Alamy Stock Photo Chris Kamara (file pic).
# Unbelievable Jeff
England's heroes, Chris Kamara included in New Years Honours List
Team captain Leah Williamson, who lifted the Women’s Euro trophy after a 2-1 victory over Germany at Wembley, has been made an OBE.

PLAYERS FROM the England women’s football team that became European champions in July were among the sports figures recognised in Britain’s New Year public Honours List published Friday, while popular former Sky Sports presenter Chris Kamara was also honoured.

Team captain Leah Williamson, who lifted the Women’s Euro trophy after a 2-1 victory over Germany at Wembley, has been made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

Her team-mates Lucy Bronze, Beth Mead and Ellen White all received an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire), which is a level below an OBE on an honours ‘ladder’ designed mainly to recognise the contributions to public life across a variety of fields by British and Commonwealth nationals.

The England women’s team’s Dutch head coach Sarina Wiegman received the higher-ranking CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) on the overseas list.

Mead was the tournament’s top scorer and was voted its best player.

White had been a key figure in England’s attack for more than a decade until her retirement in August, while Barcelona defender Bronze is arguably most highest-profile England women’s footballer, having been voted the best player in the world in 2020.

Britain’s Denise Lewis, the heptathlon champion at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, was awarded a damehood, the female equivalent of a knighthood.

The European Championship victory was the first major tournament success for a senior England football team since the men’s side won the 1966 World Cup.

There had been calls for all the England players involved to receive honours.

That approach, however, led to controversy when all the players in the England 2005 men’s Ashes cricket victory received honours, with Paul Collingwood, who made a mere 17 runs in his lone appearance of the series success against Australia, awarded an MBE.

Hugh Robertson, the chairman of the honours sport committee and a former UK sports minister, said: “The approach that we’ve tried to take with this is when we have these events there is a danger in sort of carpet bombing the entire squad because then you get people who’ve done five minutes on the pitch and get an award.”

Kamara, one of football’s most popular figures, has been made an MBE in the New Year Honours List.

The 65-year-old played for nine English professional clubs in a career spanning 20 years before going on to manage Bradford and Stoke, but in more recent years he has become best known for his work as a pundit and presenter on Sky Sports.

Kamara’s inability to contain his enthusiasm for the game and his propensity for gaffes during live stadium video links in Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme became the stuff of legend, often leaving programme host Jeff Stelling and other studio guests in stitches.

“Unbelievable Jeff” became Kamara’s enduring catchphrase, and it felt like the end of an era when his departure from Sky after 24 years was confirmed at the end of last season.

There was a huge outpouring of support for Kamara on social media when he went public about his apraxia of speech (AOS) diagnosis, saying he felt “a fraud” as a broadcaster having learned he had the condition earlier this year. A documentary called for Lost For Words about Kamara coming to terms with the condition was broadcast earlier this month.

Kamara, who also presented Sky’s Goals On Sunday programme, is well known to non-football lovers as a co-presenter of ITV’s Ninja Warrior show.

Born in Middlesbrough of Sierra Leonean, English and Irish descent, Kamara served in the navy before joining Portsmouth for the first of two spells.

He played over 200 games across two stints at Swindon, and also played for Brentford, Stoke, Leeds, Luton, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Bradford.

He also led the Bantams to promotion to what is now the Championship in 1996.

Kamara’s MBE recognised his services to football, charity and anti-racism.

He spoke in 2020 about how a pub in Wetherby had refused to serve him due to the colour of his skin on his way back to Portsmouth after playing for Pompey in 1975.

In addition, former Northern Ireland goalkeeper Pat Jennings has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours List.

Jennings, 77, won five major trophies at club level with Tottenham and Arsenal as well as other individual awards and accolades, but says the CBE is “without a doubt” the biggest and the best.

His 119 caps for Northern Ireland was a record that was only surpassed by Steven Davis in October 2020, and he represented his country at the 1982 and 1986 World Cup finals.

 Additional reporting by AFP

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