Paul Gait, one half of the world's most famous lacrosse duo and team Canada star,
has joined Manchester Lacrosse as Technical Director in the latest stage of what promises to be
the biggest club reorganisation in UK Lacrosse history, and is Gait's first direct involvement with a UK based club.
"It's great to be part of such an ambitious and forward thinking club. Manchester Lacrosse have real potential" said Gait.
Manager Phil Greenwood sees the signing as hugely significant.
"There’s nobody bigger in the world game, so to have technical input from
Paul Gait, deBeer and Gait helmets as our kit suppliers, at this level it’s the icing
on the cake. In Lacrosse terms Manchester has underachieved
for some years now, and we’ve worked hard to turn that around. This caps off
all the effort that everybody involved at the club has put in over the last few years.
We’re in good shape for the new season"
John Robinson, Head Coach, is equally optimistic. "Our approach
has been to apply professional standards to our amateur game.
We’ve got top class training facilities through Holmes Place Health
Club in Didsbury, and we’ve brought in players like Ian Cassidy and Kris Heller
from the USA to further develop our junior program and strengthen our squad.
3 years ago we narrowly avoided relegation for the first time, but we've made real
progress in the close season, and I think we’re now ready to take the club to the
next level. Everyone involved with Manchester Lacrosse feels we can make a real
challenge for honours."
Paul Gait added "As Manchester progresses Lacrosse in the UK benefits.
It's all about driving up standards across the board, and I look forward to working
with John, Phil and the staff at Manchester in my technical capacity in the years ahead."
A FIRST EVER SPANISH LACROSSE REPORT
Graham Lester, an elderly Lacrosse referee from Manchester, had digested about 90% of the e-mail, when the last sentence jumped off the page at him.
"Oh, by the way, could you referee the first-ever game to be played in Spain: it will be in August, in Madrid?"
Having refereed the first-ever game in Germany, with Simon Peach, in Berlin in 1994, and the first-ever game in Italy, with Ken Galluccio and Nick Ireland, in Roma in 2002, Lester could not resist the chance of a hat-trick and the arrangements were soon made.
The matches were to be played on Saturday, 10/08/03 and Sunday, 11/08/03.
So Lester and his wife Linda, a veteran of Lacrosse tournaments in Toronto, New Orleans, Lake Placid, Berlin, Munchen, Prague, Neuss, and Roma, decided to go early on the Thursday and return late on the Monday in order to maximise sightseeing opportunities in Madrid, a city new to them.
After a cloudless trip across the Bay of Biscay, the northern port of Santander was clearly visible: a reminder of an overnight ferry trip on a family holiday some 25 years before.
Lester was disappointed that the 12.30 arrival from Manchester was not met by David Beckham, newly transferred from Man United to Real Madrid: perhaps the wires had got crossed.
The pair was met, however, by Jenny Paulin, a Berliner who now lives and works in Madrid, and who was instrumental in the founding of the Madrid Club de Lacrosse. Jenny played in the European Championships for the German Ladies team from 1996 to 2000, when she was captain, and she captained the German team in the World Championship in England, in 2001.
Jenny is one of the few "Red-ranked" German Ladies umpires. She has umpired the Berlin Open and the Prague Cup. Both Jenny and the Lesters had been together as long ago as 1996 in Neuss and so re-introductions were quickly made.
The Madrid Metro has a new line running right into the airport, so that getting into the city is very easy. Whilst waiting for the train, Jenny was pressed into admitting that she spoke five languages: German, Czech, English, Italian and Spanish!
Linda asked Jenny what her job was, expecting languages to play a major part.
Jenny pointed to the bogies of a train standing at the far platform and said: "I design those. I'm an engineer".
Lester opined that Jenny's obvious ability to deal with human situations and her clear mastery of logic and related topics qualifies her to become a Lacrosse referee forthwith.
Just for the record, the Madrid Metro runs on the CORRECT side of the tracks - the left! The reason being - you've guessed it! - that it was designed by an Englishman! King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the first line in 1919.
Having settled in at the hostel, a few Metro stops north of the city centre, the travellers made their way to the Parque del Retiro. In the 17th century, the park was the private playground of the Spanish royal family, but it is now a popular place to relax. The park boasts a boating lake, statues, fountains and, critically when the temperature is in the 90s, a pleasant bar.
Lester is not a big drinker, being about 5 foot 9 inches tall, but a couple of halves was tasted.
The headquarters and rallying point for the weekend was Finbar's, an Irish pub which provides an excellent pint of Guinness. The pub hosts the only official Glasgow Celtic supporters club in Spain and there are many exhibits to prove it.
There the pair discussed the weekend with Karl Seitz, the other co-founder of the founders of the Madrid club. Karl was on the first Hill School (Pa.) Lacrosse team in the early 1960s, played at Yale in the mid 60s and played club Lacrosse thereafter for Long Island Lacrosse Club, New York Lacrosse Club, Westchester County Lacrosse Club, Columbia University Lacrosse Club and a variety of clubs in the Long Island Summer Lacrosse League.
