Category Archives: Interviews

Jamie Day – The Englishman in charge of Bangladesh

When you think of sport in Bangladesh, you immediately think of cricket. However, football is on the rise, and Englishman Jamie Day is in charge of the national team as they seek qualification to a major tournament.

From an early stage in his career, Day held ambitions to get into coaching.

“When I was playing, I always liked the coaching side of it, the sessions which the coaches I was playing for did, and I was always interested in doing that once I finished.

“I went into part-time football around 25 or 26, and then it was a time for me to get my coaching badges. I started working in the community scheme at Charlton and then progressed into management and where I am now.”

At the age of just 30, Day became player-manager of Welling United, a challenge he says he really enjoyed.

“It was something I wanted to do and it was an opportunity, obviously I’d played for Welling before, it’s a really good club and it’s local, a club that I was used to and I got on really well with the owners which made it easier for me.

“I think in non-league you can get away with being a player-manager if you have good staff around you and I had really good staff at that time who took care of stuff when I was playing and I trusted their judgement.

“For me it was a really good five years, I had fantastic times there. Probably the best I’ve had as a manager in terms of success.”

Asian adventures

Day, a former Arsenal trainee, enjoyed several more spells as a manager in non-league football, before the opportunity of international management arose.

“I had an agent in Australia who knew a company which wanted a Bangladesh coach. So, he got in contact and asked if it would be something which I would be interested in and I said yes.

“Obviously, it’s an international job and I’ve always wanted to work abroad. After a few weeks I met the vice president of the Bangladesh FA in London, we had a good chat and spoke about how we wanted to try and take Bangladesh football forward and what was needed. I felt it was a good opportunity and wanted to take the challenge up.”

Whilst cricket dominates in Bangladesh, football is certainly gaining popularity. Whilst it is unlikely to rival cricket anytime soon, Day sees an opportunity for the sport to become bigger.

“It is a popular sport. Bangladesh is associated with cricket more than football, but I think that a lot of people do like football at the minute.

“There’s more money, sponsorship and commercial aspects in cricket than football so that gets a lot more exposure. But if Bangladesh was to have some success, which will take time, football has potential to grow.”

Currently ranked 187th in the Fifa World Rankings, Bangladesh have a limited record of success, qualifying just once for the AFC Asian Cup, way back in 1980.

“The league is probably lower league in England, Conference South level,” Day explained.

“A few of our players could probably play Conference, they might struggle with the physical side of it but technically they could play at that level.”

Looking to the future

For Bangladesh to qualify for tournaments, Day believes better structure is needed within the game at club level, with academy sides not existing in the country.

“There are professional clubs but there is a lack of structure. There aren’t any academy systems at the moment, they basically all just have one men’s first team.

“It is slowly getting better, but we need to filter that down to a younger age so they’re playing football from 5, 6, 7 all the way up. At the moment the structure isn’t there to do that.”

One possible route Bangladesh could go is selecting players of Bangladeshi origin who currently play abroad. Day explains that is an option they have considered.

“We’ve had a look at that, obviously our captain Jamal Bhuyan was born in Denmark but now lives in Bangladesh. There’s a few Bangladeshis in Canada and a couple in Sweden, but the one’s we have spoken to would like the opportunity to play for the country they’re currently in, which we understand.

“If further down the line they become available then we would look into it. We want to give the home-grown players the first option. But if we want to progress, we need to look further afield and if those players have a change of heart we’ll look into it.”

“We want to try and qualify for the Asian Games if possible, that’s the target. We knew we weren’t going to qualify from the group we were in, but it’s been a good experience for the younger players.”

Day spends a lot of time away from his family, something he has previously struggled with but is now getting used to.

“It’s tough. I do four to five weeks at a time, then come back home for ten to 14 days. It depends if there are competitions, obviously if there was a World Cup game then we’d have a camp lasting three or four weeks, possibly longer.

“It is tough for the family but they’ve been fantastic, very supportive and I appreciate them letting me do this job.”

The future for Bangladesh football seems bright with Day at the helm, and the Londoner is looking to extend his stay with his current contract due to run out in May.

“We’ve had some discussions already, which were very positive. I think there’s still some good work to be done in Bangladesh,” he explained.

“I enjoy working with the players in international football. We’re close to getting a new contract done, it just might take a little bit longer than we first thought.”

Amaluzor is rolling with the Stones but still aiming high

Sometimes you play alongside someone and you just know there is something special about them.

Former Dartford youth player Justin Nwogu (these days known by the surname Amaluzor) was snapped up by Barnet in 2015 and quickly broke into the Bees’ first team, then playing in League Two.

Loan spells at Hayes & Yeading, Hemel Hempstead, Hampton & Richmond and Bognor Regis followed before a permanent move to Braintree at the start of last season.

He made 20 appearances for the Essex club before being signed mid-campaign by National League South outfit Maidstone United, who attract an average of attendancr of over 2,000.

