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Sports editor James Newbold introduces Concrete’s first ever sport supplement.
elcome to Concrete’s Summer of Sport supplement, which accompanies our first issue of 201415. And what a summer it’s been! Who could have dared to predict the 7-1 humiliation which befell hosts Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals? What of Canadian tennis sensation Eugenie Bouchard’s rise to super stardom; King Louis’ 4-0 humbling by MK Dons on the day Manchester United smashed the British transfer record to sign Ángel di María; or Alastair Cook’s Lazarus act that saw England salvage their positively dreadful season with a commanding test series win over India? It was a summer full of intrigue, but not always for the right reasons. England’s dismal showing at the World Cup, as Roy Hodgson’s men slipped up at the first hurdle for the first time since 1958, was sadly all too predictable.
Chris Froome’s hopes of defending his Tour de France title fell by the wayside with three falls in two days; he was eventually forced to abandon the race, leaving Dave Brailsford to rue his decision to leave Bradley Wiggins at home. Andy Murray’s Wimbledon title defence also went awry, his quarter-final defeat to eigth seed Grigor Dimitrov was as comprehensive as it was unexpected. But there has been great cause for optimism too. The organisers of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games did a terrific job of evoking the spirit of London 2012 as the home nations reaped the rewards, with the likes of Tom Daley, David Weir and Nicola Adams defending their Olympic medals. Bright young talents Claudia Fragapane and Ross Murdoch announced themselves as ones to watch come Rio 2016. Great Britain also topped the medal table in the European
Championships: Mo Farah won both the 5,000 and 10,000 metre titles as Team GB took a record-breaking 23 medals, including 12 gold.
ewis Hamilton’s British Grand Prix win and his comeback drives in Germany and Hungary mean he remains firmly in contention for his second world championship in Formula One, despite a clash with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in Belgium that ended in retirement. And Scotland’s Susie Wolff became the first woman to drive on a Grand Prix weekend since 1991 during Friday practice at Silverstone and Hockenheim. We hope you enjoy reading. And don’t forget that you can contribute to Concrete by contacting our editorial team at email@example.com.
Flickr: Ronnie Mcdonald
Premier League predictions Nathan Packham compiles the Concrete Sport writers’ predictions for the 2014-2015 Premier League season.
head of the new Premier League season, the Concrete Sport writing team knocked their collective heads together to guess what the Premier League table will look come the end of the season. What follows is an amalgamation of those predictions that in no way wholly reflects (and in many ways wholly diverges from) the viewpoint of any one person. Whether they will be in any way accurate in May is a very different story…
Jose Mourinho can no longer fall back on his “little horse” analogy this season, as Chelsea have spent shrewdly to rectify last season’s third-place finish. The additions of Diego Costa and returning hero Didier Drogba to a front-line that struggled for goals last season should prove the difference in games where Chelsea dropped points last season, especially with former Arsenal man Cesc Fabregas pulling the strings in midfield. Such is the strength of Chelsea’s squad that World Cup winner André Schürrle may find it difficult to hold down a first team place, with Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard all competing for the attacking midfield positions. Mourinho has also moved to strengthen his formidable defence, which conceded just 27 goals last season. Thibaut Courtois returns from his three-year loan at Atlético Madrid to compete with Petr Cech between the sticks, the Belgian’s former Atlético team-mate Filipe Luis also making the move to West London to replace the departed Ashely Cole.
With arguably the strongest squad in the Premier League, the blue half of Manchester had very little to do in the transfer market until they bought Eliaquim Mangala and somehow snapped up Frank Lampard on loan from franchise club New York City FC. Mauricio Pellegrino’s shrewd additions of Bacary Sagna, midfield enforcer Fernando and backup keeper Willy Caballero will also prove useful as they attempt once again to compete on four fronts while balancing the books after their failure to meet Financial Fair Play requirements. What might let City down in the league is owner Sheikh Mansour’s desire to win the top prize in European club football, the Champions League. Of course, as defending league champions City are sure to be there or thereabouts, but having had a negligible impact in Europe in recent seasons, the pressure will be on for Pellegrini to extend their stay among the European elite, which, as Chelsea found out to their cost last season,
can prove detrimental to league form.
European distractions are one thing Manchester United won’t have to worry about as they look to make a new start under Louis van Gaal. Last season was an absolute cataclysm for the Red Devils, seventh in the league table marking a dramatic contrast from their sustained period of dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson. My how they’ve missed him. With the brief David Moyes era now behind them, United are looking to rebuild for the future, with record £60m signing Ángel di María certain to excite the Old Trafford faithful. His Argentinian international teammate Marcos Rojo should come straight into the starting line-up in defence, along with former Southampton prodigy Luke Shaw, while the acquisition of long-term target Ander Herrera should improve the service to new United captain Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. United will need to improve their defense before the window shuts, having lost stalwarts Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra over summer, but with ‘King Louis’ in charge and no European midweek distractions, they should return to the top four.
Having finally ended their nineyear trophy drought in May, Arsène Wenger’s team should go into the season full of renewed optimism, a sense heightened by the signing of Chilean playmaker Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona. But if recent history
is anything to go by, consolidating their fourth-place finish from last season should be the realistic expectation. With limited striking options, the burden continues to weigh heavy on Olivier Giroud; Lukas Podolski competed the full 90 minutes only five times last season and Yaya Sanogo has still to convince. Wenger has made some much-needed defensive reinforcements with the captures of Callum Chambers and Mathieu Debuchy, but don’t rule out a deadline day trolley dash. Let’s hope all this bubbling optimism doesn’t end with the usual collapse, injuries and frustration.
The Reds galvanised the Premier League with their inordinately energetic attacking style last season as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge brought Liverpool to within touching distance of a first league title. Following their Uruguayan talisman’s inevitable move to Barcelona, one headline writer’s dream has been replaced by another as the enigmatic Mario Balotelli makes a welcome return to the Premier League. Brendan Rodgers has a history of bringing the best out of players others have overlooked – can Super Mario fill the breach? Having spent over £100m to improve their squad, including a £47m raid of Southampton for Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren, it will surely take time for all the new faces to bed in. This, combined with the rigours of the Champions League, may see the Reds miss out on top four this season, although the grounds are in place for another title challenge in the near future.
As is often the way, Tottenham provided great entertainment for all the wrong reasons last season, spending over £100m on players to try to make up for Gareth Bale’s exit, including £30m Argentine winger Erik Lamela. This hasty experiment didn’t pay off, with their raft of foreign imports unable to click and eventually costing Andre Villas Boas his job. After an interim period under Tim Sherwood, Spurs have selected former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino to translate his attacking blend of football to White Hart Lane and get the best out of Lamela and co. A Champions League push might prove out of their reach, but a strong Europa League run might just be enough for fans.
Few expected Everton to top the dizzy heights of David Moyes’ reign in 2013-14, but they had an excellent season under Roberto Martínez which saw them narrowly miss out on a Champions League spot due to a poor run of form in their last few games. Former Wigan manager Martinez has instilled a real confidence in his younger squad members, unleashing the latent talents of Ross Barkley to great effect last season and seeing John Stones develop into a future England centre half. Crucially, Martínez has also secured the backing of the board, splashing out a club-record £28m to bring Romelu Lukaku to Merseyside on a permanent basis and convincing free agent Samuel Eto’o to sign a two year deal. The Toffees should find themselves comfortably in the top half, but are unlikely to trouble the Champions League places given the improvements made elsewhere.
Allez le Toon! Mike Ashely’s decision to finally part with his chequebook after 18 months without signing a player should again see Newcastle comfortably feature in the top half of the table. The signing of 24-yearolds Rémy Cabella and Emmanuel Rivière compliment the thriving French contingent at St. James’ Park, while the addition of Ajax
captain Siem De Jong, Dutch World Cup star Daryl Janmaat and boyhood Newcastle fan Jack Colback from fierce rivals Sunderland could prove inspired.
Without the distractions of Europa League football, Swansea could well sneak a top-table finish as the league’s youngest manager Garry Monk prepares for his first full season in charge. The Swans have signed Bafetimbi Gomis – a capable forward in his own right who could form a deadly partnership with star striker Wilfried Bony if he stays, and welcome back Gylfi Sigurdsson, who starred on loan in South Wales two seasons ago. Former Arsenal keeper Lukasz Fabianski finally gets a shot at regular first time football between the sticks, but will have to cut out the errors which blighted his time with the Gunners.
Mark Hughes deserves great credit for overhauling the ingrained long-ball philosophy that served Stoke so well under former boss Tony Pulis without sacrificing results. Since his appointment last season, Hughes has overseen a new pass-and-move ethos that has allowed Marko Arnautovic to thrive and, persuaded sometime Barcelona prospect Bojan Krkic to join the Potters on a season-long loan. With Victor Moses creating chances from out wide and Phil Bardsley and Steve Sidwell providing further Premier League experience, Stoke should finish comfortably mid-table. And, if all else fails, Steven N’Zonzi can always knock a long throw onto the head of Peter Crouch.
