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Dublin: 0 °C Tuesday 20 March, 2018

From the FA Vase to the Bernabeu, coming out at 47 and the week's best sportswriting

It’s Sunday morning and you know what that means….. stick the kettle on and feast your eyes on some brilliant long reads.

Image: Geraldo Bubniak

1. “THE MOOD APPEARS as serene in Foster’s home but a deeper truth is about to surface. “It’s not like I’ve been pushed to come out,” the former world champion swimmer says as he prepares to tell the world he is gay. “I’ve just swerved and swerved. Telling half-truths and not being my true self is only hurting me. I’m 47, a middle-aged man, and I’m no longer competing. And I’m not the first gay sportsman to come out. Gareth Thomas and Tom Daley led the way.”

I felt no real surprise when hearing that Foster wanted to talk publicly for the first time about his sexuality in this interview. Foster had not been tortured about being gay, or ashamed, and over the past 26 years he has lived with, and loved, two different men in long relationships. His family and friends are accepting and supportive.”

Olympics - Beijing Olympic Games 2008 - Day Six Source: EMPICS Sport

Mark Foster gave this candid interview to the Guardian, speaking publicly for the first time about his sexuality.

2. “The suit, as Nelson explained it, tells the story of his life. After his all-too-brief playing career ended in the early 1980s when he was released out of Liverpool’s youth ranks, he trained to join the British Army’s Parachute Regiment. “The toughest military training in the world,” he called it.

His army physical, however, revealed a blood problem that was eventually traced to kidney failure. Nelson was told that without a transplant, he would have six months to live.”

How 2 kidney transplants yielded Real Madrid’s ‘secret weapon,’ writes Rory Smith for the New York Times.

3. “PING. “Answer my calls.”

PING. PING. “Turn on the news.” “Are you seeing this?”

PING. “Please answer your phone.”

“I was living in an apartment by myself,” he says. “My mom lives across from me in another one. It was unusual he didn’t send a message saying he’d arrived, but I went to sleep around midnight, and by 2 am., my phone was blowing up. I finally took a look and from then I started following anything I could. The phone, the TV, my computer. Anything.

Homenagem Chapecoense Source: Geraldo Bubniak

“I did that for two hours and went and woke my mom up, and we sat watching the news. I don’t think we moved for the next 48 hours. You know, you don’t believe it. You are in shock. You can’t process anything. It’s terrible, but you still have hope. There are survivors. There are survivors. … They’re still finding people. … He got away from the plane in case of an explosion. Your mind goes nuts. Horrible, and it was only the start.”

Ewan McKenna had an excellent long-form piece on Bleacher Report looking back on the Chapecoense tragedy a year on.

4. “Quite an experience awaits. “Last year we were playing Shepshed Dynamo in the FA Vase in front of 28 people at a ground called Butthole Lane,” he says. “Now I’m part of a club going to the Bernabéu.” He’s been to Real Madrid before of course but this time is different; this time he will get through the door.”

22-year-old English goalkeeper Conor O’Keeffe’s rise was mapped by Sid Lowe of the Guardian earlier this week.

5. “The problem is not that the wrong people are winning the awards; Wentz and Brady are fine candidates given the rather dull parameters voters have established. In other words, they are quarterbacks on NFL teams that look particularly impressive in a given year. The awards are simplistic at best and meaningless at worst. Other sports have come around: Félix Hernández won the Cy Young with a 13-12 record in 2010, something that never would have happened earlier in baseball history. True dominance can be overlooked in NFL award seasons, though. Drew Brees has five of the top eight passing yardage seasons in history and has never won the award. Russell Wilson is on pace to break the record for the highest percentage of yards by one player on a team, and apparently no one cares.”

Kevin Clark tried his hand at fixing the NFL awards for The Ringer.

PGA: Hero World Challenge - Wednesday's Practice Round Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

6. ”The little boy tortured by his peers all those years ago chooses to yuk it up with a president for whom the dog whistle of racism has been a signature tune, this juvenile delinquent reserving all his most savage public insults for black athletes exercising their right to protest at NFL games.

The idealistic teen from that long-ago interview with Trans World Sporthanging with a reprobate who reckons there were “some good people” involved in the atrocious white nationalist protests in Charlottesville last summer.”

‘Tiger Woods changes his tune by joining in Trump’s odious game,’ writes Dave Hannigan for The Irish Times.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

After endless heartbreak, the time is now for Mourneabbey to reach the Holy Grail

The rise of a small club from Monaghan to the brink of All-Ireland glory

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