x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

To those Chilean miners, things have changed

Our columnist greets Chile's rescued miners with some tongue-in-cheek updates from the wacky world of sport.

A dog strolls across the finishing line at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi during the Commonwealth Games.
A dog strolls across the finishing line at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi during the Commonwealth Games.

Hello my friends. Welcome back to the sunny side of the crust, and congratulations on surviving your ordeal.

Apparently you have taken a collective vow never to speak about those endless hours of misery, torment and despair.

A wise move, I did the same thing after watching your countrymen play Switzerland in the World Cup. And you thought being stuck down a hole was dull!

You must be physical wrecks after spending so long without proper food or exposure to sunlight, so to cheer you up I enclose a DVD. The 20 Greatest Scottish Footballers Of All Time is not a brilliant documentary - it is unfortunate they did not have enough players to fill slots 15 to 20 - but at least it shows people skinnier and pastier than you.

Now, to business. While it must have been a huge thrill to emerge from your underground prison to feel the warm embrace of the sun and your loved ones, most of you will now want to go home, draw the curtains, lock the family outside, and catch up on some sport.

Before so doing, you must be warned that two months is a long time in sport - and many seismic changes have taken place.

In football, for example, you may hear Liverpool FC fans chanting Kenny Dalglish's name. Please do not assume they have also been stuck down a mine, possibly since 1992. They have not, although any more home defeats to Blackpool-style opposition may cause a few of them to consider moving into your newly-vacated cavern.

In fact, they want Dalglish to be their manager, after Roy Hodgson failed to prove himself in the 15 minutes they generously gave him.

You may also be confused to hear Liverpool fans being positive about wealthy Americans who own multiple sport franchises.

They do not mean Tom Hicks, whom they hate more than ever, but John W Henry II, a savvy billionaire who is allegedly going to make their club great again. Just like Tom Hicks was, in 2007.

In other football news, Nigel de Jong has been dropped from the Dutch national team for breaking another player's leg in a mistimed tackle.

De Jong was not playing for his country at the time, nor even red-carded for the tackle. However, you will recall from the World Cup final how the Dutch are utterly opposed to any kind of aggressive or negative play.

Speaking of brutal football, you will be pleased to know you have not missed the Chile-Uruguay "friendly" next month.

I'm not suggesting that South American derby matches are violent, but the terrified referee has asked to officiate from inside that steel capsule they used to rescue you.

Of course, the last time you watched Chile play football, they were hammered 3-0. Thankfully, that memory has been wiped clean by an emphatic 2-0 defeat of the United Arab Emirates, which is probably better than beating Brazil in the World Cup.

OK, maybe not, but it beats spending two months in a hole, right?

In athletics, please do not worry if you see animals apparently competing with humans. This is not a permanent rule change. Wild dogs running the 800m is specific to the Commonwealth Games, and one that is unlikely to be repeated. Unless the viewing figures are exceptional.

Also at the Games, you may be surprised by the swimmers' attire after concerns over the quality of the water in the Delhi pools. However, bio-hazard suits, masks and snorkels remain optional, and we can only admire Speedo for manufacturing them so quickly.

In Test cricket, you have missed a long and painful saga. Without re-telling it here, I would simply urge you to go online and look back at the results for Pakistan during August and September 2010. If you know the right people, you may also like to check the results for Pakistan during August and September 2011.

In golf, Tiger Woods is on the point of being knocked off the top of the PGA rankings by Lee Westwood. Luckily, this will not bother Woods unduly as he has dropped the ego and is now all about team golf.

Well, that was the impression he gave before the Ryder Cup, and who are we to suggest his patriotic enthusiasm was a cynical ploy to rebuild his battered reputation in America?

By the way, it rained a lot during the Ryder Cup, but you already knew that. Because everyone knew it would rain in Wales in October, didn't they?

For those of you craving stability and normality after your ordeal, some things have remained reassuringly dull.

The rugby union season, for example, is well under way with nothing exciting to report. To be fair, that may change now that Halloween is near and the shops have started selling fake blood again.

And in cycling, Alberto Contador, the Tour de France winner, has tested positive for a banned substance. Fortunately, he has a convenient excuse - something about contaminated meat crossing the Pyrenees - so he is obviously entirely innocent.

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, as they say in Chile. If they happen to be French.

Will Batchelor is a writer, broadcaster and self-confessed cynical sports fan.