When Michael Owen ruled the world, the legend of Francesco Totti and all the week’s best sportswriting

September 19, 2021 0 By HearthstoneYarns

1. SO THIS IS how 2016 draws to a close. A quiet room in a city centre hotel, a table set for lunch and a tape rolling all the while. Around the table, four unique voices when it comes to women and sport.

Natalya Coyle, the modern pentathlete who finished seventh at the Olympics.

Sarah Rowe, the Gaelic footballer who won a Connacht title with Mayo in the summer and the soccer player who has just completed the treble with Shelbourne Ladies.

Source: Tom Beary/INPHO

Mary Hannigan, The Irish Times sportswriter and judge of the Sportswoman of the Year awards for the past 13 years.

Evanne Ní Chuilinn, the RTÉ broadcaster who covered the Rio Olympics and Paralympics in 2016.

Put them all together and it’s about to get a lot less quiet in here . . .

Malachy Clerkin sits with Sarah Rowe, Mary Hannigan, Natalya Coyle and Evanne Ní Chuilinn for the Irish Times to get their views on women’s sport in Ireland.

2. Michael Owen was the last to leave the changing rooms, to feel his boot studs on the steps of the tunnel, to touch the famous “This is Anfield” sign. Waiting for him on a plinth outside was a golden trophy in the shape of a football. Waiting too was Gerard Houllier, Liverpool’s manager.

The Frenchman had been in Corsica, convalescing from a heart attack, when Owen was revealed as the European Player of the Year for 2001. The presentation of the award was delayed especially for Houllier, who wanted to be involved. The Ballon d’Or was a creation of France, and Houllier, a professor of the game and a keen historian, was proud of his country’s football heritage.

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

There was plenty for him to smile about as he placed palm onto shoulder and passed the trophy to his centre-forward, whispering the words: “Michael, you deserve this.”

Bleacher Report’s Simon Hughes remembers the time Michael Owen ruled the world

3. Despite the fact that the film shows so many unflattering parts of the sports agent business (Jerry calls it an “up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege”), the film touched a nerve with high school and college students, including me. I was in my freshman year at Northwestern University. If we weren’t going to make it as pro athletes, we all wanted to be sports agents.

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

Rod Tidwell took a nasty hit only to bounce back up and deliver an unforgettable touchdown celebration. But 20 years later, that sort of thing still wouldn’t fly in the NFL. Here’s why.

“Jerry Maguire” opened our eyes to the game behind the game like we had never seen it before. Many of us loved every bit about it.

ESPN’s Darren Rovell examines the impact ‘Jerry Maguire’ had on the sports agency industry

4. It is that otherness that makes Guardiola’s presence in England so fascinating, of course; it is also, however, what makes him the subject of such heightened emotions.

In part it is because his endorsement is a considerable prize in a public relations battle; if Guardiola, of all people, can be won over by the idea that England’s top division is the most demanding of all, then it would prove beyond doubt that there is substance behind the spin.

Source: Martin Rickett

But it is more than that. If Guardiola struggles — or if he fails outright — at Manchester City, then the myth of English exceptionalism is vindicated. The Premier League can continue to regard itself as a world apart. He will have failed the Rainy Night in Stoke test, the idea that greatness accrued elsewhere in Europe can only ever come with an asterisk until it has been proved when faced with the unique array of challenges on offer in England.

Rory Smith takes an interesting look at the way we measure Pep Guardiola’s success for the New York Times

5. Armed with spray cans, the vandals last descended on Via della Madonna dei Monti, a dead-end alley not far from the Colosseum, about six months ago. They come to this corner of Rome quite often, according to the street’s weary residents. They are sick of seeing their walls daubed with slogans, but they are resigned to it now.

The mural at the end of the street is the problem. Some come to restore it, and then others return to deface it. Every time, each group adds a couple of inflammatory, insulting messages to the patchwork of tags that surrounds it. It goes on and on, an apparently eternal battle in the middle of the Eternal City.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Even when the mural is disfigured, though, anyone with even a fleeting interest in Italian soccer can recognize whom it depicts. That silhouette — one arm raised to the sky, the taped wrist and tapered torso — is so familiar that it bleeds through even the strongest aerosol blast.

Francesco Totti cannot be brushed off or sprayed away. A.S. Roma’s eternal captain is not so much etched onto the walls of his city as scoured into its very fabric. He is burned into its soul.

Another one from the New York Times and Rory Smith – this time he profiles Roma’s legendary figure Francesco Totti

6. My son has taken to descending the stairs every morning with that billionaire strut, shoulders angled back like a reclined deckchair, arms rolling floppily in the way of flailing gym ropes. He’s been trying to grow a goatee too, but it looks like that might take longer than Andy Dufresne took with the rock-hammer.

Like it or not, McGregor has a generation hypnotised. They regard him as some kind of raised middle finger to the notion that mixed martial arts isn’t so much a sport as a vicious street-fight with paying customers.

Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

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Next weekend, McGregor will almost certainly be crowned RTE Sports Person of the Year. We can say that because the decision goes to a public vote and – frankly – Conor McGregor‘s fans tend to regard an opportunity to articulate support for their hero as a noble duty not to be squandered.

This is excellent by Vincent Hogan for the Irish Independent on Conor McGregor and his stage personality

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