With Tony Pulis in charge, Crystal Palace were last season’s surprise package, turned from relegation certainties to feared opponents by season’s end. Like most Pulis teams, Palace were built on a very solid rear guard action, but possessed the explosive pace on the wings in the form of Yannick Bolasie and Jason Puncheon to punish teams on the counter, as Liverpool discovered in the dramatic 3-3 draw at Selhurst Park. All looked to be well for another season in the top flight – hence their high placing here – but having missed out on a number of key transfer targets, with only Frazier Campbell, Brede Hangeland and Martin Kelly arriving, Pulis announced his shock resignation on the eve of the season, leaving Palace facing an uncertain future. Can new manager Neil Warnock carry on where Pulis left off? Only time will tell.
The major worry for Hull this year comes off the back of their excellent FA Cup run: they’ve qualified for the Europa League. The squad will need serious rotation for these games, but Bruce has tentatively attempted to combat this by acquiring Spurs pairing Jake Livermore and Michael Dawson, in addition to the lively Tom Ince and former Norwich man Robert Snodgrass. Hull certainly have the quality to steer clear of the trap door; much will depend on how the long travel distances for Thursday nights in Europe will affect their performances come the weekend. So long as they focus on survival, they should be fine.
Wikimedia: Ruaraidh Gillies
It was the miracle of miracles for Gus Poyet last season, as Sunderland somehow survived with a few games to spare despite sitting bottom at Christmas and a run-in that included tough fixtures against Manchester City, United and Chelsea. The club has an air of normality about it again after the maddening reign
Flickr: the arcticblues of Paolo di Canio that saw ketchup, ice and mobile phones deemed contraband and in Connor Wickham, one of the Premier League’s most in-form strikers. The arrival of Jack Rodwell after two frustrating seasons of inactivity at Manchester City is a sign of the club’s ambition, and if Fabio Borini does decide to move to Wearside, they should have enough to get over the line early on.
Demanding more attacking play from a Sam Allardyce team might not end well, but with the addition of Teddy Sheringham as attacking coach and the club record signing of Ecuadorian World Cup star Enner Valencia, West Ham might begin to have enough to start progressing up the pitch on a more regular basis. Their solid defensive record should again stand them in good stead, but that won’t be enough for David Gold and David Sullivan if they start to notice long balls involving an Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan combination creeping back into West Ham’s play. Allardyce could be a favourite for the sack this year despite the owners’ loyalty last year, but West Ham should survive whoever ends up sitting in the dugout.
How the mighty have fallen. There has been an exodus of Biblical proportions at Southampton with their manager and five first team players all departing for pastures new. Replacement Ronald Koeman has been brought in stop the rot and it’s his job to convince the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez to remain on the south coast. Their pockets lined from all the sales, the Saints have found it difficult to get their man for a good price – witness the £12m paid to Hull City for Shane Long – but have still managed to clinch deals for Fraser Forster , Dušan Tadi and Graziano Pellè. Nevertheless, a repeat of last season’s eighth place looks unlikely.
Villa have had a shocker in the transfer market so far. They’ve brought in Philippe Senderos, let go by nowrelegated Fulham in January, his former teammate Kieran Richardson and two ex-Liverpool players the Anfield faithful would sooner forget in Joe Cole and Aly Cissokho. With owner Randy Lerner actively looking to sell up, there could be troubled times ahead for Paul Lambert’s team.
QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS
The Hoops are back after a year away wheeler-dealer manager
Harry Redknapp once again at the helm. QPR seem to be in much better shape this time around, with a younger, hungrier squad playing to impress the manager and win football matches, rather than the minimum required to take home the next pay cheque. Redknapp has been astute in the transfer market, handing Rio Ferdinand an opportunity to extend his playing career and snapping up some of the brightest talents from last year’s relegated outfits – Cardiff pair Stephen Caulker and Jordon Mutch, and Norwich City’s Leroy Fer. It isn’t going to be easy for QPR, but they should just about keep their heads above water.
West Brom ended the season very badly with three straight defeats in May, the kind of form which saw them almost relegated under the hapless Pepe Mel. The Baggies moved swiftly to replace the Spaniard with Alan Irvine and broke their transfer record to sign highly-regarded Nigerian international Brown Ideye to lead the line, but will be looking for a big season from academy graduate Saido Berahino with squad depth seemingly thin on the ground. Irvine is unproven at Premier League level, so anything more than keeping Albion in the top flight for the fifth successive season will be a bonus.
Leicester were the very entertaining winners of the Championship this year, and fans will be hoping that they bring some of their youthful bravado to the top league. However, the Foxes have been unspectacular in the transfer market, with veteran defender Matthew Upson and former Brighton striker Leonardo Ulloa their most notable additions. If their stars of last season can start firing they might have a chance at survival, but they lack good old-fashioned Premier League experience.
The obvious choice for bottom spot, but Burnley deserve to be commended for an excellent Championship season, where they amassed 93 points to grab the second automatic spot, despite having a budget far smaller than their rivals. Manager Sean Dyche looks like an army drill coach, sounds like one, and probably acts like one on the training ground. If they are to have any chance of survival then Danny Ings, Sam Vokes and Kieran Trippier have to be in tip-top form for every single of their 38 games. Opting to bulk out his squad rather than adding a glamour signing, Dyche will be reliant on that core squad from last year to beat the drop.
Germany celebrate their 1-0 victory over Argentina in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, as Lionel Messi absorbs the South Americans’ defeat Wikimedia: Marcello Masal Jnr
Germany rampant in Brazil as England flounder Kat Lucas reflects on a memorable World Cup that saw the world’s best team deny glory to the man who is arguably the world’s best player.
ermany became the first European team to win a World Cup in South America as they stormed to victory in Brazil 2014. Joachim Low’s young side thrilled the watching world – and a somewhat opportunistic Angela Merkel – with a 1-0 triumph in the final against Argentina, a result that must be seen as no accident. 2010 was widely accepted as a tournament too early for the now ‘Weldmeisters’, but their time finally came in Rio, having created a purpose-built training ground especially to help them adapt to conditions on the continent. Once again, German football proved itself better organised than its counterparts, though much of the battle for the Jules Rimet
The 2014 Brazil World Cup was graced a record-setting 171 goals. James Newbold was given the unenviable task of producing a top 10...
Where else to begin? The Colombian earned a £60m move to Real Madrid after his performances at the World Cup and on the strength of this goal, it’s not hard to see why. Rodriguez controlled the ball on his chest, turns and rifles the still moving ball in off the underside of the bar. Simply stunning.
OBIN VAN PERSIE The Dutch were a goal down when Davy Blind lofted an optimistic long ball in the direction of the Manchester United striker, whose improvised diving header gave Iker Casillas no chance. The goal sparked the #persieing meme, which attests its absurd brilliance.
trophy was tragically overshadowed by FIFA’s incompetence. The hosts were helped through the early rounds with a number of questionable refereeing decisions, and struggled with the knowledge that thousands of baying compatriots were rioting on the streets in protest at the tournament’s expense. A 7-1 semi-final humiliation at the hands of the eventual winners did little to ease that pressure. Expectation loomed large on the sides representing South America, with Lionel Messi leading from the front for Argentina. Uruguay were perhaps misguided in pinning their hopes on Luis Suarez; the ravenous forward has since mercifully avowed not to bite anyone for the rest of his career, but his contrite pleas came too late for Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, who was the third player in four years to feel the wrath of the Barcelona striker’s teeth. For all the World Cup bad boys, it had its stars too. James Rodríguez earned a
move to Real Madrid after his exploits with Colombia, while Arjen Robben shone for Holland, despite being caught up in a storm over diving. Neymar’s exploits were cut short through a fractured bone in his back, though little could have helped Brazil’s cataclysmic defence to the final at any rate. Everton goalkeeper Howard produced a phenomenal display against Belgium, but to no avail, as the USA went crashing out at the last-16 stage. Howard’s popularity back in the States epitomises the impact the World Cup has had on the land of ‘soccer’. On a personal note, he received congratulations from no less than Barack Obama. Fortunately, David Cameron was spared such a task on this side of the Atlantic. The less said about England’s early World Cup exit, the better. The only consolation was that holders Spain suffered the same fate of a group stage exit, though they will at least be comforted with having won three major trophies in the past six years.
England’s Roy Hodgson and Spain’s Vincente Del Bosque have kept their jobs despite their respective side’s calamitous displays. Elsewhere, there was a managerial master class from Holland’s Louis Van Gaal, though he now has a slightly bigger task on his hands in transforming Manchester United’s ailing fortunes. Jorge Luis Pinto also won praise for his leadership of Costa Rica, the tournament’s token surprise package, who lit up the early stages. While the knock-out rounds proved a much tighter affair, the groups were a case of goals galore, with Robin Van Persie’s soaring header and Tim Cahill’s volley hitting the headlines. Mirsolav Klose also became the World Cup’s all-time leading goal scorer, bowing out of the Germany team on a high having overtaken the Brazilian Ronaldo. And so, it fell to 22-year-old Mario Gotze to give the World Cup a fairy tale ending – though it looks as though for a rampant Germany, this may be just the beginning.
IM CAHILL Cahill’s moment of magic against the Netherlands was the high point in a trying World Cup campaign for the Aussies. Just sixty seconds after going behind, the former Everton midfielder was latched onto Ryan McGowan’s long ball and smashed an unstoppable volley past Jasper Cillesen.
ARIO GÖTZE This was a goal well worthy of deciding any match, let alone the World Cup. Substitute Götze controlled Andre Schurrle’s cross using his chest with his first touch and thumped the ball past Romero with his second to instantly become a household name and national hero, a moment the 22 year-old will surely remember forever.
IONEL MESSI His awarding by FIFA of the player of the tournament may have been dubious, but there can be no doubting the quality of Messi’s stoppage-time winner against Iran. His curling left-footed shot was right out of the top draw to ensure Argentina’s 100% record in the group stage remained intact.
NDRÉ SCHÜRRLE The seventh goal in that mauling of Brazil was the pick of the bunch. With the game already sealed, Schürrle compounded the host’s humiliation with a superbly executed volley that left Julio Caesar stunned and told of Germany’s clear superiority on the night. AMES RODRÍGUEZ The Golden Boot winner’s goal against Japan typified Colombia’s reputation as the Brazil 2014’s great entertainers. Jackson Martinez found Rodriguez in acres of space on the left hand side, where the number 10 turned Maya Yoshida inside and out before deftly chipping the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to finish off a 4-1 rout.
AVID LUIZ The former Chelsea man was slated for his error-laden performance against Germany in the semi-final, but the hosts might not have made it at all had it not been for the centre-back’s thumping free-kick from range against Colombia in the quarter-finals.
AVID VILLA One of the shocks of the tournament saw defending champions Spain bow out in the group stages after successive defeats to the Netherlands and Chile, but Villa gave them reason to smile on his final international appearance with a deft backheel against Australia from Juanfran’s low cross.
SAMOAH YAN Ghana’s plucky 2-2 draw against the World Cup winners was one of the most exciting games of the group stages and produced a goal – and the celebration – to match the occasion. A rare misplaced pass from Philipp Lahm was latched onto by Sulley Muntari, who laid on the perfect pass for exSunderland striker Gyan to lash the ball past Manuel Neuer.
5 Wikimedia: Jnn13
Shaw to Manchester United for £30m, their captain Adam Lallana to Liverpool for £25m and promising defender Calum Chambers to Arsenal for £16m, an eye – MLS players are by and large drawn from the US. 31 year-old Wondolowski captains the San Jose Earthquakes, one of the ten founding members of the MLS in 1996. Things have changed a lot since those early days, with 19 teams now contesting America’s premier division, attracting 43% more dedicated fans than just over a decade ago. As a sign of the times, the Earthquakes and San Francisco’s American football team, the 49ers, have announced a partnership to reach out to those in the more lucrative, global football market, inviting teams like
“The World Cup final was the most-watched soccer match in US history” Manchester United to play in their stadiums. United, one of the most valuable sports teams in the world, is worth an estimated $2.8bn, compared to the Earthquakes $75m. But if football’s rise in America continues beyond the World Cup, this could well change, shifting the balance of footballing dynasties around the world.
Soccer in the USA L whenever we have a chance to go”, she said. “Chris Wondolowski is playing for the national team, which is really exciting, to cheer on a Bay Area native”. Unlike England, where clubs are often dissuaded from buying home grown talent due to the premium price tags that accompany them in deference to ready-made foreign players – Southampton sold Luke
ew Glenn, whose son is a soccer player, was skeptical the World Cup would make much difference for America’s football fan base. “I think if the Americans do well, it helps. If they don’t do well, it probably doesn’t matter. We only pay attention if we win”, he said. He wants all Americans to be just as passionate about soccer as he is. That’s why he’s a part of the San Jose Street team, a group dedicated to garnering more Earthquake fans. Glenn became an Earthquake fan himself ten years ago after a trip around Europe convinced him he was missing out on the most popular sport in the world. “The fanaticism in Europe is amazing to me. The fact that it’s growing to that level here is amazing to me. Thumbs up all the way”, he said. Only last week, the United States women’s team defeated Switzerland 4-1 in a friendly match. The top-ranked team in women’s international football, having twice won the Women’s World Cup in addition to their four Olympic gold medals, will shortly commence qualifying for the Women’s World Cup held in Canada next year. And if they could just find a way to capitalise on the rise of football fandom in America, maybe, just maybe, more Americans will come out to watch.
The LOC were also proud to have released a Green Passport app to encourage travellers to reduce their environmental impact. Coming from a large organization such as FIFA, this effort seems to have been considerable. However some have found a number of FIFA’s decisions quite questionable. For example, the mascot for the 2014 World Cup was a three-banded armadillo. This is a highly endangered species and journalists such as Henry Nicholls, as well as conservationists and scientists, have criticised FIFA for not taking any measures to protect it nor make any direct contribution to its conservation. In addition to this, more criticism arose over the fact that all of the above initiatives are not appropriate for long-term purposes: Brazilian citizens believe that the renewable energy sources will not be useful after the event. Furthermore, the manner in which Brazil handled the event socially and economically did not add to the sustainable aura they envisioned. Stadiums like the one in Manaus, for example, ended up costing around $300m: can we really call that
sustainable? An expert of football politics from Duke University, Dr Laurent Dubois, said that “Taken individually, many of the efforts made by FIFA are reasonable and positive. The problem is that more broadly such efforts are drowned out by the massive contradiction between them and the domineering approach taken by FIFA towards host countries”. Instead, he proposed to use existing sport structures and the reduction of the creation of new ones, even for visitors. Federico Addiechi, FIFA’s head of corporate social responsibility, said: “We also want to ensure that the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be remembered not only as a fantastic football tournament but for its lasting social and environmental legacy”. This will definitely be the case with all the effort that has been taken to minimise the footprint on the planet. But discontent still flutters in the air, especially because this year’s World Cup did not and does not reflect enough on its long term effect, both environmentally and otherwise.
Holly McDede reflects on the rise of football fandom in the USA after their gutsy World Cup display.
few months ago, thousands of Americans began experiencing the typical features of diehard nationalism coupled with uncharacteristic symptoms of World Cup fever. While football fans in England opted to switch off the television rather than watch Steven Gerrard cry, Americans concluded their World Cup with tweets ode to hero goalkeeper Tim Howard, who made 16 saves in America’s 2-1 extra time loss to Belgium in the knockout phase. But then the World Cup ended, and Americans booked their flights home to the country that calls football soccer. Still, while hundreds gathered at places like San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza to watch America play Ghana on the big screen, some didn’t even pretend to like soccer, or the San Jose Earthquakes just miles away, when the World Cup isn’t around. “I’m kind of a classic band wagon follower”, Anthony Olund, 22, said. “I don’t watch soccer a ton. But I love to support the USA for everything”.
Others, like Maribel Gonzalez, 50, have been die-hard football fans since birth. She calls football “fútbol” not because she’s trying to be cool, but because she’s from Mexico. Since 1980, the US Hispanic population has grown from 14.6 million people to nearly 52 million as of 2011, according to the Census Bureau. That’s dramatically changed the political and cultural landscape in America, and seen a huge rise in football fandom. “Today I’m here for the United States. That’s my team”, Gonzalez said during the match. “They’re doing better than expected. They might go far. If America played against Mexico, I don’t know who I would support. My heart would be torn”. Fortunately, both Mexico and America were eliminated before it came to that. And Americans kept watching anyway. The World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina was the most-watched soccer match in US history, drawing more than 26 million
COMMENT Marta Catalano asks whether Brazil 2014 was the most environmentally friendly World Cup yet.
his year’s World Cup promised to be the most sustainable so far, but are the organisers of Brazil 2014 keeping their word? In their programme, FIFA showed that they wanted to address environmental issues. However, the current situation is making people wonder whether this summer’s tournament was really as sustainable as it appeared. FIFA and the 2014 World Cup Organising Committee (LOC) re-affirmed that: “Sustainability is one of the key tenants in our vision for the 2014 FIFA World Cup”. They implemented new projects such as waste management measures, building greener stadiums and installing solar panels on roofs to generate renewable energy. Stadiums that benefited from these measures include the Estádio do Maracanã, which had over 1,500 panels installed, and the Arena Pernambuco which had the aim to provide clean electricity during the games and throughout the year. Moreover, all host stadiums have a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.