Maidstone’s head of football John Still has had nothing but praise for Justin and his campaign so far. Since arriving at the Gallagher Stadium, he has made 33 appearances and bagged 10 goals.

“Justin is quick, bright and has got a goal in him. He can play wide on either side – he likes to play on the right and cut in on his left foot, and he can play off the main striker” – John Still

Justin and I go way back. Same schools, same Sunday league team growing up, same friends. When I think about the status that comes from being good at football alone, especially whilst in school the benefits are large.

Leaving school early. Skip lunch queues. Teachers love you. The “smart kids” never got those benefits. The light is constantly shining on you. You’re an untouchable, he was untouchable.

I was also untouchable, in case you were wondering. But less out there, and not charming or boisterous enough to get away with things; maybe that’s a reason why our careers took different paths.

Justin, 23, was loud and still is – upon meeting up, nothing had changed after all these years. You’d know he was in a room before you even got there. Back of the bus type. Tall, freakishly strong, quick, a phenomenal dribbler with a wand of a left foot.

Having shared a pitch with hundreds of talented footballers Justin ranks amongst my  top 10. To this day, I still call him ‘Justin Tech’ (as in technique). After an electric start to the current campaign I was able to sit down and have a chat with the exciting forward.

How are you enjoying your football at the moment?

It’s going well. I’ve been performing well and the gaffer likes me so I’m in a good space at the moment. I have targets to hit, but I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, and I want us to climb up the table and fight for promotion.

I saw you on Fifa 19: what was that like?

Bro, it’s mad. It’s what we’ve dreamed of since school. Not just for me but for you and everyone back home and anyone that knows me. I want us to be an inspiration and show others where we’re from that you can do great things if you work hard.

Are you playing for a move? What level do you think you can reach?

No, definitely not playing for a move at the moment. I’m taking each match as it comes, going to training and staying focused on the team.

Come on, how high are you aiming?

I think it’s good to be realistic but at the same time I’m aiming towards something, I still have to hold onto a dream so I need something to chase. Champions League? That would be great, but I definitely see myself in the Premier League one day. But right now I’m only focused on my season, whatever happens happens.

How has your game changed since sunday league football?

I’m a lot more mature with my game now, its no longer just get the ball and dribble past everyone. I like to play off the right coming in linking up, getting goals. Obviously. I need to add more goals its just not about the link up for me, I want to get goals as well.

Two friends chat over coffee about old times – and bikes

Alex Duffill is a young photographer and short film-maker specialising in cycling photography. Currently based near London, he is originally from Bedford and an old schoolfriend of mine.

He has set up his own freelance photography studio, and meeting him after a few years produced a mixture of feelings, but mostly excitement. He won’t admit this, but Alex is one of the top cycling photographers in the UK, with a client list which includes some of the biggest companies in two wheels.

Rapha, British Cycling, Harley-Davidson, Subaru,  Johnson & Johnson, Rouleur Magazine, Cyclist Magazine, Browns Fashion, Leigh Day, the Neon Velo and Vitus professional cycling teams have all hired Alex in what was a very busy 2019.

One thing that is underappreciated in life is the moments that are not captured. If only I’d have taken a picture. A picture can tell a thousand stories, victory, defeat, happiness, sadness. They hold a special place in our hearts. Whether they are digital available or physically held. 

Talking with Alex, I was impressed at his professionalism and obvious passion for his craft. The origin of his decision to pursue photography isn’t out of the ordinary but was filled with curious intent. 

What was it that made you pick up the camera? 

“I was always into media growing up. I loved cameras and everything about them. I knew I was going to go into photography but I think I just started for fun and just kept going.”

Did you ever think it would lead to so much so soon?

“No, not ever, funnily enough. I just started taking pictures of the things I liked and my surroundings and then I started specialising more in cycling.”

Last time I saw you was on set for a short film. Is that something you see yourself doing more of? 

Yes! My days! Yeah that was such a good project. It’s good that we were able to collab on a proper project knowing where we’re from and now we’re in London and whatnot. But, yeah, film-making is definitely in the pipeline. At the moment, I’m working on building my photography portfolio up and just getting my content out there to bigger brands.”

What, bigger than Rapha?

He laughs and continues  “I just keep doing what I’m doing. I’ve done alright so far and I’ve been to so many places I wouldn’t have without this camera. So I’m glad I’m able to do that and have fun at the same time.”

“You didn’t really steal bikes did you?”

Cycling is one of my vices. The feeling I get when I’m freely pedalling, whether it’s in the sun or the rain, is unmatched. Cycling mimics the feeling of freedom. You’re not just sitting down and pushing pedals and shifting gears. You’re working constantly building a relationship with your bike, cleansing the body and getting healthier as you ride.

Alex and I share a love for bikes I told him I wouldn’t have stolen his bike. He says I wouldn’t have got past the lock; the pie was therefore left on the windowsill.

Favourite bike?

“Road bikes, man. Carerra, all about the elegance. I was in Austria for an event last summer and the views there were insane. Those bikes can really roll, such open smooth roads.” 

