There are a wealth of sporting families in diverse disciplines from horse racing to soccer and to rugby. Here are just a few dynansties that have been hitting the headlines in recent months.
I always thought when watching horse racing one is to pay rapt attention to the genealogy of the magnificent beasts that compete in the sport of kings. However, being clueless in the area of animal husbandry I was relieved during last week’s Cheltenham Racing Festival that a lot of the fuss was being made about a human bloodline for once.
Despite missing out on defending last year’s Gold Cup triumph on Kauto Star Ruby Walsh, 30, still had a successful four days at Prestbury Park winning the Festival’s leading rider award and he also made it to the top of the Cheltenham all-time Festival jockey list. There was more joy for the Walsh family with Walsh’s younger sister Katie, 25, entering the winner’s enclosure on both occasions that she raced.
The Walsh siblings inherited their racing pedigree from their father Ted who was both successful as a jockey and then a trainer. He teamed up with his son for Grand National success with Papillon in 2000. Ted has also gained notoriety as a racing pundit often coming out with gems such as “ I remember her mother well, she was a great ride!” Which sounds rather racy but of course only refers to the horse’s athletic ability.
When Katie won the National Hunt Chase on Poker de Sivola on Saint Patrick’s Day, her father was also in flying form making the comment “What a great ride Katie got off him, she will remember this for the rest of her life.” I doubt those in racing circles would have gotten as much of a giggle out of this as I did as they seem immune to these types of references to equine talent.
The only other female jockey in the National Hunt Chase was Nina Carberry and she finished second behind the Kildare woman. Carberry is also the younger sister of a Grand National winning jockey. Her brother is the talented but controversial bad boy of the racing world Paul. Last year he was banned from racing for 30 days after failing an alcohol breathalyser test in Naas and was sentenced to jail for two months in 2006 for “breaching the peace” on a flight from Malaga to Dublin.
These two great racing dynasties may become entwined as Miss Carberry is currently dating Ruby and Katie’s brother Ted Junior. Ted Senior was happy with his son’s girlfriend’s performance saying “Nina’s a big part of our family, too. We were all delighted for her.”
Racing is just one of many sports where there is a prevalence of strong sporting families. Looking at the consistent and free-scoring form of Chelsea and England midfield maestro Frank Lampard over the last five or six years it is hard to believe that as a teenager in the mid 1990’s he lacked confidence in his footballing ability and longed for the success and recognition his older cousin Jamie Redknapp received playing for Liverpool.
I have a feeling that now Lampard would not want to trade places with his cousin who after a string of injuries retired from the game and transformed himself into a Sky Sports pundit. He has become much maligned due his penchant for “stating the bleedin’ obvious” but has a growing female fan base as a result of his tight fitting shiny suits!
Lampard and Redknapp are related through their mothers. The late Patricia Lampard (née Harris) and her sister Sandra both married footballing men; Frank Lampard Senior and the current Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp.
Both Frank Senior and Harry are natives of London’s East End and played for their area’s most famous club West Ham United. They worked together with Redknapp as manager and Lampard as assistant manager of the Upton Park side from 1994 to 2001. During this time the brothers-in-law nurtured many young players from their youth academy who have gone on to become household names such as Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and of course Frank Junior.
Unfortunately for Frank Junior the fact that he was playing under his uncle and father did not endear him to some of the West Ham faithful. They felt the youngster was getting his game due to nepotism despite the fact that he showed great promise. This led to him being jeered by some of his own fans and left him with bitter feelings towards them after he moved on to Chelsea in 2001. He was not shy about his opinions of the fans’ behaviour in his 2006 autobiography Totally Frank and as a result every time he plays against the Hammers he receives a hostile reception.
It would appear that a certain amount of controversy seems to surround these sporting families and this following duo of cousins are no exception. Both Arsenal and France centre-back William Gallas and his younger rugby playing cousin, the Stade Français and France centre Mathieu Bastareaud have courted controversy as well as playing their part in breaking Irish sports fans’ hearts in recent months.
The Guadalupe born 21 year-old Bastareaud has been one of the stars of this year’s Six Nations Championship but last year he was embroiled in an event that sparked off a diplomatic incident between France and New Zealand.
Last summer while the French team was on tour in New Zealand the player who has been described by some pundits as having “the build of a dump truck” claimed he was attacked by a group of All Blacks’ fans outside the team hotel in Wellington after sustaining facial injuries.
The authorities in New Zealand were worried as they thought the attack may have been racially motivated and in order to keep the country’s reputation intact for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which they are to host, the Prime Minister John Key released an official apology for the incident.
However, upon police scrutiny of CCTV footage showing Bastareaud returning to the hotel in the early hours of the morning unharmed he was forced to admit he had made the story of the assault up to conceal that he had banged his head on a bedside table while drunk and he was afraid that if truth came out he would be dropped from the squad.
A media frenzy then erupted. There were claims and rumours which included that the player had been involved in a brawl with team mates or that an angry pimp had attacked him. The truth of the origins of Bastareaud’s injury have never fully been gotten to the bottom of. The French Prime Minister François Fillon stepped in, apologising to the people of New Zealand.
Bastareaud returned to a mixture of suspicion and hostility from the French media. During this time it was reported in L’Equipe that due to a deep sense of shame resulting from the Wellington incident, the centre attempted suicide by jumping into the River Seine. He spent a number of weeks receiving specialist psychiatric care. It was also widely reported that his state of mental fragility was exacerbated by a sense of isolation that he felt at being one of the few black players from the troubled suburbs or banlieues in a squad dominated by provincial white players.
Since those difficult few months Bastareaud has been letting his rugby do the talking and has silenced his critics with strong performances in the Six Nations. He played an important part in the French team that shattered Irish hopes of repeating the Grand Slam.
His older cousin Gallas, 32, also crushed Irish spirits when he scored in the Stade de France from a pass created by Thierry Henry’s infamous “hand of Frog”. The defender like the rugby star has had his fair share of problems aired in the media.
While still a player at Chelsea in 2006 Gallas was very keen for a move and it was alleged by the West London club he claimed that he “would score own-goals” if he was not given the transfer he desired. The player was disgusted by these stories and accused the Blues of “lacking class”. He was transferred to Arsenal as part of a swap deal for Ashley Cole.
At the start of the 2007/08 season the Frenchman was given the Gunners’ captaincy. However, his emotional outburst after Eduardo’s leg was broken at an away fixture against Birmingham City caused many to question his mentality. His manager Arsène Wenger stood by him.
Gallas went a step too far in November 2008 when he gave an interview to the Associated Press agency in which he revealed tensions within the squad, which were causing divisions within the team. He also suggested that Arsenal’s younger players needed to work harder and act more bravely if they were to be successful. After being dropped for a match he was stripped of the captaincy and was succeeded by Cesc Fàbregas. At the time it was thought Gallas would leave the North London side but he continues to play for them.
Sporting talent and a desire to win certainly seem to be qualities that can be passed through families, those I mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. We should not forget the Williams sisters and Murray brothers in tennis, the Wallace and Kearney brothers in rugby and the Charlton, Ferdinand and Hunt brothers in soccer to name but a few.