Thursday, 25 August 2011

How to keep it up

Photo credit: Daniel Cutting
Many men have problems keeping it up, especially under pressure, but Daniel Cutting certainly isn’t one of them.

Before your mind starts racing, I’m not about to launch into a discussion about male impotency; I’m talking about the all-important football keepy-uppy of course (what are you like?!).

Daniel is a three-time world record holder in football freestyling. If you haven’t seen him in action, you definitely should; it’ll blow your mind.

Not only has he won a plethora of awards and accolades, he has put some of the world’s top footballing talents to shame in the process.

The young trickster first made his name back in 2006 when he entered the UK Pringles Keepy-Uppy Championships. He was crowned champion after managing 28 keep-uppies with a Pringles can, leaving Steven Gerrard and Roberto Carlos eating his dust!

Other claims to fame including body-doubling for Kaka in adverts and performing at a party attended by Dirk Kuyt and Robbie Fowler.

This guy is seriously talented. But although he clearly has a natural aptitude as a freestyler and entertainer, he didn’t learn his routines overnight. He has spent hour after hour perfecting his skills from a very young age. And it is this patience and dedication that has got him where he is today.

"I started practicing at secondary school age," he tells Sorted. "Every day after school a friend and I went out in the street and practiced keepy-uppies for hours on end."

And despite his success, Daniel has kept both feet firmly on the ground (when he’s not doing his tricks, that is). Despite having met some of his great footballing heroes, he still makes time to see his friends, go to the cinema and strum away on his guitar.

Daniel leads the worship at his church in Milton Keynes and takes part in plenty of youth, community and school events – both in Christian and secular settings. He is happy to share his skills with others and has held several workshops for youngsters to learn new tricks.

He says: "I believe God has given me a gift, and although I have obviously worked very hard practising and perfecting it, I want to bring glory to God through the person I am and the skills that I have."

Read the full story in the upcoming issue of Sorted magazine.

Follow Daniel on Twitter: @dcfreestyle.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

It’s good to talk

Whenever I settle down for a quiet read on the train, another passenger invariably plonks him or herself down and inadvertently sabotages it. It’s usually a chubby, middle-aged man who immediately takes over the armrest and insists on engaging me in deep conversation as he choffs down a pungent cheese and onion sandwich. Either that or a student sits in the seat behind and hollers the events of a wild night out down the phone while repeatedly kicking the back of my chair.

These episodes really used to grind my gears. Why can’t people just keep themselves to themselves, I would ask myself as I pushed Keith/Geoff/Malcolm’s arm off the armrest? And why can’t Charnelle/Alicia/Mia relive her drunken night via text? I’ve bought a brand new novel for this journey and they are ruining it for me!

But rather than trying to persuade my fellow passengers to keep quiet through the use of dirty looks and overloud sighs (as I used to do), I’ve come to realise that as human beings we need to interact with each other, to tell folk how we’re feeling, to make people laugh, to gain approval, to unburden ourselves.

And one of the benefits of train talk, I guess, is that it’s more or less anonymous (unless you’re spilling your guts in the same carriage as your boss). That way, our sex-obsessed student can voice the most intimate of thoughts without being overheard by her mother or the housemate she hooked up with last night. And cheese and onion man is free to express himself in the safe knowledge I won’t be able to shop him to anyone he knows.

As Christians, I feel we have a responsibility to engage with people who are desperate to be heard. On several occasions I’ve felt overwhelmed with sadness about other passenger’s lives: the loss of a loved one; the terrible aftermath of an affair; or a confidence-shattering work situation.

I’m not saying we should make lifetime commitments to help these people, and women, particularly, should be cautious when talking to men they don’t know. But I do think it can help people to know someone is prepared to listen, is interested in what they have to say, and can offer helpful advice where necessary. An opportunity might arise to offer prayer or to share the gospel, but often people are just looking for a willing ear.

It’s also worth remembering that trains aren’t the only venues where we encounter people who need to talk. I’ve heard the life stories of several people while waiting at bus stops (what is it about Brits and public transport?!). I’ve been drawn into deep conversations in the pub. And some of the neediest people I’ve met have unburdened themselves to me over a cup of coffee at church.