viewers. The beautiful game’s popularity only falls behind baseball and American football in the United States. Sara Conti and her whole family of football fans turned up to watch America play Ghana. “We’re all pretty big soccer fans. We grew up watching soccer. We pretty much go Wondolowski is a big draw for Californian soccer fans. Flickr: Lyndsay Radnedge
7 1st July 2014
19th June 2014
England v Uruguay 17th June 2014
Brazil v Mexio
have always left football to other people. They understand it better than I do, they enjoy it more than I do, and they care about it far more than ever I would dare to. As a general rule, I avoid all things football related as would a vegan avoid meat-based food products: dogmatically, enthusiastically, and with no small sense of self-righteous superiority. Yet, once every four years, the World Cup heaves into view: a month-long, Wayne Rooneyshaped juggernaut that demands full-spectrum media dominance and rapidly commandeers a commanding presence in almost every conversation across all 360 degrees of longitude. In the face of such a shock-and-awe strategy, how is the football phobic to respond? Eight years ago, I pretended it wasn’t happening. It was tough. And it didn’t half make me appear sour. In 2010, I relented somewhat. Thankfully, the vuvuzela – surely one of South Africa’s greatest exports – provided a helpful talking point. While in-depth discussions of tactics left me cold, a thousands-strong crowd blowing glorified raspberries into a knock-off traffic cone was too good a cultural phenomenon to ignore. This year, after much deliberation, I have decided to go one step further. I am going to watch some of the matches. This goes against a lifetime of adamantine resolve, but I fear that the time has come to bite firmly upon the proverbial bullet. I you can’t beat ‘em: join ‘em. So I sit in the union bar as Mexico play Brazil. I am without my glasses, so I can’t really see what’s going on, but the whooping and gasping of the group in the next booth fills in aurally what I cannot make out visually. Even so, I can’t pretend that I have much of a grasp on proceedings. As the pre-match line ups flash onto the screen, my companions make knowing remarks such as “Ah, I see they’re playing defensively”. This means nothing to me. But I am rather taken with the turn-aroundand-fold-arms routine that the players do by way of a roll call. Needless to say, it makes them look incredibly foolish, but it does keep me well entertained while more knowledgeable types have serious discussions about each side’s prospects. During the game itself, some two dozen young men run around kicking a ball. Maybe it’s because I have little prior knowledge and absolutely no interest in the outcome, but that is all it looks like to me. However, I am enthralled by the Mexican manager, Miguel Herrera. Firstly because he has no neck, but secondly because he conducts his team as it were an orchestra. At times, he borders on the operatic. Impassioned, flamboyant gestures that convulse his entire upper body accompany what I assume are ardent pleas to kick the ball about with greater skill and purpose. Or something like that. At any rate, the football is a poor companion to Herrera’s compelling performance. The match itself ends in a draw, which is to say that the waves of expectant shouts from themselves next door never quite reach breaking height. They mount suddenly and rapidly, but always meekly subside. This being the group stage, I am assured that a draw is not fatal and that the match need not proceed to penalties. All in all, my first brush with Brazil 2014 has not been a disaster. Granted, I have had more fun with clothes on. But I managed to just about follow what was going on, and I think that I now understand the (apparently very important) distinction between a penalty and a free kick. That said, my next date with football looks set to be altogether rougher than this introductory friendly. England versus Uruguay. Imma need to be in tip-top form.
he Red Bar is more crowded than it was last time. Most people here seem to be American, so goodness only knows what they are going to make of the next 90 minutes. That said, the same is true of me. That said, the same is true of me. I have never before sat with Football Fan Man – and the greater number of people here do seem to be of the male persuasion – as he watches an England game in his native habitat. I arrive early. Not, I’m afraid, because I am especially keen, but because I have been on campus all afternoon and am now starving. I stagger from closedShop to shut-Campus Kitchen as my stomach become increasingly uppity. Eventually, I try to blag a burger from the proprietor of a prebooked-only barbecue in the Square (a prebooked barbecue? Seriously?) but he’s having none of it. By the time I finally track down something sufficient to keep body and soul together, I have missed all of the portentous arm-folding action than so enthralled me last time around. I am, however, in time for the national anthems. I gamely try to sing along to God Save The Queen, but its kinda hard to lip read Wayne Rooney. He’s not a man known for his powers of expression, especially when on mute. I confess that, apart from the change of kit, one football match looks very much like another to me. I suppose that the more intimate differences must be apparent to those who know their stuff – indeed, as before, the talk around me is of tactics, positions and formations. I watch politely, but without any great interest. And then Uruguay score. The mood takes a turn for the despondent. It is surprising how fragile the pre-match optimism proves to be: 1-0 down and England is once again the poor relation of international football, doomed to be forever eclipsed by the great and the good. Ah, but what’s this? Wayne Rooney’s running towards goal. (Dribbling, do they call it? And I have to take it on trust that it’s the right goal.) Closer... Closer... And – goodness! – he’s actually scored! 1-1. Cheers and whoops erupt around me, although I suspect that it’s more out of relief than anything else. I even find myself smiling. Maybe football isn’t so bad after all. The period of grace doesn’t last long, of course. Uruguay score again and, in doing so, pretty much put paid to England’s World Cup dreams this time around. It is at this point, and as the England players seemingly succumb to every knock and jostle, that my companions start running out of patience. “Oh God they’ve brought the people on to look at him! But he’s literally fine!” Lizzie is unimpressed. “He has to rub his nipples to get him going again!” says Ben, for there is nothing that gets past his seasoned gaze. Lizzie again: “Another one? Oh look, his shoe came off...” By now, Ben has a theory: “They faff around until the blue people” – I think he means the Uruguayans – “work out what they’re gonna do – faff, faff, faff”. We are now having far too much fun to concentrate on the football. It may be something to do with the beer. “They’re advertising cheese!” cries the ever-observant Lizzie. We discuss at some length the torsos of the Uruguayan team: they are, if you will, pretty hench, and they make our players look like jittery twigs. We try to work out which player is the best looking, but it’s awfully difficult to tell when they keep moving so quickly. Needless to say, it all ends badly. The more committed of our party leave almost instantly: apparently, they want to take their grief to a private place. But I, on the other hand, have had a marvellous time! Who knew that football could be such an amusing spectacle? Ben, Lizzie and myself, thoroughly satisfied with both the beer and the game, tumble out into the night. Despite England’s defeat, my personal World Cup campaign has taken an unexpected turn for the better.
Belgium v USA
24th June 2014
England v Costa Rica
t’s Adrian Chiles, but he’s here in a sombre capacity. A heavy pall rests over the otherwise sunny studio as ITV broadcasts from the funeral of English football. Gone is the light and breezy banter that is the customary heart of pre-match punditry; gone is the easy laughter; gone is the teasing and gentle ribaldry. Here is Roy Hodgson cutting a weary, lonesome figure across an empty stadium. Here is Steven Gerrard looking as if someone’s just killed his favourite puppy. I listen to the discussion in the hope of finding out What Went Wrong. I do not learn much, not least because everyone is talking in near-meaningless clichés. Perhaps I’m missing the point, but it’s surprising how long these alleged commentators can talk for without actually saying anything. One theme to which we frequently return, however, is the pride that one should take in playing for one’s country. England, it would seem, still very much expects. To wit, it would appear that certain prominent players – as yet unknown – have indicated that playing for the national side is a great deal more bother than it’s worth. This, seemingly, is a hanging offence. Indeed, there is so much talk of duty, of being called up, and of serving the nation that the casual viewer would be forgiven for thinking that said lily-livered players had dodged the draft. (I later learn that sometime pundit Ian Wright has written in the Sun – where else? – that refuseniks should be forced to explain themselves to the families of dead soldiers. Apparently goal-scoring is next to active service these days.) Anyways, this being ITV the pre-match chit chat is interspersed with adverts, the reliably up-beat tone of which clashes somewhat with the otherwise funereal atmosphere. Twice within the hour we are treated to Len Goodman plugging Farm Foods – who knew that fish fingers were his passion? And if I have to endure another advert for a bloody bookie... Out they march! Finally. And doesn’t Costa Rica have a marvellous national anthem? It’s almost Straussian – you could definitely polka to it – even if it does go on a bit. Ours in much the poorer, but we sing it with a hearty, rousing enthusiasm that shows the Costa Ricans how it’s done. We are, however, awful at keeping time. Some sections of the crowd have wrapped up and started cheering before poor old Hodgson’s taken breath for the final line. As the match starts, England seem to be
trialling a far more active approach to goal scoring than they did when playing Uruguay. Time to do or die, maybe? Fairly early on one of our players takes a pop at goal from a long way back and almost succeeds. The commentators seem to think that it was a little optimistic, but it looked like a damn fine effort to me. Things get a little hairy when Costa Rica are awarded a free kick, but nothing much comes of that either.
hings hot up a little at the top of part two: a Costa Rican gets given a yellow card as he stands, hands akimbo, over the twitching, supine body of an Englishman. And it takes me a wee while to work out that we’ve switched ends. But what’s this? Luis Suarez has bitten an Italian defender? On ITV4? Pass the remote! I switch over to find the Italian bench on their feet and, perhaps a little predictably, gesticulating frantically. They, it would seem, are here in an indignant capacity. Referees are gossiping in a huddle, and apparently one of the Italian side has been sent off. But of Suarez and his allegedly chomp-happy jaw there is no sign. Back on proper ITV, the England-Costa Rica game is proceeding exactly as before, although it now seems a tad dull after the putative danger elsewhere in group D. The final score is, of course, an uninspiring 0-0 draw. So that means football’s coming home, as it were. “There’s a long way to go for Roy Hodgson”, intones one of the commentators. Our final shot from the pitch is of Wayne Rooney mournfully saluting the crowd. Though now the stadium is filled with thousands, he looks as lonely as did his solitary manager some three hours before. There’s going to be a lot of naval gazing when this lot get home. I’m not sure that I’ll be able to stomach it. But there’s just time for a Suarez upadate! Chiles says he thinks that it definitely was a bite – surely that must carry some weight in any Fifa investigation? The Italian bite-ee is cavorting about brandishing his shoulder; if only he’d stand still we might get a decent look, but he’s gadding about far too much for that. At the very least Suarez may be congratulated for giving the Murdoch press something to talk about in the morning’s papers... That’s it for England, though. Nothing left now apart from stirring renditions of Nessun Dorma and a long flight back to London.
