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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018

Pele's bodyguard in the 70s, the Baby Mourinho and all the week's best sportswriting

Plus, Dejan Lovren talks about how he became a refugee at just three years old.

1. GREGG POPOVICH BEGAN with an apology. “I don’t think my voice is that important,” replied the San Antonio Spurs coach when asked his views on the US election. But then, over the course of six impassioned minutes, one of the greatest coaches in the NBA history sank the verbal equivalent of multiple three-pointers from mid-court. “I’m sick to my stomach,” he sighed, his voice now quivering with anger and a deepening anguish. “Not because the Republicans won but the disgusting tenor and tone and all of the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist and misogynistic.”

The beat reporter tried to change tack. “I’m not done,” Popovich replied, politely but firmly. And he wasn’t. He attacked Trump supporters, pondered how “disenfranchised” women, gay and disabled people, Muslims and other minorities would be feeling, called Trump an “eighth-grade bully” and expressed his fears for America’s future in historical-lyrical terms. “My final conclusion is, my big fear is – we are Rome.”

Spurs Lakers Basketball Source: Ringo H.W. Chiu

Popovich was not a lone voice. Many NBA players also tweeted their disquiet, while the Detroit Pistons coach, Stan Van Gundy, called Trump “openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic” before warning, “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus.”

The Guardian’s Sean Ingle explores the silence of British sports stars compared to their American counter parts.

2. Long before he landed the head coach role at the club, Nagelsmann had already earned the nickname ‘Baby Mourinho’.

It was given to him by former Hoffenheim and Germany goalkeeper Tim Wiese as Nagelsmann was making a name for himself after the defender’s career was cut short by persistent knee problems.

Germany Soccer Bundesliga Source: AP/Press Association Images

Like Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, Naglesmann did not make it as a top player. Aged 20, he was forced to end a promising career while in Augsburg’s second team, coached by Thomas Tuchel, who is now manager at Borussia Dortmund.

Neil Johnston of BBC Sport takes an interesting look at the 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann, the Bundesliga boss dubbed ‘Baby Mourinho.’

3. Moments like this no longer surprise anyone on the Panthers. Newton likes competing in everything he can and, his teammates say, he likes being as random as possible. Carolina’s backup quarterback Derek Anderson laughed when recalling the time last fall that Newton rode his hoverboard through a Charlotte YMCA just to get a reaction. Mostly, though, Newton just wants to play sports.

“He’s just a kid,” said Byrd, who has played volleyball and basketball with Newton in random, public places following their summer workout sessions. “It’s not just ‘I’m going to show up for these people to see it.’ It’s that he really, really just wants to play.”

Saints Panthers Football Source: AP/Press Association Images

Mimi Siadak, a language arts and social studies middle school teacher at Community School of Davidson in North Carolina, said that Newton made a guest appearance at recess this spring. “I’m Cam Newton, would you mind if I jump the fence and come play football with your kids?” she remembered him asking.

The Ringer’s Kevin Clark investigates an interesting side to Cam Newton – his habit of  finding, and joining, random pickup basketball games, flag football showdowns, and beach volleyball contests.

4. The former Cosmos goalkeeper Shep Messing, now a TV commentator, remembered one playful incident that almost cost the team the services of defender Werner Roth in 1977. “No one could ever forget Pedro Garay. He was the best,” Messing said. “We were playing in Vancouver and left the hotel on the bus to go to the stadium. We fooled around with Pedro all the time – and he always carried handcuffs inside his jacket as part of his protection detail guarding Pelé. We were in the locker room getting ready for the game and Pedro put the handcuffs on Werner Roth to show us how they worked. When he went to take them off – he realized that he had left the keys back in his hotel room!

American Soccer - NASL - SoccerBowl '77 - New York Cosmos v Seattle Sounders Source: EMPICS Sport

“Pedro dashed to grab a taxi back to the hotel. It took forever and we were panicked because now we had all been introduced, were lined up at midfield for the national anthems with Werner having his arms handcuffed behind his back. Just before the anthem ended Pedro came flying out of the tunnel and ran to midfield waving the key, just in time to release Werner before kickoff. We all loved Pedro.”

Michael Lewis with the excellent story on The Guard of Pedro Garay, the 5ft 6in man who protected the world’s greatest player during his whirlwind career with the New York Cosmos.

5. Football is under attack, unfairly maligned, too big to fail or already failing. It’s concussions and Colin Kaepernick-on-his-knee; it’s declining youth participation numbers and diminishing TV ratings. It has peaked.It’s $4 billion NFL franchise valuations, $60 million high school football stadiums and $100 million player contracts. Still peaking. It’s oversaturated, unwatchable and fragmented, too expensive to watch and too dangerous to play. Peaked. It’s the lifeblood of small towns, the front porch of universities, by far the country’s most popular and profitable sport. Forever peaking.

Saints Panthers Football Source: Bob Leverone

Football’s place in American culture in 2016 can be debated from thousands of competing vantage points. Which is why SPORTS ILLUSTRATED dispatched two writers to traverse the U.S., hitting 30-plus states over the course of October, conducting hundreds of interviews with NFL owners, high school coaches, Pop Warner parents, Uber drivers, professional dancers, veterinarians and teachers…

Grego Bishop and Michael McKnight spent an entire month traveling the U.S., interviewing hundreds of people touched by the many tentacles the game stretches through society. This is the story of what they found.

6. Good news for boxing fans: this weekend’s fight is the most important one of the year, a long-awaited meeting of two of the best fighters on the planet, with no firm consensus about who will win. Bad news for boxing itself: many casual fans have probably never heard of either guy, and are therefore unlikely to spend seventy dollars to watch the pay-per-view broadcast.

inpho_01132328 Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

The narrow favorite is Andre Ward, a gold medallist at the 2004 Olympics, now thirty-two years old, who has been considered a potential star for so long that the notion is starting to seem self-refuting. Ward is a self-assured virtuoso from Oakland, possessed of a serious attitude and a tricky style—two attributes that help assure victory in the ring and a relatively low profile outside of it. His opponent is Sergey (Krusher) Kovalev, thirty-three, a hard-punching Russian with no particular interest in mythmaking. One afternoon a few months ago, talking on the phone as he drove around Southern California, where he lives, Kovalev responded with friendly disdain to a question about how his mindset differs from other boxers’. “I don’t think about this bullshit, really,” Kovalev said. “First of all, boxing is a sport for me—and after this, already, business.”

The Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fight took place last night, and before it The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh explored a new era for boxing.

7. “I was quite small. I was just three years old so my memories are mainly of playing with other kids. We would be outside picking the carrots out of the ground and things like that, the kind of stuff that was normal for children who grew up in ordinary places all over the world. But my strongest memory is very different.

“I was at home with my mother and we heard the sound of the air raid sirens. It was really scary. She took me in her arms to protect me and we went downstairs to the basement. My mum was crying and all we could do was hide. That is something I will never forget. How could I? After that we went into a small car, a Yugo, and my uncle drove us to Germany. That is how I became a refugee.”

Liverpool v Barcelona - Pre-Season Friendly - Wembley Stadium Source: EMPICS Sport

There is no standard, uniform way that children become refugees but many who have been on that journey will recognise many of the facets of the testimony provided. A sudden loss of innocence, a life transformed without warning, feelings of helplessness and fear, a family displaced and a sudden, desperate move to another country.’s Tony Barrett chats with Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren, who had a less than ordinary childhood.

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