They Think It’s All Over… In 4 Seconds Flat

So, the Premier League kicked-off with a bang this week and with it came all the hackneyed clichés you could hope to hear from colourful commentators and expert ex-pros.

Michu was proclaimed to be ‘over the moon’ at scoring his first Swansea City goals, whilst Southampton faced a ‘baptism of fire’ on their Premiership return. Meanwhile, Reading already seem condemned, with football’s alumni suggesting they’ll have to ‘work their socks off’ to avoid relegation. 

Presumably the panelists on Soccer Saturday and Match of the Day will continue to put ‘110% effort’ into their lively hyperbole this season, right through to ‘squeaky bum time’ in May.

The completely-original, cliché-free football pundit is, indeed, a rare breed.

Rarer, still, is the Sumatran tiger.

“What’s the link?” your furrowed brow may ask.

Well, one common phrase that actually pricked my ears this weekend wasn’t delivered by John Motson but, rather, Dr. Jonathan Barnard, the RSPB’s Head of Tropical Forests. He stated:

“Every four seconds an area of rainforest the size of a football pitch is lost.”

Now, although I’ve heard this analogy several times before, I’ve never really considered the extent of the problem; in a modern world so full of sensationalism, these facts and figures often fail to shock.

But if you allow it to really sink-in and can imagine the hallowed turf of Wembley, complete with ancient trees and exotic animals, being ripped apart in four seconds flat – you start to grasp the extent of woe.

Dr. Barnard continues: “If they were rainforests, every one of the Premier League’s pitches would be lost in 80 seconds, the Championship would disappear just over one and a half minutes later, and the remaining 48 pitches in the Football League would be gone in the following four minutes.”

The immediate question: How is this sustainable?

The inevitable answer: It isn’t.

Harapan Rainforest marks the RSPB’s presence in Sumatra , Indonesia. ‘Harapan’ is the local word for ‘hope’ and the work certainly offers optimism for the endangered Sumatran tiger, of which there are fewer than 300 surviving in the wild. However, their habitat is now flourishing under the conservation group’s guardianship.

Dr. Barnard notes: “Not only are rainforests important places for some of the planet’s most vulnerable wildlife, they are huge carbon stores so saving them is vital for so many reasons, including helping to counter climate change.”

Post-Olympic blues led to many bemoaning the return of football to the back pages, with much disdain levelled at ‘greedy, under-performing’ players compared to the heroics of British athletes. If it wasn’t for his swift apology, Alan Pardew may have further compounded the game’s image by shoving the fourth official on Saturday, despite reminding his Newcastle squad of their social responsibility before kick-off.

I know many footballers do a lot for charity – Craig Bellamy’s past misdemeanours can be somewhat forgiven with the good work of his foundation and Emmanuel Adebayor’s refusal to take a pay-cut when transferring to Spurs is understandable when you consider his projects in Africa.

Yet, given the platform they perform on, with so much potential to reach a worldwide audience, it’s a shame the game’s stars don’t do more to highlight global issues when greeted with a microphone, instead of simply relaying how ‘it’s a game of two halves’ etc. etc.

In truth, the reality is that if Tevez/Nasri/Balotelli were to celebrate their next goals by revealing messages of ‘Save the Rainforest’ on their under-shirts, they would probably be ridiculed for being tree-hugging hippies. But if football is to shake-off its image of being the playground of selfish multi-millionaires, the game needs to look at social issues and realise how it can help.

Big Brother may provide tabloid titillation but the real scandal is in the jungle (alas, not Ant & Dec’s version.) Offering-up a topical sound-bite, Dr. Barnard concludes: “This is a problem that needs to be tackled soon before the full time whistle blows – unfortunately we won’t get any extra time.”

Indeed, humanity may pay the ultimate penalty if illegal logging is not stopped. You can follow the RSPB’s rainforest work here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/rainforests/index.aspx

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