Diary of a Football Phobic Peter Sheehan doesn’t like football, which is a pity because there’s been a lot of it about this summer. But rather than sit on the sidelines like a sourpuss, he donned his studded boots, strode onto the playing field of life and took one for the team. Football phobics of UEA: fear not! Concrete was watching so you didn’t have to...
hear that the Americans are ganging up on poor little Belgium on Twitter. #nobodylikesyouBelgium, anyone? I am assured that it’s all in jest, but this is the nation that gave us Freedom Fries. You never do know with the Yanks... So I settle down to watch the match feeling that, of the two, Belgium is the more deserving of my support. Besides, Belgians make the better beer. (Actually, the Americans don’t make beer at all, just a strange kind of mildly hoppy water.) That said, the US has done a damn sight better than England, which isn’t bad for a nation that only realised what soccer was six weeks ago. It’s a very active match – much more so than the previous ones I’ve seen. To borrow a phrase from Monty Python, they’re up and down like the Assyrian Empire. But no goals. Belgium give it a great deal more welly in part two. They’re creating plenty of goalscoring opportunities, but they just don’t seem to be able to pop the ball over the line. You can see they’re getting frustrated. But the American goalie is more than proving his worth. Extra time... Ooooooo! It’s getting tense. The commentators keep saying that late finishes have been the hallmark of this World Cup. Finally! Belgium score! Their manager’s out on the pitch: get back onto the bench you dingbat! And how often do you get to see a halfstadium’s worth of bouncing Belgians? Then they score again! They’re just showing off now. Then the Americans score! What’s all this about? Three goals in extra time – blimey. Talk about leaving things to the last minute. I’m surprised to find that I’ve actually enjoyed the football this time around. I decide to pick up a celebratory Leffe at the shops tomorrow...
13th July 2014
Germany v Argentina
France v Germany
pparently shit went down in the semifinals? Alas, your correspondent was otherwise engaged while Germany not only annihilated Brazil but minced up them and turned them into a bratwurst; but I saw enough on Twitter to be able to piece together the general thrust of proceedings in Belo Horizonte. Who knew that Neymar is literally the only Brazilian who can kick a ball? It goes without saying that I will be supporting Germany. I backed the wrong side last time, but I plan no such embarrassments for the final: it’s das Neue Fußball Reich for me! Even before kick off, it’s clear that this is a Big Match: Gary Lineker and his evermumbling minions sit suited and booted in their swanky studio (That is, apart from Rio Ferdinand, who’s giving us a questionable blue cardigan-orange tie combo.) The formality feels awfully incongruous, especially given all the sweating that’s soon to be going on outside. Perhaps the sombre get-up would have been more appropriate for England’s final game... The match itself I find a little pedestrian. (I can say that kind of thing now that I am safely on my way to becoming well-informed about all things football.) Nothing much happens in the fist half, and the second half also passes largely uneventfully. Maybe I’m expecting too much. Germany get around to scoring in extra time, which livens things up a bit. And doesn’t Merkel look mighty chuffed? At least it gives her an excuse to stop talking to Putin. This is enough to see us through to the finish. At the final whistle, I feel that I, too, may share in the joy given that I said at the beginning of the match that I wanted Germany to win – it’s right up there in the second paragraph. And at least Argentina managed to avoid the sausage treatment meted out to Brazil.
know that England has a somewhat confected rivalry with Germany, but what about the French? If it’s anything like European politics, this should be a corker of a game. If we don’t have blood, I’ll be wanting my money back. In fact, I will be satisfied with nothing short of a 22-man re-run of the FrancoPrussian War. With period moustaches. The question of who to support is tricky. Drink is no good: German beer, much yes; but French wine, also much yes. I decide on France, not least because one of their supporters was pictured in the paper earlier in the week with a giant coq on his head. Allez les blues! I tune in just as the first half draws to a close. And my, what a comb over! Someone give that referee a medal – a really big one! Momentarily distracted, I neglect to check the score; it’s 1-0 to Germany, so I fear that I may have started by backing the wrong team. It’s a very dull game. The most involved things get is the great deal of faffing about that goes on down one side. On and off we go, but after seemingly ages we’ve moved fewer than twenty yards. I turn up for football, but here I am watching continental hokey-kokey. The French, like the Belgians before them, are spending a lot of time almost scoring. But the German players, whose names sound like either breweries or sausages, always get their feet in at the right time. Two minutes to go, and we have a shot of a French supporter. He’s dressed like a chef but looks glum, like someone’s given his restaurant a bad review. The French manager, however, looks like he’s ready to kill. The German fans, in contrast, are having a grand old time. No goals materialise. So alas, the FrancoPrussian war it was: Germany waltz off with football’s equivalent of Alsace-Lorraine. Quelle domage pour l’homme avec le coq sur la tête.
reflect on what I have learnt during my World Cup odyssey. I have watched six football matches pretty much from start to finish; this is more football than I have ever been exposed to before. And I haven’t spontaneously combusted. Or turned into a lad – although, in fairness, there’s precious little chance of that happening no matter what I’m watching. In fact, some of it has been rather good fun. I have finally gotten around to understanding the offside rule: the editor of this fine newspaper explained it to me amidst the illustrious surrounds of the UEA TV office, adeptly aided by a roll of sellotape and a couple of unwashed mugs. No-one told me that it was so straight forward? The breakout star of this tournament was, without a doubt, Miguel Herrera, the Mexican manager. I discovered him while watching my first match, and since then his passion, zeal and unfailing love of gesture have been as a guiding light during those times when football felt like a dark and mysterious place. He is my football guardian angel. I ask myself: what would Migel Herrera do? Why, he’d throw some shapes, hug a midfielder then do two laps of the pitch! In under 45 seconds. So what advice have I for other football phobics – those overlooked and marginalised members of society who find this four-yearly spectacle is more than enough to send them running for the Anderson shelter? My voice heavy with the experience of the last four weeks, and with apologies to John and Yoko, I say: give football a chance. You will be surprised to find that some of it is rather exciting. The worst it can be is dull. But perhaps try to support a team that isn’t England. For my part, I expect that in four years’ time I’ll be backing Germany. But for now, I need a gin and lie down. Until next time, football.
4th July 2014
Tour de France
Le Tour de Yorkshire A fan of cycling provided he is not required to do it himself, Peter Sheehan watched the Grand Départ of the inaugural Leeds-to-Paris cycle race.