Carrera, a man of talent and taste. My last bike was a Carrera, and I miss it.

Feature image courtesy of Alex Duffill; visit Alex’s website here. He is also on Instagram.

Q&A with football referee Kaijing Mao

Kaijing Mao, 21, is currently studying medicine at the University of Bristol. He is also a Level 7 English FA referee and Chinese National second-level football referee.

Many Chinese students in the UK are football fans and watch live games, but Kaijing decided to get more involved in the game by becoming a ref.

Why did he choose this route, and how does he find refereeing football in China and the UK? Elephant Sport caught up with Kaijing for a chat.

When did you start refereeing football games?

I started when I was in my college, just for some informal competitions between students. I got my first official football referee certification at university.

Why did you want to be a referee?

I think it gives me a different angle to understand football. Besides, being a referee provides me chances to participate in some higher-level games – at least higher than games that I usually play.

What is the different angle of watching football that you have as a referee?

As a referee, I think I am a part of a game, so I can experience the match more closely than audiences. Also, I have a deeper understanding of the referee’s decisions and more empathy to referees when they deal with controversies than before. What’s more, I think my football skills could be improved through refereeing high-level games. Before I became a referee, watching football games is a happy and relaxing thing, and playing football is just for fun.

When I became a referee, I must focus on players of both sides and considering the opinions of other members of the officiating team. Sometimes I feel nervous, and sometimes I may feel the game is suffering and wish it could finish as soon as possible. Even if the game has been completed, it is still unavoidable for referees to hear complaints from coaches and players.

Have you ever thought that you are going to stop refereeing after being reviled by players or coaches?

No. I am an amateur referee at the moment so I am quite flexible to decide when and which game I want to referee. I haven’t been bothered by this kind of problem.

What certifications that you have got at the moment?

I have certificates in both China and the UK. I have certifications from the Chinese Football Association’s National second-level football referee programme, and I am also an FA Level 7 referee. I am still a grassroots ref.

What kind of games that you usually referee?

I have refereed in Chinese and UK’s amateur league games, youth games and university league games. I have also refereed Bristol City and Bristol Rover’s academies’ matches.

What difference you have found about refereeing games in the UK and in China.

I think in the UK, they have a more completed system for referees than in China. You can find a clear introduction and instruction about how to get training and promote to the higher level. In China, especially in amateur leagues, there are very few regulations and the authorities do not pay much attention to managing thosekind of games. So players usually do not respect referees very much because they know they will not be fined or punished. It is common to see referees being reviled in amateur football games in China.

What is the most difficult game that you have ever officiated?

It was an amateur league game in China. A massive conflict happened between players and referees during the match because of a disallowed goal. It happened at the end of a knock-out round match, and I was the second assistant referee. We were reviled by players and coaches horribly.

On the other hand, I think it showed that people have a strong bias toward referees. They tend to believe that referees are always partisan to one side. Compared to the UK, I feel players in Chinese amateur leagues show less respect for referees, especially for young referees like me. If players are older than you, then they will think you are not professional.

What have you gained from your refereeing experience?

I get to know a lot of friends by being a referee. Meanwhile, I think my social skills and my ability to deal with tough situations have been improved a lot through refereeing football games. After seeing so many quarrel and conflicts, some of them quite violent, I have become calmer. I really feel that my mentality is better than before. Of course, I also have received some novel understanding of the game.

What difficulties had you met when you started being a referee?

In China, it is hard to find out information about how to become a registered referee. There is limited resource of CFA’s training course, and the number of referees’ level is not as many as in the UK. That makes it difficult for referees to promote.

What is the future goal of your referee career?

Of course, I will try to improve my certification so that I can referee higher level games. The English FA has the requirement of the number of games for referees at different levels, and China has a similar condition. They have the requirement of time, so I need to wait for a few years after I got the second-level certification then I can apply for the first-level referee. The CFA also provides training lessons for being a first-level referee, but I always missed them because I was not in China.

‘The athlete’s desire is vital – they need to be 100% into it’

Fitness trainers are among sport’s unsung heroes. They are an intrinsic to those parts of athletes lives which we as spectators never see – the hard work, exhausting routines, strict diet plans and personal sacrifices which keep them in peak condition.

This is especially true for those who do not play in teams, Their personal trainers offer them not just fitness expertise but vital personal support in their darkest moments after losses or injuries or lack of motivation.

Andreu Marco Navarro is a fitness trainer who, since he finished studying sports science in 2016, has worked with riders in many elite motorcycling competitions including KTM, M3 riders, MotoGP Moto2.

As a young boy, he had an early introduction to sport. “My interest started from a very young age. Almost as soon as I started walking, my parents pointed me and my brother towards football, cycling and swimming.

As I grew up, I focused more on football, then I decided to study the career of sports science and I saw that it could bring me many things, both personally and professionally.

“I then had the opportunity to work with a football team, and that opened up a new world for me. I learned things that you can only learn when you are practising and seeing them with your own eyes.”

