‘It’s impossible I hit the wall. The wall moved’

This is a brilliant story from the classic days of F1. I love it because it shows both the incredible precision and relentless consistency that an expert at the top of their game can bring to their chosen profession.

In this case, the expert was three-times F1 World Champion Ayrton Senna.

Pat Symonds, technical director, sat down with Ayrton after the 1984 US GP and spoke about Senna’s weekend

“It was very hot and a terribly difficult race. Ayrton had a bit of a mixed bag: he’d qualified all right, thought the car was Ok. He spun early in the race and had to work his way back, but was heading towards a reasonable if not stunning finish. Then Senna crashed, damaged a wheel and broke a driveshaft. After the race he was distraught and really couldn’t understand how he’d hit the wall. We were sitting talking, debriefing, and he said: ‘It’s impossible I hit the wall. The wall moved’.”

Symonds continued, “I said, ‘Yeah, sure it did…’ They were huge great concrete blocks…But he was so insistent, and I had so much confidence in the guy, that I said, ‘Ok, we’ve just got to go and look at this’. I did think he was talking bollocks but he needed to go and see it. So we walked out to where he’d hit the wall and do you know what? The wall had moved. It was made of the great big concrete blocks that they used to delineate the circuit, but what be happened was that someone had hit the far end of a block and pushed it, which made the leading edge come out a few millimeters. He was driving with such precision that those few millimeters, and I’m talking probably ten millimeters, were enough for him to hit the wall that time rather than just miss it”.

“That really opened my eyes. I knew the guy was good but that really told me how special. Not just the driving but this conviction, the analysis and then the conclusion: I cannot be wrong, so the wall must have moved. Everyone else would say, ‘Bollocks, how on earth did I do that? ‘But the conviction he had was just staggering. And he was right”.

I was watching the race that weekend when Senna crashed and died at Imola in 1994. The whole weekend was a succession of disasters, from Barrichello’s crash during Friday practice, to Ronald Ratzenberger’s death on the Saturday, then Ayrton himself during the race, and Michele Alboreto’s Minardi losing a wheel in the pits and putting four mechanics in hospital as a result.  It really ways “the blackest day for Grand Prix racing that I can remember” as Murray Walker said.

“And if you lose one game on the trot you’re sacked.”

More managerial merry-go-rounds, this time over at the English national team, where Sam Allardyce recently resigned. Daniel Taylor has what looks like a fairly even handed overview of the latest manager to go through the turnstile:

Sam Allardyce has certainly excelled himself being the man who managed it after one match, one victory and the grand total of 67 days in office.

He is a clot, that’s for sure. If you have followed Allardyce’s career, the infamous Panorama documentary and the chequered past of his agent, Mark Curtis, it is not any surprise the man the FA appointed in July was ripe for a newspaper sting. It is unusual, perhaps, that it is the Daily Telegraph having a go at playing the Fake Sheikh and there are parts of its coverage that, to be blunt, are questionable, to say the least. Yet there is no doubt about it: Allardyce has caused his employer an extreme form of embarrassment. He had his chance, he blew it and one of the most arrogant men in the business will have a long time to mull over what he should have done differently.

Whether that means he deserved to lose his job is another matter entirely and, even as a non-Allardyce fan, having questioned his relationship with Curtis more than once, it is still not entirely straightforward understanding what the FA has seen in those secretly taped recordings to warrant the guillotine


The Unloved Soccer Manager

Brendan Rodgers and the Plight of the English Soccer Manager

By accepting help with player recruitment or in data analysis, managers might be able to get back to what Aidy Boothroyd called “the football stuff.” He, like most of the figures interviewed by Calvin throughout Living on the Volcano, seems to strongly echo the words of the Chelsea and Feyenoord manager Ruud Gullit: “Being a football manager is no fun at all. You have to put up with all the hassle. It is not surprising that so many turn grey or have heart attacks. I enjoyed working with the players, creating the team—that was fun. But all the rest I hated.”

Ordinary decent men

A tale of finance, power and bribery in the Times today.

Against a background of major clubs paying non-triers up to a million a month, endless hoopla and hype around the aptly-titled transfer market, phoney melodrama on the managerial merry-go-round, venerable clubs used as money-laundering operations by oligarchs bearing stolen billions, and much else along the same depressing lines, Wenger and Primorac stand out as beacons of integrity, indomitable true believers in the spirit of the game. They have that very, very rare thing in top-flight football – ordinary decency. They are among the handful who allow the rest of us to keep the faith.

Wenger and Primorac both spoke out against bribery in the French football league, with Primorac filing a formal complaint that some of his Valenceinnes players were tempted with bribes to throw an important league tie with Marseilles. Primorac was frozen out of French football as a result, even though Bernard Tapie (owner of Marseilles) was eventually done for corruption. Fast forward to today, and Christine Lagarde is now under investigation for her part in another Tapie deal:

Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, is to stand trial in France over a multimillion-euro government payment to a controversial tycoon who supported former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Lagarde has been accused of “negligence by a person in a position of public authority” over the award of more than €400m to Bernard Tapie.

Money, power, flamboyant personalities, corruption. Football, eh?

A Nation held its’ breath…

Twenty-five years ago, on the 25th of June, 1990, Packie Bonner made that momentous save that brought Ireland to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup.

We really did hold our breath for that moment. It was incredible, I’ll never forget watching it. A moment when you thought we could do anything.

World Cup: Sad Brazilians

I’m not a big soccer fan, but I’ve been watching some of the World Cup matches. I didn’t think Brazil were up to much, but I really didn’t expect them to be utterly destroyed by Germany (who had beaten Algeria 2-1 and France 1-0 previously. Algeria really put it up to Germany, I thought).
Brazil completely fell apart after the 3rd German goal, letting two more hit the back of the net in rapid succession. I’ve heard pundits describe certain teams as having a ‘porous’ defence, but Brazil really deserved that accolade. A rare match where you’d miss several goals if you nipped out for a cuppa. The last minute Brazilian goal did nothing to take away from Germany’s domination.

A sensational scoreline of 7-1 was a record for a Semi-Final, and Miroslav Klose is now the highest scoring World Cup player with 16 goals. He’s also one of three (with Pele and Uwe Seeler) to have scored goals in four World Cup tournaments.

The best bit, of course, was the contribution made by the twitterati…

Bonus points for combining two World Cup memes:

That Logo…. oh wait, I see what they did there:

Two Front War reference:

The inevitable single-serving Tumblr:

A few people waxed lyrical about Brazilians of a different type:

It felt like this, especially when the on-screen match details had to *scroll* to fit all the goals in:

And, finally, how Brazil felt: