The Last Word: And so life goes on

It might appear to be all-encompassing, but so far the conflict in the North has only slightly affected our sports institutions.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
And so life goes on. It might appear to be all-encompassing, but so far the conflict in the North has only slightly affected our sports institutions. In the world of soccer, the Israel Football Association agreed to postpone some of the Toto Cup games as northern Israeli teams said they were finding it difficult to train, given the conditions. And in a much-publicized move, Maccabi Haifa moved its players into a hotel in Tel Aviv and is training at Hapoel Tel Aviv's training ground rather than in the city constantly under attack by Hizbullah rockets. It is, however, early days and it remains to be seen how the national sports leagues will be able to operate if the hostilities continue into the start of the regular seasons for soccer, basketball and other sports. Sitting here in Israel, it's difficult to imagine that the wider sports world is continuing as normal despite the ongoing war in the North, especially with Israel playing a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in Eastbourne. Who knows how Andy Ram and his fellow competitors have been able to concentrate on the job at hand, but they have managed to be in impressive form, doing our nation proud. Away from Israel, the sports world has continued, with the traditional summer British soccer transfer rumor mill now in full swing following the end of the World Cup. Spurs were expected to be on the verge of signing Irish winger Damien Duff from Chelsea but now it looks like he will be moving to Newcastle United, while any number of clubs are apparently interested in taking British wunderkind Theo Walcott out on loan from Arsenal. St James' Park will be an interesting place for Duff to ply his skills. The fact that he hasn't been able to hold down a first team place says as much about both the development of Englishman Joe Cole as a regular starter for the Blues as it does the absurdity of Chelsea's transfer policy since Roman Abramovich bought the club. There's no doubt it was difficult to see the point of Chelsea spending so much money on so many new players, only to be forced to leave half of them out of the side. Duff is a quality player with the ability to run defenses ragged. Along with Arjen Robben he was one of the driving forces of Chelsea's championship season in 2004/05. But last season he was often forced to make way for Cole, who Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has placed higher up on the pecking order. As long as he continues to turn on the style, Newcastle's passionate fans will make him a hero, something they need after Alan Shearer's retirement. The news that Walcott may be sent out on loan comes as little surprise. Then-England manager Sven Goran Erikkson's decision to take him to the World Cup was so crazy that it overshadowed the controversy over him signing for Arsenal in January despite only playing a handful of games for Southampton, none of which were in the Premiership. Now is the time for Walcott to get experience, although it seems that maybe he never should have left Southampton at all. There doesn't seem to be much point for him moving to Arsenal only to leave a few months later. Let's hope that what is reported to be a huge talent (few people have seen much of Walcott actually playing) doesn't get overshadowed by the hype as it did with many other young stars. We could yet have another Rooney on our hands.