.
Little did I know then, that I was coaching the future Prime Minister of Malta. I am sure he didn't either!
Well I am proud of the fact, that years ago, I coached Dr Lawrence Gonzi!
Parliamentarians are not easy to handle
Several of his team mates have since, occupied important posts in society, but I do not think that they find time to practice their favourite sport, though, a group of lawyers always get involved in an annual tournament. Lately a group of parliamentarians managed to get together and had a kick-about. Politicians have a reputation of being good talkers, but not particularly good runners with the ball. This is understandable especially when they just decide that they want to play with hardly any preparation at all!
According to the former Southampton and Sunderland manager Laurie McMenemy, it is not easy to handle a football team formed of MPs. I had met Laurie, when I went up north to Newcastle for my finals connected with my football coaching course. McMenemy was with Gateshead then and though there were many international footballers, and others who were on the brink of retiring and ambitious in taking a coaching career, only two of the forty odd managed to obtain the Full Badge Coaching Certificate of the Football Association. These were: Laurie McMenemy and yours truly. That coaching diploma meant a lot to me.
At one time, McMenemy was assistant manager to Terry Venables when the latter was in charge of the England team. When he retired from the professional football scene he was appointed manager of the football team from the House of Commons. Just for kicks, as I do not know whether he was even paid expences.
He admitted with me that it is easier to handle professional footballers, then MPs!
Politicians love their football. They also use football to promote themselves, as it is common knowledge that inside the football stadia the politician feels that he is very near to the people and senses the peoples' pulses. The former President of Argentina, Juan Domingo Peron always admitted that his visit to the Monumental Stadium to support River Plate, helped him immensely in drafting the national policies of his country even if those who supported Boca Juniors always declared that they will never be ‘Peronisti.’ Years later, when Carlos Menem occupied Casa Rosada, he still went to watch his favourites, again River Plate, and behave like a real fan from inside the directors' box.
Not all Heads of State behave like the Brazilian Lius Inacio Lula de Silva, better known as ‘Lula’ who never misses a Corinthians match and was also photographed wearing their colours.
Gheddafi and Berlusconi
Occasionally, the European Heads do behave like their South American counterparts, though with somewhat greater reservation. Russia's President Vladimir Putin, though admitting that he is a great fan of Spartak Moscow, hardly ever goes to watch them because every time he goes, they lose. The former Spanish PM, Jose' Maria Aznar does not hide the fact that he supports Real Madrid, though his successor Jose' Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, goes for Barcelona, though recently he stated that he is also delighted when Real Madrid win.
Silvio Berlusconi owns Milan, while the German Chancellor follows Borussia Dortmund.
Muammar Gheddafi fancies Juventus and was for some time the second major shareholder of the Turin club. It is not known what actually happened when his son El Saadi joined Perugia, last summer, especially when these shares were in his son's name.
This is being mentioned for the simple fact that George W Bush, who was always greatly interested and owned the baseball club Texas Rangers, was forced to sell his shares because of a ‘conflict of interest.’
Berlusconi and others seem to have different thoughts And coming to think of it, I do not think that Milan's magnate, would agree with Winston Churchill, who once said that “Italians lose wars as if these were football matches, and football matches as if these were wars!”
I do not think that Berlusconi agrees with that statement.