Having met his Spanish wife, Dolores, in the seventies, Karl left for Madrid and, after stints with a Spanish law firm and General Motors España, now helps run a small intellectual property law firm with his Spanish partner.
Karl had thought that his Lacrosse days were over until he was informed, by a rugby-playing friend, in 2001, that Jenny had put an ad in the paper asking if anybody was interested in starting a Lacrosse club. The rest, as they say, is history.
After establishing, to their mutual satisfaction, their prowess and standing in the Lacrosse world, Karl and Lester took Linda to dinner on the terraza of the nearby Vaca Argentina: was Karl trying to bend the ref!?!
Gary Ellis, an Englishman, is the third of the leading lights of Madrid Lacrosse.
Gary was founder and captain of Leicester University Lacrosse Club, 1982, and founder and captain of Southampton University Lacrosse Club, 1983. He has also played for Buckhurst Hill Lacrosse Club, in London.
Gary is often accused of being a chemist but he is, in fact, a research chemist.
As he says himself: "I might cause a few headaches, but I don't bring the aspirins to the games!" He has lived in Spain since 1989.
In the spring of 2002, whilst sipping on a cool pint of Guinness in Finbar's, Gary spotted a Lacrosse stick over the bar. He asked the barman for it, and began weaving around the pub, cradling with great enthusiasm and gibbering about Lacrosse, much to the bewilderment of the other clients. It was understandable, perhaps, after more than 13 years of lacrosselessness! He subsequently made contact with Karl and Jenny and naturally became actively involved in the development of the Club. Gary was instrumental in the organization of the Madrid Lacrosse 2003 Tournament.
Friday was a total sightseeing day. Two tours in an open-top bus - Madrid Historico and Madrid Monumental - were undertaken. The sun was fierce but the breeze, the suntan cream and the caps helped.
The Museo Arqueologico Nacional, holding visigothic crowns, Roman mosaics, Bronze-Age swords and much more, was visited.
All that culture, and still no sign of Beckham…
The cold pre-dinner Guinesses had never tasted better.
And so to Saturday and Lacrosse. The venue was the Estadio Vallehermoso, where Edwin Moses, the king of the 400m hurdles, lost his almost 10-year unbeaten record (122 races from 1977) to Danny Harris, also from USA.
Other significant athletes who have competed there are Bob Beamon, Daley Thompson, Said Aouita, Carl Lewis and Sebastian Coe.
The stadium was inaugurated in 1961 and it was built on the site of an ancient graveyard, closed in 1884. It was popularly known as the "Campo de las Calaveras" or "Field of the Skulls".
The basis of the Madrid team was seven Spaniards who have been attracted to the game: Juan Durado, Daniel González, Jose Vicente Moya, Angel Gago, Pedro Pérez, Julio Cotroneo, and Pedro Eduardo Hondo. They were assisted by two American brothers, Jim and Roberto Alvarez, originally from New Jersey. Roberto now lives in Madrid and Jim, who now lives in London, had flown over for the games. The brothers are of 100% Cuban descent. Talking of new Lacrosse nations, perhaps one day…
Florian Ruppe, who has played in Germany, and Gareth Deere, a Welshman, were also in the Madrid team: both of the latter now live in Barcelona.
Adam Sherlock, Timperley, and Rob Clark, an Old Hulmeian, now of Hillcroft, were volunteers from England who lent some experience to the team. Gary Ellis captained the side and Karl Seitz was player/coach.
The opposition for the two days was provided by a combined team from Southampton University and Portsmouth University, co-captained by Mike Elmes and Matthew Haynes. Most of the South Coast boys had not played much Lacrosse before going to college, and so they provided ideal opponents for the fledgling Madlax squad.
Cliff Dorsey, a Marylander now based in Texas, who is currently working in England, bolstered the side.
And so the first whistle blew and one more country was added to the ever-growing family of lacrosse nations.
The start was slow, the score at half-time being 0-2 in favour of the South Coast team, and the three-quarter score being 0-4.
But then Rob Clark arrived. Rob is a natural sportsman, having played for England Under-19s in the World Series in Adelaide in 1988 and having been, inter alia, to Canada playing Rugby. Rob's expertise at the face-offs began to tell and Jim Alvarez, assisted by his brother Roberto, scored to put Madrid truly on the Lacrosse map.
A referee's time out was called - note the position of the apostrophe - and the ball was presented to Karl in the time-honoured ILF tradition.
Madrid started to come back into the game and, with 16 seconds remaining, they pulled the score back to 4-5. As the game was in its last 3 minutes, the clock stopped. A final effort saw the equaliser come with 2 seconds left: the first game on Spanish soil had ended in a draw.
In view of the heat, it was decided to go straight into Sudden Death. An agonising 6 minutes elapsed before Matthew Haynes hit the onion bag to decide the game in favour of the English squad.
A mixed game was held after the Men's game. Two English girls, Nicky Corby and Hanna Lang, played for the South Coast, whilst the only Spanish lady player, Isabel San Juan, was joined on the Madrid team by Jenny and four German girls, Constanze Abelthauser, Dorothea Muller, Claudia Zeichner and Claudia Zindl. The numbers were made up to 12-a-side by volunteers from the men and the game resulted in a 1-2 win for the South coast. Jenny, Nicky and Hanna scored the goals.