The 26-year-old from Valencia soon had a very clear ideas on what he wanted to do with his life. The idea of ​​being a fitness trainer quickly emerged. In the fields of management, education and performance, my goal is to be one of the best trainers and to dedicate myself fully to this aim.”

Of course, many athletes at the highest levels in their sports are extremely well paid and can afford to invest in their fitness, but that doesn’t necessarily mean their trainers earn big money.

Navarro says: “I wish I could dedicate my whole life to being a physical trainer, but it is very difficult to live from it since it is not well paid. It is also very difficult to find high-level athletes who stay with you for many years.”

That is why he is currently doing for a second degree in education. “I work every day of the week and even on the weekends, but my afternoons are dedicated to work, while in the morning I go to university to study to be a teacher.

“I see it as something that, further into future, can be quite good since being a teacher is something that I also carry in my blood as my mother is also one. So, I love my job as a trainer, but in my spare time I study.”

Preparation 

Navarro often works with motorcycle racers when their personal trainers are not available, and has built up close relationships with several stars. “Even sometimes when they are on vacation they call me and ask for specific sessions or exercises. Thankfully, they know me and trust me.

“[MotoGP racer] Jorge Martin, for example, is close to me. I know more or less what’s best for him and what he likes, so I tailor my sessions especially for him.

“All you have to do is look at what the athlete needs and what suits them best. You also need to know if they want you to work on their strength, endurance, to prevent injury or if they are returning from having one.

“Every athlete needs a qualified person to plan their workouts, and I am totally against those ‘trainers’ who do this job without having any valid qualifications. You need more than a few hours of training or workshops to do it properly, so what those people are really doing is deceiving the athlete.

“Athletes need a good fitness trainer who is 100% with them, but most important is the desire of the athlete. When they put all their effort into the exercises you have planned, it will always end up being a good session. If the athlete is unwilling, it is better to finish the training and coming back the next day.”

Diet & Sleep 

Navarro says that diet and sleep are two of the main factors in having productive training sessions, and for anyone to have a good lifestyle generally.

“Ask any fitness trainer and they will tell you that diet is one of the most important things, not only for athletes also for non-athletes, too. To have a healthy lifestyle and to be able to perform all your tasks in the best possible way is a philosophy that everyone should have.

“Obviously, though, I am a fitness trainer and not specialised in nutrition. Nutrition is a profession and career in its own right. I read a lot about it, but the first thing I always recommend to people is they go to a nutritionist so they can plan their own diet and stop searching the internet. Some online diets are very dangerous.”

Good diet goes hand in hand with plenty of rest after training and good-quality sleep. Navarro says: “If you do not rest, you cannot give 100%. For me, the most important thing is not how many hours of sleep, it is about its quality. The athlete feeling rested and not fatigued is where we want to be.

“I think it is not about sleeping for seven, eight, nine or 10 hours; it all depends on the individual and that each person feels like they are at 100% able to perform physical activity.

“I really ask the athletes to eat properly, whether it’s before workouts or games and competitions. Good diet also aids recovery, especially after high-intensity training sessions. They also need to stretch properly so their muscles are in perfect conditions for the next session. If their muscles are very tight, I recommend ice baths.

“Each athlete has different routines, so everyone knows what is best for them individually. But, for me, a good recovery plan is: rest, good food, a cold bath, stretching and a little bike exercise for the legs.”

Navarro adds that the best fitness trainers know their athletes and their priorities, and plan accordingly. Maybe his job is not appreciated by sports fans when their heroes are on the podium, but fitness trainers like him will have played a big part in helping to put them there.

Photos courtesy of Andreu Marco Navarro, who is on Instagram and Twitter

Ollie Hynd MBE: I was really close to quitting swimming

The golds, the glory, the honours – Paralympic swimming champion Ollie Hynd has done it all. But it took a ‘light bulb’ moment whilst watching older brother Sam race in Beijing in 2008 to set him on the path to success.

“Sam also used to compete and he went to the Beijing Games. My parents took me to China to support him,” says the 25-year-old. “At the time I was quite reluctant and didn’t really want to go as I wasn’t very interested.

“But as soon as I got there, I was really inspired by the whole thing. I’d seen how much work that Sam had put into his swimming and his dedication. That inspired me to try and make London 2012. That was the first moment where I thought ‘I want to give this a real good go’.”

It wasn’t going to be easy, though. The swimming star was dealt a tough start to life. Just like his brother, he was diagnosed with neuromuscular myopathy at the age of 12; a condition that affects his whole body.

Hynd explains: “It’s more distally than proximally, so my hands are worse than my shoulders and my feet and knees are a little bit worse than my hips.

“With day-to-day stuff, walking is the big one. There’s a struggle with the stairs, writing and opening things. Little things like that affect my day-to-day life. Obviously, that translates into the pool and my impairments in the pool as well.”

