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Xabi Alonso's GAA past, Brady's friendship with Trump and all the week's best sportswriting

Sit back and enjoy the best sports journalism of the week.

1. TO THOSE WHO were there, Trevor Sinclair’s overhead kick felt different.

Before most goals crowds tend to get louder. There are clues in the build-up, a growing sense that a moment of release is approaching. Sinclair’s had none of that.

It came from a mishit cross in a rare attack and travelled so quickly off the winger’s boot that there was no time to process what had happened. I remember the briefest moment of astounded silence, then a louder, higher-pitched celebratory noise than I had heard before or since.

Trevor Sinclair’s overhead kick 20 years ago gets the oral history treatment by The Telegraph’s Thom Gibbs.

Germany Soccer Bundesliga Source: Michael Probst

2. It’s January and the Italian coach of a German team stocked with players from nine different countries is sitting on the terrace of a Swiss hotel in Qatar talking about his past clubs in France, Spain and England, as well as more esoteric stuff, like the Japanese restaurant he’s taking the staff to that evening, how to cook Pacific salmon and the bears he met in Canada.

Globalization, eh?

These particular bears — Coola and Grinder — weigh nearly a ton between them and live in Grouse Mountain, near Vancouver, where Carlo Ancelotti spent much of the 2015-16 season. 

Carlo Ancelotti chats to ESPN’s Gabriele Marcotti about Bayern, Ronaldo, player egos and…bears

TURKEY CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SOCCER Source: AP/Press Association Images

3. But Alonso just smiled, and five days before the biggest game in his life up to then, talked about Ollie Murphy’s shimmies, Trevor Giles’s disguised passes, the longevity of Sean Boylan and how he wished he’d been around in Red Collier’s time.

Nah, Alonso talked of playing Gaelic football in a local park with some of his Kells pals.

He said he’d never played an actual organised game but had enjoyed a visit to Croke Park for a Meath match.

And he put forward the view that players should wear crash helmets.

Kieran Cunningham on how the myth of Xabi Alonso’s GAA past grew legs

Manziel Indictment Football Source: LM Otero

4. It’s a measure of the size of his talent and the paucity of quality quarterbacks that almost immediately speculation began about which clubs, the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars for starters, just might be willing take a chance on a former college phenom battling a very public drinking problem. So far, so very Manziel.

Last Sunday night, the rehabilitation tour made a stop at Foxboro to watch the New England Patriots defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. For a 24-year-old trying to shake off a reputation for hard living and to convince sceptics he’s a truly reformed character, wearing a Tom Brady 12 shirt to a playoff game while gurning and goofing about on social media wasn’t a particularly good look. Or a smart decision. Then again, some would say it was just Johnny being Johnny.

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The Irish Times’s Dave Hannigan on Jonny Manziel’s rehabilitation tour

Source: Charles Krupa

5. Why is this mutual man-crush an issue? First and foremost, Trump used his friendship with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in the final days before the election, publicly touting their “endorsements.” He even read a letter from Belichick at a closing-night campaign rally in New Hampshire. Whether or not Donald Trump had permission to do these things—I have it on good authority that he did not—doesn’t change the fact that Brady and Belichick were not bystanders to this election but actors within it.

The Nation’s Dave Zirin on why Tom Brady’s Friendship With Donald Trump Matters

AFC Wimbledon v Sutton United - Emirates FA Cup - Third Round Replay - The Cherry Red Records Stadium Source: Andrew Matthews

6. One person who was there was Neal Ardley. Now the AFC Wimbledon manager, Ardley was 21 at the time and in the middle of his breakthrough season in Wimbledon’s midfield. “I remember looking at the opposite side of the pitch to the dugouts, it was literally one man and his dog” Ardley says now. “We used to laugh because the only times we sold out Selhurst Park was when we played the big clubs. There would be 8,000 Wimbledon fans and 18,000 supporting Man United.”

Paul McInness writes on The Guardian about the day 3,036 watched a Premier League match

collage-teams_3339061b Source: The Telegraph

7. Imagine the uproar if UEFA announced tomorrow they were to launch a mid-season six-a-side tournament involving four major European teams.

Well, bizarrely, that’s exactly what happened 20 years ago when Ajax, AC Milan, Liverpool and Glasgow Rangers took part in the 1997 Euro Sixes at the Amsterdam Arena.

The two-day tournament was the brainchild of Johan Cruyff and consisted of six round-robin games, divided into four eight-minute quarters, plus a final and third-place play-off. Squads were made up of 11 players per game, with substitutions allowed at any point.

You could be forgiven for assuming the line-ups consisted of barely-head-of reserve players, but you’d be wrong. Each club received £120,000 for taking part in the Sony MiniDisc-sponsored tournament and, presumably as part of the deal, all took strong squads.

Mark Holmes describes the bizarre mid-season six-a-side tournament of 97, which featured star names like Gazza, Edgar Davids and Robbie Fowler

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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