1. “They are supposed to be the best of enemies: the socialists revered by the Stretford End and the club who were supported by Franco and have raided Manchester United’s academy.
“Who can forget the hatred in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson just five years ago when he said, as Real Madrid pursued Cristiano Ronaldo, they were a “mob” to whom he would not sell “a virus”.
“But relations between the clubs, which have thawed a little since Jose Mourinho’s arrival in Spain, have a much happier history. Not least in the famous friendship between Santiago Bernabeu, the old Madrid president, whose name was given to the ground United will play in, and Sir Matt Busby 50 years ago.”
Jack Pitt-Brooke, writing in the Independent, on how Real Madrid helped to rebuild Manchester United after Munich in 1958.
2. “Six months on from their All Ireland exit despite a hugely gutsy and sticky performance against Donegal, they have suffered one loss and one battering in the league. But if the reaction in the summer was to be overly protective of a very good team that weren’t strong enough to go all the way, the reaction this time has been to call a crisis. That’s absurd and it’s going from one extreme to the other with Kerry when the truth has always lay somewhere in the middle. What was the case before the All Ireland quarter-final is still the case now, in spite of February scorelines.
“What’s been forgotten in recent weeks is that against Mayo, they were missing four Footballers of the Year in Tomás Ó Sé, Kieran Donaghy, Colm Cooper and Paul Galvin, and nine All Ireland winners when you add in Declan O’Sullivan, Donnacha Walsh, David Moran, Kieran O’Leary and Eoin Brosnan. Bryan Sheehan, a player who has improved his game to the extent he’s gone from an excellent free-taker taking up space in open play to one of the better and most ruthless midfielders in the country, wasn’t about either.
“And that’s before we get to Dr Crokes – perhaps the best club team to come out of the county in terms of the standard reached and brand of football played – who are still involved in the All Ireland series and have everyone excited. Against Dublin the only return of note in terms of starters was Tomás Ó Sé and don’t forget, on top of all that, this is a team with a new, albeit intelligent, manager in Éamonn Fitzmaurice.”
Kerry are not the spent force that the media is portraying, says Ewan MacKenna.
3. “There seems an unwillingness to engage with the extent of the national drink problem, even when it spills over into the world of sport. For all the justified praise our fans received for their behaviour in Poland during the European Championships, there was far too little discussion of why absolutely pathetic states of drunkenness seemed to be de rigeur for so many of the supporters. Can we not go to a foreign country to support our team without getting absolutely blotto at every opportunity? Just because we usually don’t attack foreigners like the English used to do doesn’t make our drunken carry-on any less boorish.
“This is not just a soccer thing either. There were Dublin fans who could barely walk on their way into Hill 16 before their heroes took on Meath. There were plenty from all four counties barely able to see in front of them when they stumbled into Semple Stadium on Sunday for the All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals last Sunday. Great crack altogether especially for the young children forced to sit and watch their fathers tearing into pints at a furious pace right up until the throw-in. And we wonder why each subsequent generation appears to have a worse attitude to drink than its predecessors.
“Of course, the rugby crowd disgraced themselves in New Zealand earlier in the summer when over 90 per cent of those arrested or not allowed in to one of the tests (rugby speak for friendlies) were Irish supporters. When this fact was pointed out by the local constabulary, some of the diaspora complained about unfair stereotyping. Yeah, rather than face up to our own idiotic attitude to getting wasted at sports events, we accuse our hosts of stereotyping us. Guess what, stereotypes are, usually, there for good reason. We are notorious for loving to get drunk at matches and that’s nobody’s fault but our own.”
4. “Even allowing for the gulf in etiquette between American and British boxing, Adrien Broner presents himself as a world-class clown, well on his way to rivalling Floyd Mayweather Jr as the most obnoxious man in the fight game. He is also, behind Junior, the second-most gifted boxer in the sport today.
“It is not so much the volume of his rhetoric – a lot of fighters talk big to quell their nerves, bolster their self-belief or intimidate opponents they respect – but the smugness with which Broner dispenses his vitriol that separates the world lightweight champion from the herd. He declares, loudly, that there is no opponent worthy of his skills. He is unbeaten, untested, unworried and, largely, unloved.”
Kevin Mitchell profiles the new Floyd Mayweather, Adrien Broner, in the Guardian.
5. “Mino Raiola’s accountancy firm is called Maguire Tax & Legal, its name inspired by an Oscar-winning movie starring Tom Cruise. Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis would no doubt be offended by the insinuation that Raiola is in any way similar to Jerry Maguire, the fictional sports agent who comes to champion love (or “kwan”) over greed, but many of his clients would argue that the comparison is just.
“Welcome to the divisive – yet lucrative – world of Mino Raiola, super agent.”
Mark Doyle, writing for Goal.com, profiles the man behind Mario Balotelli’s move back to Italy.
6. “Oscar Pistorius trains inside a converted garage at the home of his personal trainer, a former professional rugby player. Iron pull-up bars and a variety of ropes and pulleys are bolted to brick walls. Free weights are lined up on the floor, along with hammered-together wooden boxes that serve as platforms for step-ups and standing jumps. Some of the equipment is clamped to an exterior wall of the garage, opposite an uncovered patio; when it rains, athletes just carry on and get soaked. “It’s old-school,” Pistorius said as we drove up to the place early one morning. “Some of the guys who train here, they bang it so hard, they often get sick in the garden. Nobody judges them.”
First published last year, this New York Times profile of Oscar Pistorius by Michael Sokolove makes for fascinating reading.