Hynd first entered the swimming pool as a youngster when his parents encouraged him to be more water-safe – and it wasn’t long before he picked up a passion for the sport. He joined Sutton Swimming Club aged eight, then moved to the Nova Venturian Swimming Squad after that trip to Beijing made him start to believe that a bright future in the sport was possible.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Gold rush

Hynd’s hard work and dedication paid off. Not only did he qualify for the 2012 Paralympics in London, he took a gold medal home in the 200m individual medley as well – an experience that he will never forget.

“London 2012 as a whole experience was absolutely incredible. For any athlete wanting to compete at the highest level, competing at a home games is amazing.” says the Mansfield-born athlete.

“For me to not only be able to compete but to win a gold was an absolute dream. The only regret I have from London 2012 is that, because I was so young at 17, I didn’t really appreciate exactly what it was or the magnitude of what I was taking part in.

“For instance, I didn’t really take any photos at all whilst I was there which is kind of crazy. But it was a great experience and something that I will never forget and feel very really lucky to have been a part of.”

After being awarded an MBE for services to swimming a year later – an experience he describes “crazy” – Hynd turned his focus to bettering his achievements in London at the Rio Paralympics in 2016.

“As much as London was great, the four years from London to Rio was really special. The training group that we had and all the competitions we had in between, it was just a really special time in my life and career.

“It was tipped off with Rio 2016 as the pinnacle of four years and even longer of really hard and very obsessive work for that one, sole goal.

“What made it more special was the negative stuff [about Brazil’s preparations] going into the games. We didn’t really know how it was going to go or what it was going to be like. But we got there and the village was fantastic, the people were great, the venue was great, food was great, transport was great.”

Hynd took gold in his opening event, the 400m freestyle, smashing the world record in the final. He then repeated the feat in his closing competition, winning and setting a new world record in the 200m individual medley.

He was riding on the crest of a wave. Everything that he touched was literally turning to gold. But he was soon dealt a blow out of the blue that left the triple gold medalist questioning his future in the sport.

Re-classified

In March 2018, the swimming star received news that as part of new IPC rules, he would be moved from the S8 classification that he’d competed in for his whole career, up to the S9 category. It was a major blow.

“It was pretty devastating,” says Hynd. “It was just a really difficult time and I didn’t really understand it or have the answers for it.

“You’re swimming against people with less of an impairment, I guess. If you were comparing it to fighting, it would be like moving up a weight class.

“It was really difficult because I’d been obsessed with my craft, and everything has got to be focused around it, so when that all happened, my identity was so wrapped up in me as a swimmer. But when that rug was pulled from beneath me, everything went.”

Hynd admits that the experience took its toll on his mental health, too: “It was really challenging and I’m not ashamed to admit it led to some mental health issues as well. It was a challenging year.”

Fellow para-athletes Matt Wylie, Jonathan Fox and Josef Craig retired from their respective sports after also having their classifications controversially changed but Hynd, after much consideration, decided to stick with it.

He says: “I came really, really close [to retiring]. What made it more complicated is that we appealed the decision and that dragged on for a few months afterwards. Until the final decision was made, it was ongoing. But in the summer of 2018, I was really close to calling it a day and saying ‘that’s it, I’m done with the sport’. Really, really close.

“But I didn’t make that decision and a year down the line, I’m happy that I continued. It’s just given me a bit more perspective I think – not just in swimming, but in life in general. There’s so much more to the sport and to life than just the gold medals”

The future

Hynd’s focus is now firmly on qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics, with the all-important trials taking place in April. Despite fears that the coronavirus outbreak might delay or even lead to the cancellation of the Games, the three-time champion only has one thing on his mind.

“You’ve just got to trust the powers that be to make the right decision [about the Games going ahead]. The health and well-being of athletes is the most important thing, so I’m sure that they’ll make the right decision.

“I’m just giving 100% in my training and focusing on Tokyo. I’ve also already been selected for the European Championships in May. So, again, that’s just the focus again in my training, making sure I’m ready for those as well.”

Beyond that, Hynd is still undecided about what his future entails. He’s dipped his toe in the water of motivational speaking but maintains that, in an ideal world, he’d still like to remain in swimming in some capacity.

“I still think I’ll be involved in the sport in some regard whatever happens,” he says.

“I’m just passing on that message and hopefully inspiring people to make positive changes in their life. Whether that be in sport or anything else, it’s something that I’m really passionate about so that’s definitely that’s going to be in my future.”

Meet Jamie Barrow – the British snowboarder targeting 200kph

From the devastating low of a serious back injury which shattered his Olympic snowboarding dreams, Jamie Barrow’s career has reached heights – and speeds – never before seen in his sport.

Born and brought up in Switzerland and on the slopes from a very young age, Barrow was seemingly destined to make his mark in the world of winter sports.

“I started skiing when I was about two years old, somewhere around that time,” Barrow explains. “When I was eight, I decided I wanted to do something that I was better than my older brother at, who was always a little bit faster than me. That’s when I discovered snowboarding.”

The 27-year-old credits growing up in the Alps as a big factor in his subsequent success. “It was amazing. At the time I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I would do now, but I absolutely loved it. I had the snow so I could go wherever I wanted during the winter season and that definitely helped me get to the level I am at now.”

