I heard today that English goalkeeping legend Ray Clemence has died. Now, I’m not a big football fan despite growing up with compulsive enthusiasms for the top English leagues. While I’ve always preferred rugby, years in America taught me that any sport can catch your imagination and act as a gateway to a new culture. I learned that baseball is more pointless than cricket, that American Football is seriously bad for your health and that to watch basketball, is to see how evolution works, but more slowly.
I often watched Ray Clemence’s incredible performances at Liverpool in the 1970s. Not that I followed Liverpool but they were so hugely successful in that era they were regularly on TV. He did more of the same at Spurs, who I did follow, after Clemence transferred to north London in 1981, the same year we set up a new home in Dallas and became Cowboys fans (and could barely see beyond Texas let alone the US).
Clemence made more than 1000 professional career appearances and his statistics remain spectacular to say the least. Just one of those statistics should enough to get you reading more on Clemence: imagine playing 336 games in a row in this era, something Clemence did over a six year period between September ’72 and March ’78. Six years without missing a game through injury or loss of form or personal circumstances. Spare a thought for any second goalie who would have been competing for his position!
And this being Movember, the month of prostate cancer awareness, I thought it appropriate that the Irish Independent put prostate cancer in the core of its articles on Clemence. What surprised me was how few other media outlets did the same. Which is sad because prostate cancer kills.
The Irish Independent drew on an interview from 2018 with Prostate Cancer UK, Clemence having originally been diagnosed in 2005:
‘I just want to give a positive attitude to everybody who has a connection with prostate cancer, whether they’re helping to find cures or they’ve got it.
There’s lots of talk about men like me only lasting five or six years with it. Well I’m 13 going on 14 years now, and I’m doing all the things that I want.
I’m a survivor, basically, and I want to continue enjoying life for as long as possible.’
Ray Clemence was right to say these things but don’t be fooled. This kind of thinking works when you know you have cancer and are doing everything you can to fight it. I had no idea, no clues let alone symptoms. It was caught because my employer made it hard not to do their annual medical which included blood tests. In fact, it was through those tests that I later learned I had a noisy, deteriorating heart valve.
So there we have it. I’d recommend you get a medical check-up regularly and I did it annually from about the age of 40. Then I worked for a company that offered a free check-up once a year after the age of 55, every two before that. I told them it saved my life so they reduced it to 50. So there you have it again – every employer should offer this when the state does not.
I’d argue that access to medical check-ups is a basic human right. Actually, I don’t have to argue the case because others were busy doing so while Ray Clemence was in the middle of his playing career.
‘The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force in 1976. The human rights that the Covenant seeks to promote and protect include the right to social protection, to an adequate standard of living and to the highest attainable standards of physical and mental well-being.’