Everyone knows the name Lionel Messi.
To many, he is considered the greatest footballer in the world. We all know of at least one kid in high school who would follow him religiously. Messi, for his entire career, has been a one-club man at Barcelona. This has never been in serious jeopardy until recently, following a series of comical developments leaving football shaken to its core.
The last time I reported sports for Craccum, I told the story of 19-year-old footballer João Félix who signed with Spanish giants Atletico Madrid for 126 million Euros. A fucking nineteen-year-old. I wouldn’t even be worth that much if I could shit gold bricks. Given this, one could not even begin to fathom how much financial weight the tagline of “greatest footballer in the world” carries.
Now, before the Commerce Commission jumps in and blames these prices on Woolworths and Foodstuffs, I’ll skip the foreplay and tell you exactly how much Messi is worth. Zilch. Nada. Zip. On the first day of July 2021, his contract with Barcelona expired, and thus for the cut-throat transfer price of zero dollars, Messi can join your team.
Obviously, this is a severely augmented truth in that the man would still expect an extortionate salary. But you would think without a transfer fee to his name, clubs would be rushing to sign him. Instead, he faces almost zero interest, as no club can foot him on their wage bill.
Now, whether you’re a football fanatic or not, that in itself is a hilarious situation. Football has undoubtedly become an overvalued and corrupt investment ground for oil tycoons (and other international investors). But literally elevating its best player in the world to being an unattainable prize, thereby denying fans from seeing him, is comical.
It goes without saying that Messi won’t actually be left without a club to call home — some team will inevitably make a mockery of financial fair play rules, and break the ceiling of their wage bill to sign him. Yet seeing the legend tearful in his farewell press conference, it leaves fans sad about the game of politics and economic corruption club football has become.
(Editor’s note: following writing of this piece, Messi has joined Qatari-owned French club PSG)
In a split second, Germany’s modern pentathlon coach Kim Raisner punched her own ticket home from the Olympics.
While the former line may be my worst contribution to journalism, the incident of Raisner striking a disobedient horse with her fist has led to serious concerns about animal protection in the Olympics.
It all happened amidst heartbreak for German competitor Annika Schleu. Having led the competition up to the showjumping event, her randomly assigned horse failed to follow instructions. Despite desperate attempts from Schleu and her coach Raisner to gain control, it led to Schleu plummeting in the rankings.
Immediately, concerns were raised for the horse’s welfare. While poor horsemanship is part of the equation, given the emotion of the Olympics, at some point questions need to be asked of the sport itself.
Since the story hasn’t come out of any equestrian-specific events where the rider enters their own horse, it’s obvious what the problem is here. Why are riders thrusted random horses they haven’t been able to build a rapport with? While the sport’s governing bodies defend it as “part of the pentathlon toolkit” and “unique and compelling”, it leaves some real questions to be answered around horse welfare and rider safety.
For a sport labelled ‘modern’, this is surely an embarrassing gaffe for its reputation. Next time I might just switch to the clay pigeon shooting.
Are morals convoluted in the world of sport?
Despite the portrait I’ve tried to paint up until now, there is obviously no clear-cut answer. Sports may bring out the worst in us at times. But they’re around because they also exhibit the best qualities of humankind. So this column isn’t over until we finish on a high.
It’s been a long road to glory for Emma Twigg.
Coming fourth in two consecutive Olympics is no mean feat, but also enough trying to last most of us a lifetime. Following Rio, the Kiwi single sculler did try to leave rowing, calling her second 4th placing “almost [her] worst nightmare”.
But her deep love for the sport and competition saw her bounce back with a new fire in her eye. “Twigg is rowing better than ever, and she must be the favourite now,” commented fellow rower Eric Murray. And so ultimately, after leaving everything on the water in Tokyo, she got her victory.
Finally, she has the Olympic medal that she can hold high above her head forever. And it’s gold.