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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Henry Kissinger on QPR!

Henry Kissinger Talking about QPR!... part of a great article in BBC's News Magazine by New York Bureau Chief Kevin Bishop on the importance of football as a "facilitating" tool in Bishop's international career.

BBC "The News Magazine" Issue 10 - Nov Dec 2006

Travels with my football
Many tools of the journalist’s trade are acquired through experience or with a
charge code. But an interview with Henry Kissinger prompted New York Bureau
Chief Kevin Bishop to look back at how one particular area of knowledge has
helped him over the years
Driving north through the Bronx on my way to Connecticut I was worried. I was going to set up an interview with Henry Kissinger for Sunday AM and my concern was simple: what if I had to make small talk? The solution came when I spotted the New York Yankees baseball stadium. The week before I’d been watching a film about the rise of the New York Cosmos soccer team in the late 70s. The team, which attracted stars such as Pele and Beckenbauer, had a brief period in the spotlight when it filled the stadium with 70,000-plus fans. One of them was Henry Kissinger.
So, sitting by the fireplace in the Kissinger security house, all wired up and ready to go, we waited while London prepared the studio. I took my chance and nonchalantly asked if he was still interested in football (which I still maintain the sport is called). The floodgates opened. He’d just finished watching Sheffield United lose at home to Manchester United (what did I think of Sheffield’s
chances of staying up, he asked). He then reeled off the rest of that day’s scores and we discussed whether I should drop Essien from my fantasyteam. I couldn’t by this stage resist bringing my team, QPR, into the conversation and we spent a good while reminiscing about Stan Bowles andRodney Marsh. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and architect of rapprochement with China agrees with me that our true home is the premiership and that John Gregory has got off to a solid start. I ought to get him down the British Queen one Saturday this season.
After a while someone in London with the name of Andrew Marr interrupted our chat and wanted to ask a few questions about Iraq or something, but my day was made.
Football has been, I think, the most useful tool of the trade I’ve had. Money, cigarettes, officialstamps and flirting can often get you what you
want, but come up with an explanation as to why Man City got rid of Keegan and you’re onto a winner.
I’ve had some memorable moments with football over the years: the school teacher on the Kenyan coast who truly believed the four best footballsides ever were – in this order – Brazil, WestGermany, Darlington and England; Hamid, the
young orphaned refugee from Kosovo, who would guard our live position in Kukes wearing a QPR hat; the time when an excited group of children in
Marseilles had been promised that local hero and
ex-Olympique player Chris Waddle was to visit their school and, due to an unfortunate
miscommunication, got me instead.
I know it’s a cliché, but football really is the international language. Arriving at Rio de Janeiro airport in 1998 with cameraman Nik Millard, a pile
of camera gear and insufficient paperwork, we
were about to be put back on a flight home when
I mentioned almost as an afterthought that we
were due to interview 1970 World Cup winning
captain Carlos Alberto the next day. If I remember
correctly, the customs officer not only hurried us
through with no need of any kind of stamp but he also hailed us a taxi.
In Liberia a year earlier with Glenn Middleton,
we’d been held up by Nigerian peacekeepers for
filming somewhere a bit dodgy. The colonel – a
big round man with a thick neck and no sense of
humour – was getting angry with us and our
attempts to bribe our way out of trouble were
proving fruitless. I then spotted something on his
desk, which seemed out of place. A Littlewoods
pools coupon. He caught my glance and held it
up in front of me. “What is this?” he asked. I
explained to him the principles of score draws, no
score draws and the pools panel. We filled in the
column for that Saturday’s fixtures and, in return
for letting us go, I agreed to sub him a couple of
quid and send in the form. I posted the coupon
from Jo’burg a few days later but never heard if
he won or not. In any case Spurs were never
going to draw at Man U.
In Tajikistan shortly after 9/11, the Russian
defence ministry controlled the border with
Afghanistan. To get in, you had to pass through a
large army base. Our contacts had promised us
that the commanding officer was expecting us.
We arrived and knocked on the gate. Obviously
nobody had the slightest idea we were coming
and any thought that we could talk to the CO, let
alone go through the base, was just nonsense.
Until they started to look through our gear. We’d
brought a Sky dish with us as a sweetener and I
explained we planned to set it up in the officer’s
mess. Within the hour I was sitting in the officers’
sauna being force-fed pig fat and vodka and
trying to make out shadowy images on an ancient
Soviet TV, which I think, showed the Nationwide
Conference league table. Or was it the Kazakh
cup draw? The next day we were in Afghanistan.
Albania has had its share of hairy moments for
me. During the month the country went loopy with
guns in 1997, I was sitting on a hillock in
Gjirokaster outside a shed containing a huge
arms cache. Two boys, who looked about 12 but
probably weren’t even that old, had apparently
been put in charge of guarding the place. We
were keen to film but they wanted to wait for
higher authority. So I set about distracting the kids
with a vocal game of Anglo-Albanian Snap – Gary
Lineker! Besnik Hasi! Paul Gascoigne! Edwin
Murati! It did the trick – we got the shots and sloped off.

The other hairy moment for me in Albania was on
the day of the last match of the 98-99 season – a
crucial relegation encounter with Crystal Palace at
Loftus Road
. I got a call in on a crackly sat phone
from Vlore. The well-meaning Australian on the
desk raised my blood pressure to dangerous
levels by saying that the score was six-nil but she
wasn’t sure who had won.
It never ceases to amaze me how football
permeates into the most remote of places. In a
yurt in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kazakhstan I
came across a kid who had a complete set of
Shoot! league ladders from the mid seventies.
Early in 1997 I was in living in South Africa to
escape from the pain of relegation the previous
season. In KwaZulu Natal I was filming a story
about access to water. We followed a woman from
a small village the three miles she had to walk to
collect water. Her husband was not happy with us
filming but she insisted. As she carried two
buckets and balanced a jug on her head, he kept
trying to get in the way. I started talking about
football to try to distract him. We clicked
immediately and before long he had managed to
give me a perfect rendition of Trevor Sinclair’s
wonderful overhead scissors kick goal in the cup
against Barnsley. I hadn’t seen the goal myself but
when I did, I have to admit he was spot on.
Sitting in Connecticut listening to Henry Kissinger talk about the fall of Saigon it crossed my mind that at about the same time as those Americans were airlifted from the roof of the Embassy, I was playing “1-2-3 and in” on a muddy playground in
Cornwall. ...In 1976, as he coped with resigning from international diplomacy, I had to deal with losing the first division title by one point to Liverpool. Still, it gave us something to talk about."

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