think it’s safe to say that there has been a certain amount of excitement about this year’s Tour de France. It started, as can hardly have escaped the notice of any sentient being this side of the Channel, in Yorkshire. And hasn’t God’s own county taken the race to heart? Indeed, one would be forgiven for thinking that this was, in fact, the inaugral Leeds-to-Paris cycle race, part of which the good people of Yorkshire have graciously allowed the French to host. This is not the first time that the Tour has spent a few days outre Manche. It put in a few, and by all accounts more discreet, appearances in the 70s, 80s and 90s. But by far the biggest sojourn to date was the Grand Départ in London back in 2007. I was there for that, and it was quite the occasion. They started with a time trial: the riders took turns to race against the clock before finishing, as is now de rigueur, on The Mall. The following day, Ken Livingston cut the rope on Tower Bridge, before the race proper began as the riders crossed the prime meridian, which struck me as a rather nice way of doing things. Things kicked off a little differently in 2014, but they still retained the unique stamp of the Tour. Like its country of origin, the world’s Cavendish’s 2014 Tour came to an abrupt end on the very first stage. Flickr: torbus most prestigious cycle race is a stately mix of the traditional, the formal and the honourable. It always begins with a gentle opener to ease the riders in to the saddle – no racing, just a relaxed afternoon jolly. This first part began in front of Leeds city hall, suitably be-decked for the occasion, cheered on by a crowd that at times appeared to be some ten people deep. Proceedings were dutifully watched over by the chef du course, a man who travels about with his head poking out of a bright red hatchback – the popemobile of the Tour, if you will. The peloton wound its dignified way to Harewood House as ITV’s commentary team tried to work out whether it’s Harewoodlike-hair or Harewood-like-hard. (They are eventually told that the latter pronunciation is correct; one imagines that it’s the kind of thing a minor aristocrat would phone in about.) Waiting outside were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as well as Prince Harry and a great many pointless-looking hangers on. The riders having been corralled by the front steps, and the French and British national anthems having been played with all due pomp and circumstance, William and Katherine descended to shake hands, make polite conversation, and do whatever else it is that we pay the royals for on occasions
such as this. The Red Arrows put in a guest appearance, their job being all the easier given that red, white and blue suffice for both countries. In truth, the pause – an addition unique to this year’s programme – made the day a little more disjointed that one imagines the riders would have liked. But after a quarter of an hour’s faffing with the Windsors, the race finally got underway. As for the riders themselves, a great many have some pretty impressive names: Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Tejay van Garderen. Apparently one of their number is a cobbles specialist, to which I ask: how does one become a cobbles specialist? Is there a course? Could I apply? These are the important questions that commentators should really think about answering... The Yorkshire countryside came out of the day very well. It featured prominently as the peloton glided through the Dales; churches, rivers and villages were picked out by the helicopter circling above. God’s own tourist board must be mighty pleased. And the franchophone captions made everything sound so very elegant. My absolute favourite was the côte de Buttertubs – that’s Buttertubs pass to you and me – which was among the day’s steeper climbs. But the real stars of the day were the crowds. It’s been said time and again that the Tour has never been so well received – indeed the commentators spoke of little else as the day wore on. Leeds was heaving; Harrogate, where the stage ended, had crowds of people who couldn’t even see the race; and landmarks in the middle of nowhere were crawling with such a throng that the cyclists could barely fit through. “Second to none” is how Jen Voight, leader of the race for most of the day, describes this Grand Départ. And it’s hard to disagree.
nfortunately, it all ended badly. At the final turn, Mark Cavendish took a tumble that drew an almighty gasp from spectators and which had me starting forward on the sofa. It looked even more painful when repeated in slow motion umpteen times afterwards; crashes happen often in this business, but that one was bad. He came down hard on his shoulder, and limped across the line some five minutes later a broken man. But the festivities continue anyways. The royals were bussed in again, this time to present le maillot jaune to stage-winner Marcel Kittel. David Cameron was there, but he managed to keep himself to himself, so it wasn’t all bad. And everybody in Harrogate looked like they were having a grand old time. With all the fuss over Yorkshire’s opening stages, it’s easy to forget that the race is in Essex in two day’s time, and that the whole thing is, actually, French. But, for the time being, tha’s dun alreet, Yorkshire. Tha’s dun alreet.
Vincenzo Nibali, winner of the 2014 Tour, in the yellow jersey Flickr: Liakada Photography
Nibali victorious in a bad year for British cyclists Josh Gray Sports reporter The 101st edition of the Tour de France was an attritional race like no other that saw 34 of the 219 riders pull out through injury, as Vincenzo Nibali triumphed on the famous Champs-Élysées with a lead of more than seven minutes, the largest winning margin since 1997. The Grand Depart of the world’s most famous cycle race saw Yorkshire welcome in the new edition with a hilly run through Leeds and Sheffield, before Germany’s Marcel Kittel took the spoils on stage three on the run down from Cambridge to London. For the legions of British cycling fans lining the streets it was certainly a spectacle to savour and its glowing reception by the organisers looks set for the UK to become a regular fixture on the tour in future. Nibali seized the yellow jersey on stage two and never looked like relinquishing it for the remainder of the tour, in what will be remembered as one of shortest battles for yellow the tour has ever seen. Nibali’s cause was no doubt helped by the abandonment of three of cycling’s biggest names; Omega Pharma-Quick Step sprinter Mark Cavendish and Team Sky’s lead rider and defending champion Chris Froome, as well as Spaniard Alberto Contador of Team Tinkoff-Saxo, each of whom sustained injuries in an accidentlittered opening ten days. Frenchman Tony Gallopin briefly took the yellow jersey on the ninth stage, but as his challenge faded it was left to ProTeam Astana rider Nibali to take the honours on the Champs-Élysées with an impressive four stage wins, also finishing second only to Team Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafał Majka in the Mountains classification. Jean-Christophe Péraud and Thibaut Pinot, who won the young rider award, finished second and third overall for Ag2r-La Mondiale and FDJ.fr respectively, while Cannondale rider Peter Sagan comfortably won the green jersey. For many however, the event was overshadowed by Team
Sky’s omission of Olympic time trial champion and 2012 tour winner Sir Bradley Wiggins following a knee injury that denied him the chance to defend his title in 2013. Although fit to race – and in good form having won the Tour of California – Sky team director Dave Brailsford decided he could only manage one lead rider following the famous dispute between Froome and Wiggins during the 2012 tour, leaving the fan-favourite kicking his heels on the sidelines. Without the benefit of hindsight – Froome’s third crash in two days forcing him to abandon on stage five – we will never know what Wiggins might have achieved. With new lead rider Richie Porte suffering from a virus, Sky never looked like challenging for the team’s third successive win, with Mikel Nieve the highest placed finisher a disappointing 18th overall. While the 2014 tour was not the most spectacular edition of the tour, it will certainly remain one of the most memorable for Nibali’s breakthrough triumph, the omission of Wiggins and the abandonment of three of cycling’s biggest names. A special mention must also go to Germany’s Jens Voigt, who certainly made his mark on his 17th and final Tour de France, a short lived attack on the Champs-Élysées receiving a well-deserved moment of applause for one the sport’s mostloved competitors on his final hurrah.
And the winner is... Overall winner
Vincenzo Nibali Points champion
Peter Sagan (left) King of the mountains
Rafał Majka Promising young rider
England’s captain Alaistair Cook in action against Australia. He faced calls to quit after a series of defeats to Sri Lanak but managed to pull through Wikimedia: Nic Redhead
England’s cricketers hit back after a nightmare year Sports editor Kat Lucas looks back on a summer that saw England resurrect their hopes of acheiving Ashes success in 2015.
ngland’s year of disaster is finally over after Peter Moores’ side overcame India with a 3-1 victory in the Test series. However, there is still much work to be done as they prepare for a much-needed break in a packed schedule. Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the summer was that once-beleaguered captain Alistair Cook managed to come through the other side relatively unscathed, after facing calls for his head following the defeats to Sri Lanka. Cook’s summer was one of constant attacks, including from one-time nemesis and former Australia spinner Shane Warne, who insisted he should step down for the good of the team. Despite his side sinking to a new low with a crashing defeat to India at Lord’s, from that point on, Cook can look on the series as a resounding success. Indeed, as well as breaking into double figures on more than one occasion – something of a feat these days – Cook was able to retain his place in the one-day set-up, alongside upand-coming Nottinghamshire star Alex Hales. Recently ranked the world’s number one T20 batsman, Hales will be delighted to have finally broke into the ODI set-up, and is on the verge of signing a deal to play in the Big Bash in Australia during the close season in a bid to keep fit. For all England’s progress, the spat between James Anderson and Ravindra Jadeja threatened to overshadow much of England’s good work, though both narrowly escaped a ban. At least on the pitch, Jadeja appeared thrilled at new title of public enemy number one among the England faithful. Once again, however, questions have been raised about the dying art of sportsmanship in the game.
Both captains were chastised for their public comments surrounding the incident, and Cook was not the only one to endure a torrid summer. Mahendra Singh Dhoni led from the front at the crease, but was still met with calls for his resignation as a result of India’s poor showings. Meanwhile, the Men in Blue’s head coach Duncan Fletcher has effectively been side lined with the appointment of legend Ravi Shastri, though not fired altogether. In a tense series, a heroic Gary Ballance did much to lighten the mood, with his Bothamstyle antics in a Nottingham nightclub having little effect on his performances. The Yorkshire batsman was undoubtedly the most consistent of England’s top order, as youngster Sam Robson toiled in most of his innings, with the exception of a century at Headingley against Sri Lanka. Ian Bell has also struggled with the pressure since winning England’s ‘Player of the Year’ for 2013, though he will have done his confidence the world of good with a ton versus India. Bell has also insisted he can adapt to the pace of one-day cricket, but was out for a single run in the second ODI. With so many of England’s woes against Australia and the West Indies having been seemingly patched up, the task for the Three Lions now is to avoid complacency. Their recovery remains unfinished business, and head coach Moores still has a point to prove in his second stint in charge. It seems the door has finally been shut on Kevin Pietersen, though with his autobiography out in October, there remains the potential for old wounds to be reopened. Moeen Ali – the beard that’s feared – is the best thing to come out of England’s new era. While a very different brand of spinner
to Graeme Swann, Ali has at last gone a long way to filling the void left by his retirement. The Worcestershire star may have courted controversy with his ‘Free Gaza’ wristbands, but although that landed him in hot water with the ICC, he has been backed by the ECB. The only question mark against him is now whether he contributes enough with the bat to warrant his place so high up the order.
