Sinfield a rarity - a thinking footballer
BY STEVE KILGALLON
But the England lock, a pivotal figure in the team which faces the Kiwis at Huddersfield today, does consider Che Guevara to be his ideal dinner guest, and happily manned the picket lines earlier this year when journalists at his local newspaper went on strike.
An old-school ballplaying backrower, Sinfield has captained Leeds - the club coached by Kiwi Brian McClennan - to three successive Super League titles; after the last, he declared that many of his teammates had turned down better money on offer elsewhere to stay with the club.
That fits with Sinfield's own values.
In an age where Luke Rooney could visit Prague on the 2004 Kangaroo tour and complain there was no TAB in the historic Czech city, the 29-year old is a rarity - a thinking footballer.
Another journalist warns me that Sinfield won't talk about his political convictions, although it emerges this reticence is less from embarrassment than the belief he could look like a hypocritical rich sportsman telling other people how they should live.
"I'm an honest, simple type of guy and I just think a bit more equality, a bit more fairness for everyone is the way forward," he says. "I think we need to improve a lot of things in this country, as we do worldwide. I'm not the answer, I'm not pretending to be, I just think some things are very important and I'm in a pretty privileged position.
"I have a fantastic job and a decent lifestyle off the back of it, I am so, so lucky, and if I can use that to help some people or make people aware of things, the that's great.
"I think people have made a point about it because my beliefs are perhaps a little bit different to the norm. I like some of what Castro did and Che Guevara and that's been passed down from my parents. But it's not something I stand on a soapbox and beat a drum about, it's just something I've been part of. Journalists have gone on about it, but I don't see it as a massive thing - everyone has their beliefs."
Sinfield's developed in an area of industrial Lancashire with a strong labour history. He grew up in a terraced house in the Pennine hill town of Oldham, once described in a newspaper story as a shrine to Cuba, a place his parents had visited when few travelled there, and to Guevera, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary killed in 1969 and since immortalised on thousands of student bedroom walls.
Describing himself as a socialist - although he bleakly admits the movement has little future in a selfish world - Sinfield says he can recall going on CND marches (the British anti-nuclear campaign) as a child, and says many of his convictions were passed down from his parents.
"The message and his [Guevara's] writing mattered to my mum and dad," Sinfield once told the Guardian. "It wasn't something fashionable - not that many people in Oldham knew about Che Guevara. That's why it's so important to us. All our conviction comes from those Cuban days."
Journalists on the local Yorkshire Evening Post, taking strike action against a planned wave of redundancies by the newspaper's owner were stunned when Sinfield, who has played nearly 250 first grade games for Leeds, and has won a total of 23 caps for England and Great Britain, arrived at the picket line earlier this year. It provided huge publicity for their cause in rival media.
"I didn't think it was fair people were losing jobs when the company was still making a profit," Sinfield says bluntly. "It was a way of showing my support ... it was the right thing to do and it made a good statement. An hour of my time is nothing when these guys are standing out in the rain for something they believed in."
NWN: No wonder he is a boring speaker. We wonder what his views are/were, when the Oldham race riots kicked off in 2001 ? Leeds Rhinos also had another extreme marxist player a few years back, from the Ratu, Fijian family, based in Rochdale. Ratu was a member of AFA and gets a mention in SEARCHLIGHT/Steve Tilzeys book NO RETREAT.