Since making myself more available to people, I’ve discovered that the listening process actually works both ways; that you literally reap what you sow when you make the effort to ‘love your neighbour’. For me, talking to random people has led to job offers, an opportunity to buy a much-needed new bike for next to nothing and help organising heavy luggage, to name but a few.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love to lose myself in a good book, but there are occasions when we should put what we’re reading down, turn off our iPods and allow people to open up.

You never know, maybe the next time we’re on the train Graham/Susy will tell us the story of a friend who got on a train, met someone who offered up a simple piece of advice and experienced a major turnaround in his or her life.

As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved...

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Is rioting ever right?

 The cleanup begins

A riot is the language of the unheard” (Martin Luther King, Jr)

Unless you’ve been asleep for the last few days, you’ll know there have been some serious riots in London. Violence has been rife, homes have been burnt down and shops have been looted. Judging by the pictures, parts of our glorious capital now look like a war zone.

However, I’m ashamed to say that I felt somewhat removed from the situation until I heard the trouble was spreading to other parts of the UK. Enjoying a quiet cup of tea in bed this morning I was shocked to see that rioting had been happening round the corner from me in Liverpool.

Don’t get me wrong, I was saddened and angered the minute I saw these louts destroying people’s homes, endangering lives and demolishing business owners’ livelihoods.

But it certainly makes you sit up and take note when it’s your own community that’s under attack. When the family business you buy flowers from is broken into, when your friend’s car is set alight, when people are afraid to leave their homes.

Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it” Malcolm X

The trouble started after the controversial shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham. I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of it here as I don’t know all the facts, but friends and family of the young father-of-four felt an injustice had taken place and decided to stage a protest. And that’s when the mayhem started…

So were family members wrong to stand up for what they believed? Should we do nothing when we sense unfairness and discrimination? Absolutely not. Jesus himself took a whip into the temple where corruption was rife. He turned over tables and literally chased moneylenders out of the building (John 2:15).

Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well” Mohandas Ghandi

So should we all grab our baseball bats and lighters and join the ‘party’? Again, absolutely not. The rioting has nothing to do with Mr Duggan. It has nothing to do with the grief of his loved ones. It’s not about politics or even racism (which prompted these provocative quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X).

It is purely about destruction and theft. It’s about anarchy and attacking the police. It’s about tearing down everything we as communities have worked hard to build; about stealing a piece of carpet while the flats above the shop light up the skies.

I imagine some of these ‘kids’ have been sitting around waiting for this moment, for any old excuse to make their mark, to move from a futile existence to a wrongly perceived position of power.

It’s easy to feel angry about what they’re doing, and we should. But we should also be asking ourselves why they are behaving like this? What is missing from their lives?

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programmes of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom” Martin Luther King, Jr

Rather than tripping ourselves up on our soap boxes, we need to show these people that enough’s enough. But meeting violence with violence is not the solution. We need to do more than talk about a ‘Big Society’; we need to get out there, clean up the mess and restore people’s hope.

Civil unrest is a symptom of a broken society and as Christians we can – and should – help to fix it. That might mean getting involved in community cleanup or letting a friend sleep on the couch for a few days. 

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” Jesus Christ

We need to meet people in practical ways, right where they are. But we also need to meet their spiritual needs.

The only way people will experience true freedom and fulfilment is by understanding that God has a purpose for their lives (Jeremiah 29:11) and that he loves them enough to sacrifice his only son (John 3:16) so that they can not only live, but live life to the absolute full (John 10:10).

Stealing a mobile phone might give the looters a day or two of pleasure, but hearing this good news has the power to change their lives forever.

Read more about this 'good news' in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

(On a slightly lighter note, this made me chuckle. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse: the niftiest looter in town.)

United we stand (with a little help from Celtic)

Photo credit: Oxfam
With the madness taking place in London and beyond, it’s easy to forget there are people in other parts of the world facing life-threatening drought, famine and disease. To help us regain perspective, a star-studded football match will take place tonight (August 9) to raise money for the Oxfam East Africa appeal.

The game will be shown on ITV4 at 7.45pm and will see Celtic Legends take on the Manchester United Legends at Celtic Park. The Celtic team features a host of top names such as Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton, Lubo Moravcik, Neil Lennon, Johan Mjallby and Alan Thompson. Among those hitting the pitch for Man U will be Teddy Sheringham, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Roy Keane.