oores opted for two spinners in Ali and James Tredwell for the ODIs with India, but the former has already established himself as the preferred option. Tredwell looked at ease on his international return in the second ODI, after rain saw the first abandoned without a ball being bowled. However, he was one of the only England players that can be said of. If Cook has put to bed speculation about his Test captaincy, his future in the one-day role is still under scrutiny after another spate of bizarre decisions by the Essex man. Cook gifted India with the chance to bat first, and the visitors grabbed it with both hands, reaching… With England’s ODI line-up still not certain, many were believed to be playing for their places, but failed to rise to that challenge. Sussex all-rounder Chris Jordan had another day to forget, out for a duck and failing to take any wickets after ten overs. Prior to that game, Graeme Swann’s declaration that England have no chance of winning next year’s World Cup undoubtedly caused a stir among his former team mates. On their ODI displays so far, the former spinner has a point, especially with Sri Lanka and Australia both hitting good form. Behind the stumps, Jos Buttler has made
similar progress since replacing injured veteran Matt Prior, and has managed to fight off competition from James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow. Once again, England’s selectors have somehow kept themselves oblivious to the nationwide clamour for Taylor to be called up, which only increased as he hit an incredible knock of 146 off 154 balls. Notts may have mixed feelings about his fortunes, as their Division One title hopes depend greatly on the keeper-batsman. With
“A heroic Gary Ballance did much to lighten the mood” Yorkshire top of the County Championship, Notts are also reliant on the White Rose slipping up in their final run of games. Lancashire have had to do without Buttler as a result of his call-up, and his Old Trafford team mate Andrew Flintoff is being speculatively linked with a shock return to the England fold, at least in the shorter form, after coming out of retirement to help the Red Rose to the final of the Natwest T20 Blast. There is unlikely to be much in that story, with Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, and Chris Jordan all proving themselves to be capable all-rounders. Nonetheless, it would certainly give England a morale boost if the 2005 Ashes hero were to return. It must not be overlooked that India made England’s work relatively easy, and so the series was somewhat a case of papering over the cracks of England’s painful year. Those cracks are not seismic, but will face far greater pressure going into 2015, when England face an ICC World Cup and another Ashes series.
Wimbledon in review James Newbold looks back at a tournament that claimed the scalps of three of the world’s top players by the end of the first week.
he 2014 Wimbledon men’s single’s title was almost impossible to call right up until the moment Novak Djokovic clinched his seventh Grand Slam in an entertaining five-set duel with Roger Federer. The Serb was certainly made to earn his first title in 18 months; Federer was in buoyant mood, having only dropped one set in the entire tournament en-route to the final. He began his bid for a record eighth title at the All England Club in fine form, edging the first set 9-7 on a tie-break. But Djokovic rallied back, winning the next two sets and was on the cusp of sealing the game at 5-2 in the fourth only for Federer, seemingly dead and buried, to launch a memorable comeback. Spurred on by the capacity Centre Court crowds eager to see a fifth set, the Swiss player stunned Djokovic with two successive breaks of serve, winning five games in a row and saving a championship point for good measure. The balance of power had swung once more in Federer’s favour, but Djokovic was not ready to roll over and let another Grand Slam slip between his fingers. A tense fifth set saw only one break of serve, but crucially it was Federer who let his guard slip in the tenth and final game of the match. The world number one had done enough. Having comfortably beaten Djokovic in last year’s final, there were high hopes that Andy Murray could put a difficult season behind him and defend his Wimbledon crown. But the Scot failed to live up to expectations and crumbled against Queens winner Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals. He did at least get further than Rafael Nadal however: the Spaniard fell to 19-year-old wildcard Nick Kyrgios in one of the shocks of the tournament in the fourth round. In Dimitrov and Kyrgios, along with semi-finalist Canadian Milos Raonic, the men’s game has a bright future
beyond the big four and the next few seasons could see yet more future stars emerging, as the likes of Federer reach the twilight of their careers.
similar pattern was evident in the women’s game as Eugenie Bouchard made the final, although it was 2011 champion Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic who once again took the title. 20-year-old Bouchard is still a relative new-comer on the world tour but is quickly making a name
“There were high hopes that Andy Murry could defend his crown” for herself. She became the first Canadian woman ever to reach a Grand Slam singles final having already made the Australian and French Open semi-finals. As pre-tournament favourites Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova each crashed out – at the hands of Alize Cornet and Angelique Kerber respectively – Bouchard kept her head down and beat both Cornet and Kerber, before overcoming world number three Simona Halep in the semis to set up the clash with Kvitova. Although the final turned out to be something of an anti-climax – Kvitova put the Canadian firmly in her place in a comprehensive 6-3, 6-0 defeat – a star has certainly been born. Of the British contenders, Heather Watson was left to fly the flag in Laura Robson’s absence and forced a third set against Kerber in the second round before ultimately losing to the German ninth-seed. British number four Naomi Broady also made it through the first round but suffered a straight-sets defeat to former number one Caroline Wozniacki.
Kat Lucas reports on the day that saw Andy Murray’s title defence fall flat
ndy Murray’s defence of his Wimbledon crown is over after he was beaten in straight sets by Grigor Dimitrov. The Scot had not lost a single set in this year’s tournament, but was seen cursing as he plummeted out at the quarter-final stage in undignified fashion. With the pressure off, having ended Britain’s woeful record of 37 years without a trophy in SW19 (Virginia Wade was the last Brit to be victorious there), Murray looked to be enjoying his game more than ever as he cruised through the early rounds. However, he will have enjoyed little about his contest with the brilliant Bulgarian and close personal friend Dimitrov, who was contrastingly overjoyed to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final. In the absence of his avid supporter, Sir Alex Ferguson, who was surprisingly not in
Andy Murray, whose difficult season was made worse by his failure to retain last year’s Wimbledon men’s title Flickr: mirsasha
And the winner is... Men’s singles
Novak Djokovic Women’s singles
Petra Kvitová (right) Men’s doubles
Nenad Zimonji Samantha Stosur Men’s wheelchair doubles
Vasek Pospisil Jack Sock
Stéphane Houdet Shingo Kunieda
Women’s wheelchair doubles
Sara Errani Roberta Vinci attendance, Murray toiled. He had admittedly not been tipped to retain his title, particularly once he was beaten in straight sets by onetime nemesis Rafael Nadal in the French Open in early June. Rather, world number-one Novak Djokovic remains on course to satisfy the bookmakers with another expected triumph. Djokovic did not make light work of beating Marin Cilic, though, and came close to suffering the same kind of giant-killing that has already got the better of Nadal, Murray and Maria Sharapova. Cilic took the first two sets, but was then pegged back; once Djokovic had settled, he ended up playing some beautiful tennis and rarely broke his serve to allow Cilic back into the game. The Croat will be heartened at having forced the game to the final set, but by then the momentum was with last year’s runner-up.
Yui Kamiji Jordanne Whiley Djokovic will play Dimitrov in the first semi-final, while Roger Federer and Milos Raonic will contest the other. Federer beat Stanislas Wawrinka, who was struggling with bouts of sickness, but was also forced to come from behind. Though the two were evenly matched for much of the game, glimpses of Federer’s magic shone through, and would eventually be the deciding factor as he won by two sets to one. Warwinka will undoubtedly be delighted with his progress nonetheless, as this was the first time he has made it past the last 16 of the competition, and exited in the first round in each of the last two years. Raonic, meanwhile, made the last four with victory over the hugely popular Nick Kyrgios, the Australian teenager who sealed Nadal’s exit. The All England Club were raucously behind the youngster, but Raonic’s quality could not be contained.