A Tournament Lunch was held at a swimming pool right next to the stadium. Fortuitously, the teams' tables were right next to the bar.
The ILF Referees Association toast - "I must make my Throat be Thirsty" - was borrowed for the occasion and was rendered lustily.
And so, after an afternoon in the pool, to Finbar's.
Dinner was at Edelweiss, a German restaurant with, probably, the biggest portions in the world!
Und immer kein Beckham…
The Sunday men's game was not so close. The South Coast boys, who had not played for three months or so prior to Saturday's game, were more quickly into their stride and deservedly won 5-10.
The mixed game which followed ended 3-3 and it was decided to call it an honourable draw. Jenny scored three times - two for Madrid and an own goal for the opposition! The first lacrosse tournament in Iberia was history.
The elderly Mancunian had survived four games in two days, 350 miles or so from the coast of North Africa. He gave thanks that he would not have to don the stripes for ten more days until the Amsterdam Tournament came round.
Immediately prior to the awards ceremony, Lester read a message from Peter Hobbs, the President of the International Lacrosse Federation, who welcomed Spain into the family of Lacrosse nations. The message was extremely well received and Madrid Lacrosse hope to put it, along with the ball with which the first Spanish goal was scored and the ball which scored the winning goal, into a display-case in Finbar's. Lester presented Jenny and Gary with ILFRA polo shirts.
It had come out in conversation that Karl had played against Australia in the USA in 1972, when the Australians had come to England on their way home. The Aussies had thrashed England 18-3 in Manchester when Lester was reserve goalie. Lester said that it served the England selectors right and presented Karl with an Aussie Lacrosse shirt to cement their hitherto unknown connection, which had lain hidden for 31 years!
Participation certificates were awarded to all, one further example of the attention-to- detail that had been prevalent all weekend.
Awards were presented, as well.
Hanna Lang had the Most Goals (Women), Constanze Abelthauser was the Best Defender (Women's) and Claudia Zindl was the Most Valuable Player (Women's).
For the men, Matthew Haynes won the award for the most goals in the first game and Rob Clark was the most prolific in the second. Matthew and Rob shared the award for the most goals overall.
Aaron Foster was the Best Defender (Men's), Sim Low was the Best Goalkeeper (Men's) and Pedro Eduardo Hondo was the Most Valuable Spanish Player (Men's). Pedro Pérez was voted Most Valuable Player of the Men's Tournament. In his first games in goal, with only a couple of practices under his pad, his shot-stopping was amazing. Karl said the one of the committee's hardest decisions had been deciding on who should receive the "Best Referee" award. He revealed that, after much discussion and with some reluctance, the award had gone to Lester, as he was the only referee there.
It occurred to Lester that, had there been an Award for the Worst Referee, then he would have won that, too.
The tournament trophy was presented to the South Coast captains.
And so to Finbar's to watch Manchester United thrash Arsenal 1-1 in the Community Shield. Certainly no sign of Beckham there…
The day (almost!) ended with dinner at Karl's and Dolores' club - Karl was still trying to bend the ref even after the games were over!
Finally a nightcap at Finbar's with many of the Southampton - Porstmouth boys and Jim and Roberto Alvarez, all in full song.
First stop for Monday's sightseeing was the Real Academia de Bellas Artes, with works by Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Goya and El Greco.
Next came the Palacio Real, built in the 18th century by Spain's first Bourbon king to reflect Versailles, which it does magnificently. The charter by which Spain joined the European Union was signed here.
The third port-of-call was the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, containing works by Dali, Miro and others.
Guernica, the most famous painting of the 20th century, by an intense and passionate Picasso, is hung here.
Just like some of Lester's decisions when officiating, much of the modern art was interesting but rather difficult to understand.
All of the above three sites are, despite the fierce heat, within walking distance of each other, providing that frequent water breaks are taken.
And so to the airport...
History had been made and a wonderful time had been had by all.
A local Madrid television station, Telemadrid, had taped large segments of the men's game on Saturday as well as interviews with participants: 5 minutes of this was aired on Tuesday evening. Besides interviews, it included some rather tough game action sequences as well as Rob Clark's overtime-producing goal.
In addition, Radio COPE interviewed Karl at half time of the men's game on Saturday for about 5 minutes and this was broadcast all over Spain. All in all, Lacrosse seems to have received some very good Spanish media exposure which, it is hoped, will help attract people to the game.
The Madrid Tournament is to become an annual event and everybody, particularly those who have never been to the city before, is urged to think about making the trip next year.
Bring a team or bring a stick or bring a whistle AND bring a swimsuit.
You will be made most welcome and you will see one of the great cities of the world.
There are those, it is rumoured, who do not believe that Lacrosse is the Meaning of Life.
After a weekend of the Creator's Game in Madrid, it is hard to empathise with them.
Written by Graham Lester with much assistance by Jenny, Gary and Karl!