So, we begin with the heroes: Wilkinson, Muralitharan, Armstrong, Holmes. Or do we? Their achievements are undeniable, and someone much more qualified than me will no doubt honour them in a more fitting way, so I’ve decided to go off in a slightly different direction. Who are the sports people we really love? Are they Redgrave, Phelps and Ferguson, the reliable, consistent performers? Or are they Gazza, Flintoff, and Windass, the mad and stupid ones who give hope to us all? For me, it’s definitely the latter. And so, ladies and gentleman, it is with great pleasure that I give you Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham. Not an athlete, barely a sportsman, barely human, when Andy won the 2004 BDO World Darts Championship he weighed 31 stone and, at his peak, would drink 25 bottles of lager before a match, and still stay upright for long enough to become world champion. Snigger if you want, but long after the vast majority of the dull, generic, humourless sportsmen are confined to history, I’ll still remember the morbidly-obese guy from East London who won a world title when he could barely remember his own name. Andy, we salute you, and are proud to anoint you the (unlikely) Sporting Hero of the Decade.
Whilst it would be easy to sit and gush about the people who’ve inspired us through our formative years, it wouldn’t be an Impact sports section without a good old-fashioned slice of British pessimism, would it? From Hansie Cronje’s cheeky back-handers from Indian bookmakers, to those goons you see round campus wearing Beckham LA Galaxy shirts (if you want to support the most overrated player in history, rather than an actual team, keep it quiet for Christ’s sake), everyone’s got an opinion on who’s been the biggest arsehole. Honourable mentions have to go to the Spanish Basketball team from the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney – twelve mentally challenged athletes thrash favourites Russia 87-63 in the intellectual disability tournament to claim the gold. On the face of it, a heart-warming tale of triumph over adversity. The problem? It turned out that only two of them were actually disabled. The medals got handed back, three Paralympic officials were forced to resign and shame was felt across the country. Well done lads, there truly is a special place in hell for dickheads like you. Had the authorities not already dished out their comeuppance, they’d be straight in at the top of the list and walking away with the title of Villains of the Naughties. But I’m putting my foot down here, I want this award to go to someone who has never been punished for his crimes against sportsmanship, who has seemingly made it his mission to ruin a sport we love for everyone around the world, with a degree of ignorance that, were it not so infuriating, would be almost impressive. And so, Sepp Blatter, this one’s for you.
Now, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’ve never organised an international football tournament, but I’m pretty sure that were I given such a responsibility, my first reaction wouldn’t be “better start inventing some crazy new rules, then!” The same can’t be said of Mr Blatter, who tried to replace the heart-breaking penalty-shootout with a heart-attacking ‘five-a-side next-goal-wins’ free-for-all with the same players who have already played two hours of football. Good one, Sepp. No, really, brilliant idea, please tell us your marketing strategy for women’s football. “They should wear tighter shorts.” Are you actually a fool, Sepp?
The second coming of Beelzebub has taken not caring what anyone else thinks to a new level. Seemingly everyone that’s ever been involved in any type of football – playing, managing, commentating or even just supporting – wants video-replay technology in some form, to make ridiculous ‘Pedro Mendes’ moments a thing of the past. But not our boy Sepp, no, his response has been “football should be the same at every level, from World Cup to 5-a-side in the park.” Forgive me, mein Führer, but when was the last time you saw a 5-a-side kick-about with four officials, corner flags, pre-match anthems, seven substitutes and 22 handpicked mascots? I could go into how the World Cup 2010 playoffs were effectively rigged to make sure the big teams got to South Africa so that FIFA’s revenue streams were in no way inhibited by Ireland getting there instead of France, but I’d just get too angry, so all I’ll say is well done, Mr Blatter, you truly are a disgraceful human-being, and a worthy winner of Impact’s Sporting Villain of the Naughties Award.