Shattered dreams

Like most young snowboarders, Barrow dreamt of competing at the Olympics. Following several impressive results in senior competitions, he looked in good shape heading into 2013, the year when qualification for the 2014 Winter Games would be decided, before disaster struck.

Barrow suffered a serious back injury on a qualifying run that January, after the high-back on his binding broke and he ended up off the slope. His hopes of competing at Sochi 2014 were in tatters.

“That was one of the lowest points of my life,” he revealed. “It was really quite depressing after that crash, I lost everything, and it was a to come back again, but the motivation for me was to prove the doctors wrong. They told me I would never be able to run again never mind snowboard. I wanted to prove them wrong and get back to what I loved.”

Even follow a crash of such magnitude, Barrow was determined to make his mark on the sport, even if he was unable to compete for his country.

“I came up with the idea of doing ski records. I knew I’d be in a lot of pain snowboarding, but if I just went straight down a hill for 20-30 seconds I could put up with the pain for that long.”

Breaking boundaries

In April 2013, just months after doctors told him he would never be able to run again, Barrow broke the British snowboard speed record, recording a time of 151.6kph, before three times breaking the world record for the fastest speed whilst being towed by a vehicle.

“The first time I did it, it was a huge achievement for me as I’d always wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, and to finally do it was a great achievement,” he explained.

“The first two times there was always something which held me back and stopped me from going faster, whether it was the car not being fast enough or we didn’t have a long enough track or just the conditions weren’t right.

“So, this third time I wanted to find a new place so that nothing held me back and that’s why I went out to Norway. I wanted to see just how fast I could go, and I was lucky enough to break the record again, going faster than I ever had done before at speeds of over 183kph.”


‘When I was falling over at 180kph, that was the scariest moment of my life for sure’

Despite setting yet another world record, Barrow described the achievement as being “bittersweet”, with several things going wrong which prevented him from going even faster, including another scary crash.

“Don’t get me wrong I was so happy to have broken the record, but so many things went wrong on the day. Firstly, the weather came in a little bit and it was -14°C. On the first run it was so cold that the spray from the car was freezing to my goggles, I went completely blind at 180kph and ended up crashing which was the fastest snowboard crash ever recorded.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get up from that. I knocked myself out a bit and slid for over 100 metres, but when I came to, I was okay.

“That wasn’t a great way to start the day, but I eventually pulled myself together, knowing I had worked so hard with the preparations for the record. I shook myself of and went for it again with a couple more runs and was able to break the record.

“I didn’t go as fast as I wanted to go as we didn’t have the right conditions and the equipment was messing up a little bit, however I did go faster than I’d ever been before, so I was really happy with that.”

Barrow has experienced several major crashes in his career but revealed this latest one at 180kph to be the most frightening of them all.

“Being knocked out and waking up in the snow is not a nice feeling. When I was falling over, that was the scariest moment of my life for sure. When I injured myself the first time it wasn’t that big of a crash, it wasn’t scary. Whereas this time was the scariest thing that I’ve ever done.”

Far from putting Barrow off, however, the snowboarder is aiming to break his own world record once again in the near future.

“My next target is definitely to hit 200kph. That’s always been the aim and I was hoping to have done it on my last attempt, but things didn’t quite go to plan.

“It’s not always about trying to get it on the first go, it’s about dealing with these setbacks and coming back stronger. I’ve got a few other world records I’d like to break as well, they’re in the pipeline, but we’ll see how this goes.”

Korean adventures

Away from the records, Barrow has visited many different resorts around the world and describes Japan as being his favourite place to snowboard.

“The snow over there and the powder is absolutely incredible. It was my dream, somewhere I’d always wanted to go. It was just incredible, unlike anywhere you can go in Europe.”

By far the most unique place he has visited however is North Korea. Very few would associate ski resorts with the most isolated country on the planet, but Barrow was lucky enough to experience them first-hand.

“Snowboarding there was a very strange experience. We pretty much got a whole private resort to ourselves. It was an interesting trip. They’ve just opened up a new ski resort and we’re in talks at the moment to be the first journalists to visit to film a documentary with National Geographic.”

Jamie has his own website and is on Twitter at @JamieBarrow_GB.

Featured image via https://www.facebook.com/barrowboarder/

Stephen Gulbis: the art of football

“I have been told by my dad that I was drawing on the walls when I was three, so I have been doing this for as long as I can remember.”

Art has been part of Stephen Gulbis’s life since early childhood, and his love of football was sparked a few years later, in 1969, when he attended his first match.

“It was at Middlesbrough’s old ground Ayresome Park,” he recalls. “My dad took me, and I was about nine years old at the time. Middlesbrough were playing Cardiff, who won 3-2.”

Gulbis has subsequently managed to combine his twin passions in a successful career spanning nearly 40 years. Better known as ‘The Football Artist’, his clients include Premier League clubs including Manchester United and Liverpool, the FA, EFL and the USA Soccer Federation.

