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The story of Arsenal's tragic lost star in the making and more of the week's best sportswriting

Remembering Niccolo Galli and more great reads from this week.

The scoreboard shows a picture of Niccolo Galli a youth team player killed in a road traffic.
The scoreboard shows a picture of Niccolo Galli a youth team player killed in a road traffic.
Image: EMPICS Sport

1. Three hours before Real Madrid won their 13th Champions League in a final for the ages, the Olympic Stadium was all quiet. Too quiet. Lonely Ukrainian policemen with distant stares and skinny assault rifles paced the deserted concourses. Evening sun crept into the clear gangways. The heat sat on your shoulders like a shawl.

Jonathan Liew’s assessment of Liverpool-Real Madrid is one of the best pieces you’ll read on this week’s Champions League final.

2. A riot awaits Virat Kohli once he opens the door of his Range Rover. It’s a warm Tuesday in Mumbai, and he seems at ease with the madness swirling around this shopping mall, where crowds wait for him to talk about luxury watches they can’t afford. As the captain of the Indian cricket team, he’s probably the most famous person in India, which makes him one of the most famous people in the world. He lives a strange life, but like the frog being boiled alive, he doesn’t seem to grasp its weirdness. Exhibit A: the unflustered look on his face as he steps out of the car and 50 security guards muscle him through a screaming, swaying, chanting crowd and deposit him in a narrow Tissot watch boutique for an event. People outside push toward the door. Looking at the unbroken wall of bodies, I ask nervously how we will manage to leave this store. For the moment, we are barricaded inside. Kohli doesn’t like tight spaces; he is so claustrophobic that he says he must have drowned in one of his past lives. Even in a car, sometimes he’ll roll down the window and risk aggressive fan encounters. “Honestly, you can ask the people who have been around me,” he says, “if I see two people coming at me with a phone, I panic.

ESPN’s Wright Thompson paints an illuminating portrait of Virat Kohli, India’s best cricketer.

3. On Tuesday, the National Football League announced a new policy to prevent players from protesting during the national anthem. Teams will now be fined if players kneel on the field during the anthem and any player who refuses to stand will be allowed to remain in the locker room. The decision comes after Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in 2016 during the Star-Spangled Banner in protest of police brutality against black Americans.

‘Dear black NFL players, don’t let yourselves be silenced,’ urges The Guardian’s Kara Brown.

4. “You have a horseshoe up your ass.”

The words instinctively rolled off the tongue of Jets VP of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger, and were directed at the boss, GM Mike Maccagnan, who wouldn’t let himself believe this would happen. For two weeks, the rumor mill persisted that the Browns were going to pass on Sam Darnold for Josh Allen. So why in the world would he buy it spinning now that the first pick wouldn’t be either of those two?

‘The Jets’ Long Road to Sam Darnold’ by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer is a fascinating read.

5. After the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne 61 athletes and officials defected. Heroes, every one of them, in an era when switching from east to west – or vice versa – made the humans themselves prized trophies, coveted propaganda wins in the endless Cold War dick-measuring contest. Following last month’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast it has been revealed that around 200 athletes and officials have outstayed their visas and are now seeking asylum. (Another 50 remain in the country illegally.) It is not called defecting today, you’ll note, even if it is from the sort of places that first world countries like Australia love to define themselves against.

The Guardian’s Marina Hyde is typically brilliant on the Commonwealth Games and the 200 athletes and officials who have outstayed their visas and are now seeking asylum in Australia.

6. Niccolo Galli should have been celebrating his 35th birthday today and possibly looking ahead to bringing down the curtain on what had been a long and illustrious career at the top level of European football.

He was a player destined for greatness, a player Arsene Wenger was convinced would have gone on to become one of the all time greats.

But instead Galli’s story remains one of the most heartbreaking of the Frenchman’s 22-year spell in north London. He was a teenage star with the world at his feet until his life was cruelly cut short by a horrendous accident on February 9, 2001.

Charles Watts of Football London tells the story of Niccolo Galli, Arsenal’s lost star in the making.

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