The annual Dimension Data Pro-Am is a very special event. It’s held at the marvellous Fancourt complex and invitations are much sought after. There is a wonderful mix of business people, sports players, celebrities and general characters who attend and this year is the 23rd edition of the tournament. It is right up there with the best. The golf is competitive with amateurs paired with pros and three qualifying rounds are played, one on each course, to decide who reaches the final day. The evenings are major parties and balancing overindulgence with golfing performance is the big challenge. Overseas visitors rave about it and say it is unique. Long may it continue.
After golf the other day I found myself having a beer with Alan Hansen, the former Liverpool star who transitioned into a hugely successful television presenter. As a soccer fan I took the opportunity to ask him about his career.
He started with Partick Thistle ( nil! ) in Scotland. I was fascinated to explore just when he realised he had serious talent. He told me that he never considered it until one day he overheard the coach talking about legends of the famous old club. To his amazement his name was cited as the very best of all time. A move to Newcastle was on the cards until their manager left. Then it was Everton who came calling before he finally moved to Anfield. What was that like for a shy kid from north of the border? Joining giants? Straight away the legendary Liverpool star Kevin Keegan arranged to have tea with the youngster – even though he had moved on to Hamburg. Keegan told Alan of the traditions and warmth that existed at Liverpool and how much fun it would be – if the business was done on the pitch. That night two of the senior players, Phil Thompson was one, rocked up and took him out for a drink. The same story was told about the way Liverpool worked. They had a winning system that had evolved since the days when Bill Shankley and his management team worked out tactics in the boot room.
It took Hansen six months to make the first side and he never looked back, ultimately becoming the second most medaled player in Premier League history, after Ryan Giggs.
What intrigued me was that pride and humour seemed to be the driving force behind Liverpool’s success rather than cutting edge technology and science. They travelled in an old rickety bus that was once refused entry to Wembley Stadium as its belching exhaust was deemed to be a health and safety hazard. After games, the youngest players were sent shopping and the drive home for one of the worlds elite clubs was garnished with chips and beer. Lots of it.
Believe it or not the ultrasound machine used to treat these elite world athletes dated back to 1962! When it was finally pensioned off by an enthusiastic new physiotherapist, he discovered, to his horror, that it had been designed to treat race horses not soccer players and every time it had been used, over the decades, the treated players careers had been at serious risk. Training sessions were a mixture of serious competition and hilarity. Ian Rush, on returning to Anfield from Juventus, had revealed that the experience at the Old Lady “ was like playing soccer in a different country!” He never lived that one down.
Bob Paisley, the legendary manager who had learned his trade under Bill Shankley, was a man of few words according to Alan. He rarely spoke but when he did, he spoke simple common sense. If the players did as he said it was simple, they won.
The stories flowed with the beer and, what was amazing to this old rugby player, was how unsophisticated it all sounded. Remember, we were talking about the top professional soccer side in the world at the time and yet common sense and team spirit that led to huge pride were at the centre of it all. Alan Hansen wondered if the inability to engender this with teams made up of millionaires from many different places speaking different tongues was the reason that Liverpool had slipped from the plateau.
Zuma’s fall was greeted with great joy at Fancourt. Captains of industry are optimistically looking to Cyril to set the atmosphere for them to grow their companies and raise GDP to levels that will enable South Africa to address the problems that have multiplied during the last disastrous decade. Spirits are on the up.
Just like Alan Hansen’s Liverpool, these fabulously successful entrepreneurs described in uncomplicated and simple steps what is needed to blast this country out of the gloomy morass in which we live. Pride in standards, spirit and friendly co-operation with all who share the common dream. Suddenly life is not complicated.
You learn lot from playing golf don’t you?