It’s August and we are slowly getting into the groove once again with cricket, football in full swing, even though the pandemic situation hasn’t improved much. But, we are no short of drama, as I present you this edition’s Good, Bad and Ugly - so sit back and enjoy the ride.
Julen Loetegui finds redemption after double rejections in 2018
Remember the 2018 FIFA World Cup? Spain was sent packing in the round-of-16 itself when the hosts Russia had the better of them in the tie-breakers. But, one had taken the flight back home before the tournament started - Julen Loetegui. The Spanish manager was sacked as the manager on the eve of the World Cup after he signed a contract with Real Madrid without the knowledge of the Spanish football federation. His job at the Santiago Bernabeu lasted only 14 games, with him sacked after a string of poor performances by the side. In June 2019, he was appointed by La Liga side Sevilla FC - a lifeline following two rejections within four months the preceding year - and he delivered. Having already guided the team to a fourth-place finish in the La Liga and followed it up with a Europa League title after a 3-2 win over Inter Milan in the final last Friday, tears rolled down his cheeks after the final whistle - Lopetegui has found redemption, in a remarkable way!
Dream 11 bags 222-crore deal as IPL title sponsor
Chinese mobile manufacturing company VIVO was already bound by a contract as the title sponsors of the Indian Premier League, but with the political tension revolving around the two nations, the partnership fell off. Dream 11 - a fantasy application based out of Mumbai has been named as the title sponsors of the 2020 IPL, which is set to begin on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates. This is a welcome move with the sponsors coming from within the country itself, even though the deal was struck for one season only. The teams have already started assembling in the middle-eastern country, with the tournament being played in the biosecure bubble in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Caribbean Premier League is already underway with the same protocols in place. We have waited for so long and the IPL is finally less than a month away. This has to be the best development for cricket fans in India.
Hockey India’s high-performance director David John steps down
After crossing numerous hurdles, the national training camps for the men’s and women’s hockey team got underway on August 9 at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru, even after six players were tested positive for Covid-19. Just three days into the camps, India’s high-performance director David John resigned from his post citing personal reasons. Surprisingly, Hockey India approved the resignation even before SAI - John’s employer had given a green light. The Aussie was the second-highest-paid coaching staff in the setup with a monthly contract of $ 12,000, only next to head coach Graham Reid. Even though reports suggest that the personal reasons were the main reason to step down, people having thorough knowledge suggested that the growing differences between John and the top management have acted as a catalyst. With less than 12 months away from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and India chasing the first medal since the 1980 Moscow Games - the turn of events doesn’t help at all.
Marseille’s League 1 opener against Saint Etienne postponed
Just when the sky seemed clearer and make way for sunshine, thunder has struck again in French football, with three footballers testing positive for Covid-19. French Football Federation (FFF) had terminated the Ligue 1 midway after the pandemic gained pace, with Paris Saint Germain declared as the champions. But they were hoping to start the new season on a positive note, by creating a bio-bubble, which is being followed across the continent right now. Although the league is underway, Olympique Marseille’s opening match against Saint Etienne had to be postponed with the former clubs’ three players testing positive for the virus. The match will be played either on September 16 or the following day, September 17. With several efforts being made to restore normalcy in the sporting world, more positive cases just don't help the cause - hopefully, we’ll be able to eradicate the deadly virus soon enough.
Graeme Smith reveals ‘death threats’ received after taking a knee for BLM
South African cricketers are loved around the world, especially in India, with AB de Villiers still one of the most followed overseas players. But the recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement following the George Floyd killing has opened up the dark side of South African cricket, which reminisces the hangover of the Apartheid movement. While speedster Lungi Ngidi was of the thought that the Proteas should come together and join the BLM, some of the former players had other views. In fact, director of Cricket South Africa (CSA), Graeme Smith, took the knee before an exhibition match in South Africa in July, along with former cricketer Makhaya Ntini. The gesture did not go down well with and in the aftermath of the incident, the former skipper received death threats and abuse. Smith mentioned that the turn of events has been eye-opening and shocking. Hopefully, we do not see a repeat anytime soon.
Indian Government conferring five athletes with the Khel Ratna Award
Awards are meant for special feats and when we are talking about the highest of such kind - the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award - only special talents do manage to lay hands on it. But, the government seems to have made a mockery of it, especially in a year which has seen least sporting action - deciding to award five athletes with the prestigious award. While Rohit Sharma’s nomination was justified with the results he’s produced continuously, Table Tennis star Manika Batra’s inclusion was a controversial one. The paddler undoubtedly achieved great feats by bagging numerous medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2018 Asian Games, but her award was due a long before, if at all. Same goes for high-jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, who won the Gold medal at the 2016 Paralympics - with him kept in the shadow for four years before he was finally felicitated. Others in the list include women’s hockey player Rani Rampal and wrestler Vinesh Phogat - each deserving by its own standards. But, the Indian government should scrutinise further before giving out the highest sporting honour - especially when the likes of stalwarts like Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly overlooked for the honour.