Two beauties stand out among the many beasts

Two beauties stand out among the many beasts

If ever there has been a year in which the conscience of sport has struggled to find the beauty beneath the ugly face of its so called leaders, it is 2015.

But this is Christmas, and so this column refuses to trawl through yet more gloom and doom.

Fifa and the IAAF have our contempt; let's leave it at that.

So how are we going to put a smiley face on a bitter 12 months?

We might start with the number 133 because that is the total of goals shared by Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, the South American trio who led Barcelona to win everything they competed for in Spain, in Europe, and this week in Yokohama City at the Club World Cup.

All three had issues off the field but all played, and shared, sublimity on it.

Opponents knew exactly what they were capable of but knowing it and preventing it are entirely different things.

That is sport.

We must take it in the present because among all the recriminations involving those bodies we are not mentioning today, the worst aspect has been the stripping of Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer of the good name they earned as players.

Good name? It was more than that. Platini as the prince of French football and Kaiser Franz in his prime for Germany were icons worthy of standing alongside Pele or Sir Bobby Charlton.

To whole generations of football fans, they represented skill on the field, and stature beyond it.

If you are too young to appreciate them, ask your fathers.

But the world isn't built around footballers (it just sometimes seems that way).

There are two images of great beauty that came out of the blue in 2015. One was Bailey Matthews, an eight-year-old boy who was born with cerebral palsy.

It is, on the face of it, anathema to anything sporting. Someone with cerebral palsy has difficulty in transmitting messages from the brain to the limbs.

It affects movement, balance, posture and muscle control.

So look, please, at the picture or the YouTube video of Bailey when he completed a triathlon in Yorkshire, England.

The junior version of a triathlon involves a 100m swim, a 4km bike ride and a 1.3km run.

Bailey's dad and his uncle compete in triathlons so the lad wanted to give it a go.

He trained for months to master the disciplines.

His dad Jonathan adapted a walking frame so that the little chap could get around the course.

And a fellow, who videoed on his cellphone the final leg of the boy's finish to his triathlon last July, then posted it on YouTube where it apparently triggered 81 million hits around the globe.

So if you saw it, bear with me.

If you didn't, I recommend it.

There was not a dry eye among the audience when the child came down the home stretch and, completely unrehearsed, abandoned his trolly. The audience were cheering him, Bailey's response was to get to the finish line under his own steam.

He stumbled, twice, and fell face down on the grass. His dad did nothing to lift him.

It has become a way of life for Bailey to fall, get up and get on with his life.

He loves music so he plays guitar and drums. He loves the Internet but not for the games.

He invents websites.

And he loves school, despite being ridiculed and bullied by kids too young, or too ignorant, not to see beyond his "handicap".

I put the word handicap in inverted commas because, well, when did you last complete a triathlon?

Last Sunday, at a bigger audience, Bailey was among the superstars of sport.

There were tennis player Andy Murray, New Zealand rugby player Dan Carter and world heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury.

And there was Bailey, awarded the Helen Rollason prize for achievement in the face of adversity.

He stumbled on his way to the platform, and once more his dad and all the big sporting personalties in the auditorium just let him get up, dust down his black dinner jacket and keep going until he got there.

"I think you can stop cheering now!"? he instructed the audience, with a cheeky smile on his face.

He said his next aim was five triathlons next year.

And the abiding picture of him was of the boy grappling with the 2.06m Fury who tickled Bailey into submission.

David and Goliath is a mythical notion. Tyson and Bailey is the modern equivalent.

The second image that stands out from 2015 for me was Japan knocking over South Africa at the Rugby World Cup in September.

Of course, the Japanese would have been no match for New Zealand who crushed everyone. But to beat South Africa, the next big heavyweights to the All Blacks, was something nobody imagined "The Cherry Blossoms"? capable of.

They did it in spectacular fashion. Having matched the mighty Springboks at 29-29, Japan then fell three points down approaching the final hooter.

The Japanese heaved forward, South Africa committed a foul, and Japan had a choice.

They could take a penalty kick that, if landed, would tie the match. Or they could go for a scrum and attempt to get over for a try.

Eddie Jones, the Australian coach of Japan, was shouting at them from the stand to go for the three points.

The players had other ideas. They took the scrum and forced the try to win 34-32.

As 2015 closes, Ayumu Goromaru, the star of this remarkable Nippon side who stunned the rugby world, has just been cast in a life-sized bronze statue in Tokyo.

Goromaru, the full-back who scored 24 points (one try, two conversions and five penalty kicks) against South Africa, has a new title now.

The Japan Ninja Council has certified him as a Master of Ninja.

A grand master of sport, too, in my book.

This article was first published on December 25, 2015.
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