This week, our award-winning* Sports contributor Joshua Jayde takes a break from bragging and admiring himself in the mirror to grace the pages of this year’s Craccum with one last column.
It’s really over. No, I don’t mean the rugby, unless World Rugby have cancelled it for weather reasons. But what a year of sport it has been. Like absolutely no other year in the history of sport, 2019’s calendar has been filled with drama for the hyperbolic ages.
Just take European football. Heroic challengers Liverpool pushed the UAE-funded Manchester City to the edge in a ridiculously tight Premier League, falling just a point short despite winning every game since March. Liverpool then fell to a three-goal deficit in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final to giants Barcelona. When their season seemed lost, two of their star strikers injured and hope fading, they pulled off a comeback for the ages. They won 4-0 and were later crowned European Champions. Unfortunately, nobody actually cared, because…
The Cricket World Cup happened! Underdogs New Zealand upset India to make the World Cup final, where they managed to score more (legal) runs than England, scored as many runs in the super over, took more wickets yet still, somehow, lost the World Cup. Go figure. (I’m not still salty, you are).
But we didn’t care (I swear I’m over it, ok?) because New Zealand managed to pull off a huge upset and win the Netball World Cup, defeating a highly-rated England team before shocking the Australian Diamonds in the final.
In the United States, New England teams won the baseball and American football (by deflating the balls, probably), and some Canadians stole the basketball.
Now we have the Rugby World Cup. Before the tournament, New Zealand were said to have lost their favourites tag, with fans and (mostly English) critics calling the All Blacks vulnerable and unfancied. It took all of one game for them to dispel all fears, reclaiming their top spot on the rankings by beating South Africa.
But the real story of this World Cup is Japan. After shocking South Africa in the last World Cup, they did it again at home. Former world Number 1 Ireland, as well as Scotland, fell to the Brave Blossoms as they soared into the quarter-finals for the first time in history.
This has been a great year of sport, and if we get even half the drama this year brought again next year, we sports commentators would be blessed.
A Sober Note to End The Year
I mentioned before that Liverpool were crowned European Champions this year. In fact, this was a fantastic year for English football, with two all-England European finals rounding off the season. But it brought to light a serious issue.
Despite the finals involving only English teams, the Champions League was played in Madrid. Its baby competition, the Europa League, had its final in Baku, which is not even in Europe. Azerbaijan is in Asia. They could not have chosen a place farther from England. Fans for the four teams had to fly to these far-flung locations to support them.
With aeroplane transport contributing 6% of global greenhouse emissions, football – and sport in general – must be more responsible. In the States, franchises are constantly building better, larger and more energy-consuming stadiums. The next FIFA World Cup will be in Qatar, who are considering air-conditioning on a colossal scale. The environmental cost of sport will be immense.
It was jarring to hear the complaints over the Rugby World Cup typhoon planning. Typhoon Hagibis killed people, and its severity was at least partially attributable to the climate crisis. Yet the headlines were all about Scotland, threatening legal action if they were awarded only a draw with Japan due to safety concerns. Scotland, funnily enough, lost the game after it went ahead.
The media was so quick to eviscerate World Rugby, but missed the point: our way of life is in danger, and sport, like the rest of the world, must – must – do better.
To End the Year
Well this is it, the final column of the year. I think it’s time I come clean. A couple columns ago, I started saying that no-one cares about football. Well, I hate to say it, but I’m lying.
I care about football.
I know, I know, I’m embarrassed. But I love it. The constant drama, the absolute pointlessness of it all, Jurgen Klopp’s glasses, how could anyone not love it?
I mean, it will never be cricket. It won’t ever have a hold on my heart like an All Blacks game will. But I will watch football, and I will enjoy it. So sue me. But I will hide it no longer.
Go the All Blacks! (unless Ireland knocks them out)
*Editor’s note: Yes, he won an award. No, he hasn’t stopped talking about it.