I am not really interested in sport. Never been any good at it [unless you count my enthusiastic Scrabble playing] On Quiz Nights, I leave the Sports Round to other people. But this week we have seen the death of two sportsmen whose photographs I would recognise, and who were much better role models than many of those other overpaid self-centred ‘sporting’ types often pictured in the press.
Henry Cooper – ‘our Enry’ was the boxer we watched on the black and white telly when I was a kid. He was an ordinary, decent bloke – from a working class, council house background. His straightforward manner endeared him to so many, and made him a popular person [even if you hate boxing!]
He had a strong sense of what was right, and of family values, converting to his Italian wife’s Catholic faith. Cooper described Albina, who "hated" his sport, as "an ideal wife for a boxer", never grumbling about his long absences before big fights and inviting journalists in for tea while they waited for Cooper to get out of bed the morning after bouts. Henry won Sports Personality of the year twice. That doesn’t happen often. Because people trusted him, he was involved in a number of Government information films – such as the 2000 flu vaccination campaign for OAPs ‘Get your jab in first!’
They said of Henry Cooper
“The only thing about him that wasn’t straight was his nose”
From his teens, he brought passion and enthusiasm to a sport which had been often seen as “an activity for retired people” Phil Mickelson, the 2010 Augustas Champion, organised last year’s Champions Dinner with a Spanish Theme in Seve’s honour [S was too ill to attend, but sent a message of encouragement]
Phil said of him
“At 17 he was the guy I wanted to play with. I got into my first PGA event, the San Diego Open, and was able to get a practice round with him. He was the classiest gentleman to me. From that day on and the rest of my career, he has been the nicest guy and supportive, been nothing but class to me. I just always appreciated that. Here is a guy I looked up to as a kid, watched the way he played and loved the way he played and was drawn in by his charisma. And he didn’t let me down at all…He was every bit the gentleman I thought he was”
Golfer Lee Westwood has described Seve as
“An inspiration, genius, hero and friend”
So many of the children I work with spend their leisure time watching Sky Sports or kicking a ball around, and they just want to be a ‘celebrity’ when they grow up – many of the lads want to be top sportsmen. Let’s have more examples of good blokes like ‘Enry and Seve for them to emulate.