x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The real world

Philippa Kennedy on footballers and their wives, kids who take risks and the golden age of fashion.


Should the captain of a national sport team be a squeaky clean devoted husband and father who has never so much as looked at another woman? Of course not. If that was the criteria it would be the devil's own job to find a suitable candidate. Sportsmen tend to be fit, vigorous guys with good bodies and healthy appetites, and the riches and fame that go with football in particular make them targets for pretty girls looking for an easy life as a WAG. They're not expected to be saints. Otherwise we'd be watching five-a-side football.

But ask yourself this - and it applies to every team in every country in the world. Would you like to see your country captained by someone whose behaviour is morally abhorrent? Please don't tell me that our moral compasses have become so skewed that we think these things don't matter. Has it got to the stage that all we care about is winning, and if that means putting a sleazy little lout at the helm of a national side it's OK?

If the England football captain John Terry had an ounce of moral fibre, which I very much doubt, he would have stood down by now. If by the time this goes to print he has done so, I'm sure he had his arm twisted. The honour of captaining a national team carries with it responsibilities. Or at least it used to. Whether Terry sees it like that or not, he's a role model for tens of thousands of star-struck kids who have posters of their sporting heroes on their bedroom walls and who dream of being a star themselves some day.

There's no point in looking to the Football Association for guidance on this one. They're hardly in a position to moralise after revelations about Sven-Goran Eriksson's private life emerged six years ago. Anyway, nobody is asking them to sack Terry from the team altogether. His dedication as a footballer is not being questioned and his ability to put the ball in the back of the net was underlined once again on Saturday, albeit with sniggering headlines about "scoring again".

Captaincy is as much about technical skills as it is about inspiration, trust, the ability to communicate and that indefinable quality that in wartime makes men want to follow a leader over the top in the face of enemy fire. How can Terry's teammates, especially those with pretty wives and girlfriends, trust a man who didn't give a second thought to betraying his friend and teammate. It's Terry's tough luck that he was born in the internet age, when news of his antics - along with photographs and recordings made on mobile phones - is flashed around the world in seconds, and the likes of Max Clifford stand by waiting to make a fast buck from the revelations of women who crave their 15 minutes of fame and don't know the meaning of the world shame.

The crazy money that these footballers make (note that I didn't use the word "earn") seems to distort their view of their invincibility. They think they can do what they like and then pay a top lawyer or even someone like Clifford to keep it out of the press, as he frequently does. Terry hasn't grasped the fact that the world has moved on. As Tiger Woods discovered to his dismay, sponsors tend to distance themselves from unsavoury behaviour. It would be nice to think that the disgraced England captain will do the honourable thing in regard to his wife and children, but don't hold your breath. He should tell Toni the truth, apologise, offer to let her divorce him (if that's what she wants) and set her up comfortably for life. Given his track record, however, Toni, who has come to Dubai to put some space between herself and her husband, might be wise to find herself a rottweiler lawyer.

Long before Sex and the City and Friends introduced New York urban life to an audience of young shoppers, Bloomingdale's was a byword for style. I still remember my first foray, in my late twenties, across its art deco threshold, even down to what I was wearing. You didn't go to Bloomies in your track suit or pyjamas. You dressed up in your Sunday best in an effort to appear as if you belonged there.

It seemed to me to be the most glamorous place in the world, where you felt you might bump into a Vanderbilt or a Rothschild, or even the celebrated hostess Betsy Bloomingdale herself shopping for something to wear at one of her famous soirées. The black and white floor tiles and slightly old-fashioned appearance plus the rather grand sales assistants, perfectly coiffed and made up and dressed in black, gave it an ambience like no other store. You couldn't call it a shop. It simply wasn't dignified enough.

The fact that its flagship store has presided over Lexington Avenue since 1886 has something to do with it, along with its associations with high society and trans-Atlantic voyages - something that can't be recreated overnight. Bloomies Dubai has done a pretty good job with the "look". It will be interesting to see if the fast-paced shoppers of Dubai, normally only interested in the latest thing, take to a style that harks back to a slower, gentler and infinitely more stylish age.

"I'm a normal mum," Victoria Beckham tells Glamour magazine, looking anything but in her latest 1950s-style fashion shoot. The 35-year-old Spice Girl- turned-WAG-turned-serious-fashion-designer now fancies a spell as an ordinary mother of three, picking up her boys at the school gates and doing her bit as a dinner lady at their school. I'm not sure who she thinks she's kidding but it must be very confusing for her sons, Brooklyn, 11, Romeo, seven, and Cruz, five, wondering which particular Mummy she's going to be tomorrow.

Since Simon Cowell made his decision to leave American Idol in order to launch the X Factor in the US, producers have been frantically searching for a replacement. It won't work. Much as you might hate Mr Nasty with his sometimes brutal assessments of some poor soul's singing abilities, he knows what he's talking about, and that's what makes the show what it is. Too many celebrities are frightened about telling the truth in case people hate them, so they make do with mealy mouthed platitudes. Others try to copy Cowell's acerbic style but it always comes across as fake, especially if they haven't come from a musical background. The fact is that Cowell doesn't care what people think of him, and all the contestants know that his opinion is the one that matters. That's what makes the show.

The health and safety brigade will be having kittens about an extraordinary new book called Fifty Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do that is becoming a surprise hit with parents.

They include letting them play around with fire, boiling water in a paper cup, putting CDs in the microwave (briefly to see the sparks), throwing rocks and licking a nine-volt battery. One of the book's co-authors, a California writer called Gever Tulley, says the book is a response to parents who never let their kids climb trees or do anything remotely risky in case they get hurt. He's preaching to the converted here, as readers of this column will know. I firmly believe children need to be exposed to danger so that they know how to deal with it.

Of course we must protect them, but wrapping them in cotton wool will never prepare them for the real world. I hope they're selling the book with a huge disclaimer on the front. Parents who never did these things themselves may not know where to draw the line. Putting CDs in microwaves and fooling around with batteries is all very well but when the first house burns down watch out for flying law suits.