Lynsey Sharp on her way to silver in the women’s 800 m. She was on a drip in hospital less than 24 hours before the race Wikimedia: Groundhopper2000
Home nation glory in Glasgow’s triumphant Commonwealth Games James Newbold Sports editor Following on from the unforgettable London 2012 Olympics, 2014 marked Glasgow’s turn in the limelight as a host of familiar faces and new stars alike landed north of the border for the Commonwealth Games. It was a successful 11 days for the home nations all told, as England topped the medal table for the first time in almost 30 years with a record-breaking tally of 174, including 58 gold. Scotland took a best-ever fourth place, with 19 gold medals and Wales managed five golds – including one on the final day in the men’s road race for Geraint Thomas, fresh from his Tour de France heroics for Team Sky, despite suffering two punctures. Jodie Stimpson started England’s ball rolling by taking the first gold of the games in the women’s triathlon, while 4 ft 5 gymnast Claudia Fragapane announced herself in fine style with a remarkable four gold medals in the team final, the all-around, vault and floor finals – and all at the tender age of 16. England also uncovered a new diving sensation as 19-yearold Jack Laugher swept to two gold medals and one silver in the 1m springboard and the 3m synchronised alongside Chris Mears; Tom Daley surpassed the 500-point marker on his way to gold in the 10m individual, having earlier earned silver in the synchronised event alongside new partner James Denny. There was track and field glory aplenty too. Although the fancied Martyn Rooney missed out on the medals in a 400m final
won by Grenadan Olympic champion Kirani James, Matthew Hudson-Smith held off the Bahamas Chris Brown in the final leg of the men’s 4×400 m relay to deliver the England quartet gold, while in the absence of Usain Bolt, Adam Gemili emerged as the closest challenger to Jamaica’s Kemar Bailey-Cole to claim silver in the 100m. There was even a medal for 40 year-old mum-of-two Jo Pavey, who rolled back the clock to take bronze in the 5,000m, while Paralympic athlete David Weir completed the grand slam of Paralympic, World, European Tom Daley, who won the 10m springboard final. Wikimedia, Jim Thurston
Laura Trott, gold medallist in the cycling points race. Wikimeda: Nicola and Commonwealth titles by winning the T54 1500m race. Elsewhere, long-jumper Greg Rutherford defended his Olympic crown, Steve Lewis won out in the pole vault and Isobel Pooley made a personal best of 1.92m to take high jump silver. Olympic champion Nicola Adams defeated Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh to add the inaugural female Commonwealth Games boxing title to her impressive resumé, while Brownlee brothers Alastair and Jonny
followed up their Olympic gold and bronze with first and second in the men’s triathlon, before combining with Stimpson and Vicky Holland for mixed relay gold. On two wheels, Lizzie Armitsted avenged her defeats in sprint finishes in Delhi and London by breaking clear on the final lap of the women’s road race, leading home timetrial silver medallist Emma Pooley in an England 1-2. This followed track success for
“It was a successful 11 days for the home nations all told” Joanna Rowsell in the individual pursuit and Laura Trott, who recovered from a kidney infection in the points race, with Jason Kenny taking silver in the men’s sprint. There was much to cheer for the hosts too, with six gold medals in judo and some big scalps in the pool. Defending Commonwealth champion Hannah Miley overcame England’s Aimee Wilmott to win the 400m medley, with fellow Scot Dan Wallace winning the men’s equivalent. Ross Murdoch shocked his favoured compatriot, Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson, to win gold in the 200m breaststroke; and there was a further upset in in the 100m para breaststroke as 13-year-old schoolgirl Erraid Davies from the Shetlands won a sensational bronze. The drama didn’t stop there, as 800m running European champion Lynsey Sharp had been on a drip in hospital 24 hours before
claiming a hard-fought silver medal, a result matched by the games’ poster girl Eilidh Child in the 400m hurdles. Para cyclist Neil Fachie and his pilot Craig MacLean were roared on by Sir Chris Hoy to double gold in the tandem time trial and the sprint in the Velodrome that bears his name. Postman Charlie Flynn took the lightweight boxing title and Alex Marshall, “the Messi of bowls” vindicated his nickname with a further two gold medals in the men’s pairs and men’s fours.
espite taking second overall in the medals table, Australia will feel they underachieved having finished 37 medals adrift of England and having won just 49 golds, compared to the 74 they took home in Delhi four years ago. Among their highlights were Emma McKeon’s four gold medals in the pool; Olympic champion Sally Pearson defending her 100m hurdles title; and a fifth Commonwealth gold for Anna Meares in the 500m time trial – leaving the 30-year-old now just one short of equalling the all-time record. But surely the biggest smile was reserved for steeplechase runner Genevieve LaCaze, who couldn’t resist joining Kylie Minogue on-stage during the closing ceremony. Even Usain Bolt graced the “Friendly Games” with a cameo appearance in Jamaica’s 4×100m relay team. The world’s fastest man lapped up the crowd’s adoration dancing to the Proclaimers, before turning on the style to deny England and Trinidad and Tobago with a ballistic final leg that further cements his legacy as one of the greatest athletes of all time – if such a thing were possible.
Flickr: Nic Redhead
Women in motorsport: in focus James Newbold speaks to the best of Scandinavia’s up-and-coming female racers amid an exciting summer for women in motorsport.
ollowing Susie’s Wolff’s Friday practice outings for Williams this summer at the British and German Grand Prix, the spotlight has once again been cast on the prospects of females in motorsport, one of few competitive sporting disciplines in which men and women compete on an equal footing. With many questioning whether Wolff’s role as team development driver is merited based on her past results, even going as far as branding Wolff merely a marketing ploy, it is clear that there is still some way to go for women to reach full acceptance, despite having consistently proven capable of matching – and beating – their male counterparts on track. Indeed, during the Group B era of rallying, France’s Michele Mouton was one of the stars of the show in the fearsome Audi Quattro and won three times, including on the Acropolis Rally, en-route to second in the 1982 World Championship behind team-mate Walter Röhrl. In 2008, Danica Patrick made headlines around the world when she won an IndyCar race at Motegi. No signs of any lack of aptitude there. The inescapable fact remains that motor racing is a very difficult sport to break into and even harder to make a career from, irrespective of gender. But momentum is certainly growing and Wolff’s competent testing performances are a timely reminder that women can cut it at the top level, even if the likelihood of Wolff starting a race would appear some way off. For 18-year-old Emelie Liljeström, one of four females racing on the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship support bill in the Clio Cup, Wolff’s achievements are a significant encouragement and can only be a positive step forwards. “It’s cool, so cool!” she says. “A lot of the other drivers in formula cars are only there because they have money, but I think she deserves it. It’s really inspiring and I hope it
can be an encouragement to all other girls who are involved in motorsport that if she can get up there, then we can as well.”
he lack of female role models in motorsport is an enduring and wellrecognised problem. As good a job as the likes of Audi Sport’s Le Mans-winning engineer Leena Gade and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn are doing behind the scenes, the sport craves a female
Emma Kimilainen, who took second at Falkenberg Photo: Martin Oberg driver for young girls to cheer and emulate. Otherwise, the talent pool will remain small and very few will make it to the top in a selfperpetuating cycle. A large percentage of those girls that start in motorsport are only introduced through family connections, without which they would never have found their way through the door. “I haven’t had any role models at all, I’ve always told myself that maybe I can one day be a role-model to someone else,” says STCC racer Emma Kimilainen. “If as many girls started racing as guys then there would be just as many talented girls as guys, but for now it’s hard to find a good talent because there aren’t so many starting – it’s not so easy!” Kimilainen’s sentiments are echoed by Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky, who harbours ambitions of becoming the first woman to win the DTM and took a popular maiden victory at the Norisring earlier this season in the Scirocco R-Cup support class. “You are absolutely right there, I would never have started out in motorsports without my family,” she says. “I was way more into girly stuff when I was little, such as ballet and gymnastics. Motorsport is still seen as a male
sport, and therefore not many girls even think it’s possible for them to drive a race car. The more talented girls we get, the more media we get, the more we show other girls that it is possible, and then hopefully we’ll get more girls into motorsport.” So just what does it take for a woman to succeed in motorsport? Beyond the obvious – natural talent is undeniably important, but can only go so far without a work ethic to match – it requires real determination and mental strength. Rightly or wrongly, it takes more for a woman to earn respect. “To be a girl in racing you’ve got to be built out of certain materials, you’re got to have thick skin,” says Danish rising star Christina Nielsen. “Since I moved up in the classes and started racing against people who are a bit older, most of them are becoming more respecting and okay with the fact that I’m a girl, but it definitely takes a bit more to earn
“To be a girl in racing you’ve got to be built out of certain materials, you’ve got to have thick skin.” respect and it was a bit more difficult when I was younger. “None of them like being beaten by a girl, that’s just the way it is. There’s going to be times when you’re beaten up mentally and sometimes physically on the track as well, so no matter what the culture you’ve got to have the willpower. “You have to really want it because in racing there are probably more tough moments than good moments, but the good moments are that good that they make it all worth it. As much as they hate being beaten
by a girl, I love beating them too!” But for all the bravado, once the helmets are on and the lights turn green, any preconceptions about gender become inconsequential. Whether the opposition are male or female, every driver wants to win, not to prove a point, but simply because they love to race.
imilainen is living proof of this; even after a four-year hiatus in which she earned a degree and started a family, the Finn couldn’t rid herself of the racing bug and while she admits that the realities of motherhood have changed her priorities, they certainly have not quenched her desire. “I was pretty lost in the four years I didn’t race,” she says. “I’m a really ambitious person and I wanted to improve myself, so I did a degree in one and a half years where it takes three and a half years usually. I thought I would be the best and the fastest! At the same time I got married, built a house, and then got a daughter, but even then I felt it was not enough, I needed to find something more to do, find something that I can apply myself fully. “Now that I’ve got the racing back it means everything to me, I’m so happy. For sure it’s tough to be a professional athlete and also take care of family life and so on, but there are people who have succeeded in it before so I can do it as well, of course with the help of my husband and extended family.” With such a fervent passion for the sport driving her on, it should come as no surprise to see Kimilainen and others like her earning the plaudits in coming seasons and whether consciously or not, inspiring the younger generations to follow in their wheel-tracks. And with media attention at an all-time high amid Wolff’s F1 testing exploits, the signs are encouraging for a bright future. For anyone considering having a go themselves, “you’ve just got to jump in and try!”