Harry Maguire

He attended Bath Academy of Art between 1978 and 1981, and his first paid-for piece of work was published while he was still studying.

“That was during my final year as a student, and I have been working as a freelance illustrator ever since,” says the 61-year-old.

Style

His distinctive style has several influences. “There are so many pieces and people that have inspired what I do. I like the artwork in the Asterix and Tintin books, while graphic novel artists Sean Philips and Darwyn Cooke have done some good work.

“I also love the artwork in the Thunderbirds comic strips, so magazine illustrator Frank Bellamy would have to be up there with the work of Gerry Anderson creator of the Supermarionation TV shows, as well as Paul Trevillion [of ‘You Are The Ref’ fame] and legendary film poster artist Robert Peak.

“Of course, my work has gone through a variety of stylistic changes down the years. I have done realistic artwork, cartoons and stylised pieces, and my career also taken in the transition from handmade to digital pieces.

“These days, I hand draw the linework on paper with a mixture of brushes and ink and then once they have dried I add colour digitally to add a nice finish.”

Gulbis has produced cover illustrations for England matchday programmes

Although you can’t rush art, as the saying goes, being an illustrator in a commercial setting often involves Gulbis working to tight deadlines.

“What you have to consider when you are doing pieces is how detailed and complicated the work is to create. When I do personal projects, I do take my time. Commercial jobs tend to have a faster turn around, usually a couple of days or up to a week.

“I usually don’t like to do one piece at a time, I like having two or three on the go as it helps keep each piece fresher. Since starting, I have done hundreds of pieces that are all unique in their own way. At the moment, I am working on a couple of different prints, some on Portsmouth and others on Celtic.”

Production

Somerset-born Gulbis says research plays a vital part in his production process.

“For me, it’s what makes a piece that extra bit special,” he explains. “To do this job, I watch a lot of football, and what I really research is facial expressions and how sportsmen and women move in order to make the likeness of the action portrayed more accurate.

“To achieve this, I look at photos and video clips, but I always want my work to look illustrative rather than photographic. The thing about my pieces is all my prints are based on famous goals, games and legends, with an emphasis on storytelling, so this part of the work is crucial.”

Gulbis captures Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool win the Champions League

Having produced hundreds of pieces across the decades, it is hard for Gulbis to pick out particular favourites, but in terms of his recent work, three spring to mind for the positive response they received.

“I did a piece when Liverpool won the Champions League, which had Jurgen Klopp celebrating, and that turned out really well. I also did one of Kieran Tripper scoring that free-kick for England against Croatia in their World Cup semi-final (main image). That was special because of what it represented at the time.

“Another recent piece I did that I liked was a poster for the NFL when it came to Wembley. This was good because it was very different.”

Clients

The client-artist relationship is a big part of any illustrator’s life, and ‘The Football Artist’ is no different. Two really stick in his mind.

“I would have to say that both Stan McDonald who was the art director at Shoot! and Soccerstars magazines in the 80s and 90s, and Garry Hayes, the creative director at ProgrammeMaster, were my favourite people to do work for because they trusted me to do my job and gave me a lot of creative freedom.

Gulbis presenting Lee Dixon with his artwork

“I also had a piece commissioned by Universal back in 2017 which would be used to help promote their Arsenal 89 movie. The piece itself was in a comic strip style and I spoke a lot to Arsenal legend Lee Dixon about the story. He loved the artwork, so I presented him with a print at the film’s premiere in London.”

When he is not working on projects for clients, Gulbis and his wife of 28 years, Judith, put out new fine art prints via his online shop.

Despite taking a liking to Middlesbrough at that game in 1969, he claims not to support one team in particular, preferring to keep an open mind and watch as many games as he gets the chance to – although he will admit to having a soft spot for Boro and likes to see them do well.

If he could choose, though, to create a piece to illustrate one dream scenario in football, what would his be?

“I would say Marcus Rashford scoring the winning goal for England in a World Cup Final – and before you say anything, you did say it had to be a dream!” he says.

Finally, what advice would Gulbis give as an experienced artist to anyone wishing to follow in his footsteps?

“Because artistic opinions are so subjective, there will always be people who don’t appreciate your work, no matter how good it is. So, trust your own instincts, and don’t necessarily believe everything you are told.”

All images used in this piece are reproduced by kind permission of Stephen Gulbis. For more information, visit thefootballartist.com; click here visit his online shop.

Charlton legend Clifford juggling relegation battle with her day job

Although more female footballers are turning professional as the women’s game grows, tackling the twin demands of a full-time job and a playing career is common for those at FA Women’s Championship level.

One such player is Charlton Athletics’s Charley Clifford, who works for a motor finance company by day and joins up with her Addicks team-mates in the evening.

“I am in the office at eight every morning, and I leave about half four, or whenever I can get out, and then it is straight to training and then we don’t finish until at least 10pm,” the 27-year-old explains.

“If we can get on the pitches earlier, then we may leave earlier but it is always a late night and we do it again the next day.”

