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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 26 April, 2019

The World Cup winner who now sells swimming pools — and more of the week's best sportswriting

Some of our favourite reads from the past seven days.

Belgium v France: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia France manager Didier Deschamps at a press conference after their win over Belgium. Source: Michael Regan - FIFA

“THERE ARE PLENTY of international tournaments with plenty of potential for missed cross-cultural signals. But the World Cup is unique in having so many participants from so many countries all appearing in the same forum, with the same ritualized regularity, match after match. After a while the news conferences, with their long-winded, multipart questions, their laughably imprecise simultaneous translations and their rigid, time-controlled formats, begin to seem like parts of one giant whole, their details spilling and flowing into one another. Reporters at Argentina’s conferences wanted to talk about Lionel Messi. Reporters at Portugal’s wanted to talk about Cristiano Ronaldo. Reporters at Iceland matches wanted to talk about whether the coach is still a dentist. But beyond such idiosyncratic details, some common themes have emerged from Russia.”

Sarah Lyall of the New York Times on the bizarre theatre of the World Cup press conference.

Brazil v France - Final WC 1998 Stéphane Guivarc’h in action for France against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. Source: Icon Sport via Getty Images

“The 1998 World Cup win was a joy that filled France right to the very edges, and it is on one of those jagged, coastal edges that its forgotten hero has chosen to make his life. In a town called Trégunc, one of those places where everyone knows everyone and the smell of the sea wafts into the church square on a breezy day, Guivarc’h, the striker in Jacquet’s team, lives a life of extraordinary ordinariness as a swimming-pool salesman. The man who led the line does not want to be at the forefront any more.”

James Gheerbrant of The Times meets former France striker Stéphane Guivarc’h, two decades since he became a World Cup winner.

970198240 LeBron James Source: Jason Miller

“The Lakers sent five championship banners to L.A. when the franchise moved from Minneapolis in 1960. But Los Angeles as a basketball city — the reputation of tradition and prominence that it has now — couldn’t buy a ring from the Boston Celtics until Wilt Chamberlain showed up. That purple-and-gold L.A. prestige that LeBron will bind himself to exists because of a trade that happened almost exactly 50 years before he signed there, and it was one of the most infamously lopsided swaps in league history. On 9 July, 1968, the Philadelphia 76ers exchanged Chamberlain for three Lakers: center Darrall Imhoff, who had been drafted a spot after Jerry West; forward Jerry Chambers; and a talented combo guard in Archie Clark. But the move had only the veneer of a standard NBA trade. In actuality, it was Wilt, then two years younger than LeBron is now and with comparable influence, pulling off a shadow free-agency move, 20 years before unrestricted free agency existed — and in doing so, simultaneously creating basketball’s earliest superteam.”

– LeBron James wasn’t the first great to orchestrate a move to the Lakers, writes The Ringer’s Haley O’Shaughnessy.

Sophie O'Sullivan is presented with her silver medal by her mother Sonia O'Sullivan Sophie O'Sullivan is presented with her silver medal by her mother Sonia. Source: Sasa Pahic Szabo/INPHO

“Behind every successful athlete is a dedicated team that works quietly in the background, letting the athletes decide the finishing touches, and that’s what happened at these championships. In that sense there were no real surprises. Every athlete that won a medal had the ability to do this and they made it happen. This is how Irish athletes need to approach a championship; knowing what they are capable of, rising to the challenge, fighting to the end and never giving up.”

Sonia O’Sullivan writes for The Irish Times following her daughter Sophie’s success at the European Youth Championships.

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-PATRIOTS US president Donald Trump. Source: AFP/Getty Images

“Since its founding in 1884 the GAA had been at heart of the burgeoning Irish nationalist movement that had culminated — for the moment, anyway — in the events of Easter week in 1916. The British, rightly, concluded that the GAA’s business was not entirely arranging sporting events. In the weeks before enacting the licensing schemes, nervous British troops had disrupted various contests and hauled off a number of spectators. Once the new licensing scheme went into effect, the GAA responded by declaring August 4, 1918, a National Day of Defiance. The GAA forbade its teams from seeking the new required permits and, instead, encouraged the hundreds of club teams salted throughout the island to compete that day untrammeled by colonial authority.”

– Donald Trump has made the NFL his punching bag and the league’s best response is defiance, writes Charles P. Pierce for Sports Illustrated.

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