And it’s not only ex-players who are getting on board. The Verve frontman Richard Ashcroft has been spreading the news and comedian Billy Connolly, patron of the Celtic Foundation, will be there on the night to support the cause. Messages of support have also been recorded by the likes of Wayne Rooney and Rod Stewart.

Meanwhile, actor Ralf Little was announced as a late addition to the United team this week and as the fixture approaches, he appears full of confidence: “The Celtic boys are looking strong but I can’t see them causing us any real problems. With me and Keano in mid-field we’ll take care of business.

On a more serious note, the aim of the match is to raise £50 million to help people in East Africa who are dying from a lack of basic resources and facilities. Three million people are caught up in the crisis in parts of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and other countries in the region.

These people are desperately in need of clean water, food and basic sanitation. The money will be used to buy food, to drill essential boreholes, to clean existing water supplies, to provide sanitation and to vaccinate livestock. These measures won’t just save lives now; they will leave a legacy for many future generations.

For those of you who want to get right to the heart of the action, tickets are available either online from the Celtic ticket office or on 0871 226 1888. At just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions, why not make it a family affair?

Executive producer, Lester Holcombe, says: “Who wouldn’t give £10 to watch footie heroes such as Larsson, Keane, Sutton, Yorke, McNamara and Dublin? The match is a great chance to bring your kids to see some proper old school legends and the addition of the musical icons and celebrities adds a really fun element. These matches are really great entertainment.”

Those of you watching from home will be encouraged to text donations throughout the game, so dig deep. And even if you’re not into football and celebrities, none of us should sit on by while innocent lives are lost and fellow human beings suffer. If you can’t stomach the match you can still support the cause by donating to the East Africa appeal at or by calling 0300 200 1999.

Get the latest football goss and news about other charity ventures in the upcoming issue of Sorted magazine.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Putting a price on football

 Photo credit: Nigel Wilson/Wikipedia

With the new football season upon us, many of us will be looking forward to cheering on the teams we love from our favourite pitch side seats. But while MasterCard might try to persuade me that seeing Gerrard bag a hat-trick against Man United is indeed priceless, I will need to rustle up more than a little loose change before I head to Anfield this season.

New research from the BBC shows that Premier League tickets range from £30 at Wigan (£15 for children) to a whopping £100 at Arsenal (£35 for kids). Fans of Championship clubs aren’t much better off, with the cheapest tickets on offer at Peterborough (£25/£20) and the most expensive at Ipswich (£59/£15).

And with attendance levels at their highest for 50 years, it’s unlikely prices are going to come down any time soon.

Then, once you’ve got the tickets, you’ll need the new shirt. That will set you back up to £45, and that’s just for the home shirt; many fans also invest in the away jersey. Another £8 or so for the scarf and you’ll just about be starting to look the part.

You might think that’s where the spending ends, but you’d be wrong. Once you’ve gained entry to the stadium, there are plenty of other items to splash out on. A programme can set you back between £1 (St Johnstone) and £4 (Leeds), while a cup of tea costs between 50p (Crawley) and £2.20 (Blackburn, West Brom and Newcastle).

So for a family of four to have a ‘day out’ (couple of hours) at the match it could set you back as much as £400 – excluding food and travel spends! That’s enough for a week’s holiday in Cornwall or a swanky new telly!

Of course there are clubs that offer a much cheaper match experience, but few of us are likely to change our allegiances just to cut costs. So how can we get the stadium experience without causing a second credit crisis?

Here are Sorted's top tips to keep you in pies and programmes:
  1. Some games are cheaper than others – if you can’t afford a category A game, you may be able to get a better price on tickets for a less sought-after, or mid-week, match 
  2.  Compare shirt prices online as some vendors offer much better prices than others 
  3. Raise cash by selling old shirts/scarves on ebay (if you can bear to part with them). The retro look is in and you can use the money to buy this season’s clobber 
  4.  Take your own refreshments. This might seem a bit drastic, but if you go to ten games a season the savings could be significant 
  5. If you simply can’t afford to go to the ground, get a crowd over to watch the game, or hit the pub with the lads (and ladettes) if you don’t have posh telly. You can recreate the stadium atmosphere with your enthusiastic voices, a few tables (for banging) and some swirling scarves. (Or if you’re a Man City fan, simply watch the game facing away from the screen)    
 Follow this season’s football highs and lows in every issue of Sorted magazine.