Clifford’s brother Tom plays for Southend United under Sol Campbell, but the Gravesend-born midfielder has her cousins to thank for introducing her to the game.

“They got me into football. I was put in goal in the back garden, they would kick balls at me as training, despite one of them being a keeper themselves, which is funny when you look back at it. From there, I initially joined my local boys’ team, and haven’t looked back since.”

Clifford has a great eye for goal, with 64 to her name for the Addicks. Last season, she established a formidable partnership with Kit Graham, however, she originally played in defence as a youngster.

“I just fell into this position, really. When we first started playing on 11-a-side pitches, I was played at right-back, but after a while I was moved into the centre of the park and have stayed there ever since, though I would be happy to play anywhere that the gaffer puts me.”

Support

Growing up, the Addicks star was supported by her parents as they juggled watching her and her brother make a career for themselves in football.

“Both my parents have sacrificed a lot, taking me and my brother to matches. My dad used to take me to all my games, but since my brother has gone pro, my mum has been watching mine more. Ours are on a Sunday, so it means they can both watch us as we now play on different days.”

Charlton commemorated Clifford’s 200th appearance

Making over 250 appearances in the famous red and white shirt, Clifford is a player who her younger team-mates look up to.

“We have got a very young team and everyone has got a lot of learning to do including me, even though people say ‘you’ve got all the experience’. I have, but I’ve still got learn how to deal with the younger players. With the fans, you don’t realise that all the young girls look up to you until you see their faces when they come to games.”

With seven matches left this season, Charlton are rooted to the bottom of the table on seven points, two off Lewes Women and Coventry City Ladies. The rest of the campaign is about belief if the Addicks are going to beat the drop.

Struggle

With only one victory all season – a 1-0 win over London City Lionesses in the Conti Cup Group stage back in November – Charlton have it all to do if they want to retain their Championship spot next season. However, Clifford believes they can still achieve that aim.

“I feel we can get out of this situation as the points difference isn’t huge, so if we can just win some of our remaining games then we will be fine. We will not want it to go down to the last game of the season because the pressure is just too much. The losing feeling isn’t a great one, especially when you have come out on top and that feeling is like nothing else. Touch wood, I have never suffered a relegation.”

Charley Clifford goes for goal against Crystal Palace Ladies in 2019

With a whole host of players coming and going, Charlton’s team chemistry took a hit, and the midfielder believes this has played a part in the team’s shortcomings this season.

“At the start of the season, we had 14 new players, and to gel with that many new people is hard and it takes more than a season. Playing with Kit Graham and Charlotte Gurr for the last few years, it has taken me at least this year to get on the same wavelength and gel with my new team-mates.”

This turnover of players is something that is common practice in the women’s game, with most teams getting several new faces during the season. For Clifford, it’s a case of getting used to all the changes happening around her.

“People jump from club to club, so there will be people that might be your friend from other teams you were in. You might go out for dinner with them one night and then the next day you might be on the pitch against them. You have to play for the team and put aside any personal relationships when on the pitch.”

Career

Clifford has achieved a lot since making her debut for the Addicks, playing for England at youth level and gaining promotion twice.

“When we won the league in 2017/2018, that was a pretty special moment as it was a really good season and everyone gelled together really well. The play-off match when we beat Blackburn Rovers was just unreal and it got us to the league we are in now. The feeling you get from being promoted on unbelievable.”

Riteesh Mishra joined as first-team coach in 2017 and has made a big impression on the midfielder’s footballing life.

“He brings new ideas, I like the way that he coaches, and I like that he goes down into the details. Also, his encouragement on the sidelines is massive and for us where we are at right now – we just need the encouragement rather than a battering.

“I feel like I have been coached really well in the last couple of years and I have learned a lot about the game, and that is largely down to him.”

Clifford in action against Gillingham back in 2014

The women’s game is seemingly going from strength to strength, with interest, attendances and media coverage increasing steadily, and Clifford says this bodes well for young girls who see football as their future.

“For the young girls coming through now, everything is in place for them to become professional footballers. When I was a kid that never was a thing, but now as a young girl, that should be every young girl’s dream to be a professional and I think more and more clubs are going to become professional. The women’s game could become massive as long as the money gets pumped into it.”

Charlton next play at The Oakwood on Sunday, 15 March 2020, when they take on eighth-placed Crystal Palace in a vital relegation six-pointer.

All images courtesy of Charlton Athletic Women’s photographer Keith Gillard. Find his photos at: https://topsnapper.photoshelter.com/index

sneakers designer

Emma George: Why I design cheerleading shoes

Miranda Cui sits down with the winner of 2019 Drapers Student Footwear Designer of the Year Emma George to talk about her cheerleading shoes collection.

Emma is a graduate of (BA)Footwear Design in London College of Fashion. Her experience in UAL cheerleading society gives her ideas of designing sneakers for this sport.

Presenter: Miranda Cui

Camera Operator: Paula Sanchez

Editing: Miranda Cui & Paula Sanchez