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Dublin: 12 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019

Juventus fighting the forces of time and more of the week's best sportswriting

A selection of our favourite pieces from the past seven days.

“A couple of months ago, I went to watch a National League North match at Edgeley Park. I was there as a Stockport County fan but the evening was hijacked by a midfield playmaker from Nuneaton Town. He was the only player on either side wearing gloves but that was not the reason he stood out. I found out later his name was George Green. George was way too good for Stockport that Tuesday night. He was way too good for the league, too. Even I could see within a few minutes that he was meant for a bigger stage than this. I wondered what on earth he was doing here. It was like spotting something glistening in the mud. It was like seeing a diamond in the dirt.”

Oliver Holt writes for the Mail on Sunday about George Green, the man once hailed as the new Gazza at Everton.

Jurgen Klopp File Photo Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Source: Peter Byrne

“It is striking how, at Liverpool’s training ground, Klopp is also stimulated when discussing real life and tangled politics, Brexit and Angela Merkel. There are moments in a free-wheeling conversation when the hilarity feels unstoppable as Klopp considers a claim that he would win an election to become German chancellor because of his attention to detail, communication skills and empathy. But there are many more thoughtful moments – particularly when Klopp addresses the vexed issue of Brexit and his belief that British people should have the chance to vote again on their future in or outside the EU.”

The Guardian’s Donald McRae speaks to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

“In the press box, the Napoli reporters lost their minds, jumping up and down, hugging. The Juventus fans went silent, and after three minutes of stoppage time, the game ended. It felt like something larger was ending, too. Napoli has four easy games left and a chance to finally unseat the Old Lady as champions. The entire Juventus team walked to the locker room — except for one player. Buffon stayed behind. He walked toward the celebrating Napoli players who’d gathered to salute their loud, jubilant fans in the northeast corner of the stadium. One by one, he shook hands and hugged his competitors, congratulating them on the victory. Then he walked alone back toward the tunnel, out of time in more ways than one, until he finally disappeared from view.”

– As the most dominant club in Italy fights for its record seventh straight league title, it is also fighting the forces of time, writes ESPN’s Wright Thompson.

Italy: Juventus v SSC Napoli - Serie A Juventus goalkeeper Gigi Buffon. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

“Barone is 28 now, many years removed from those innocent skates under the eye of his father, Remo. Late last summer, during an interview at a Toronto coffeehouse, he was upset. Barone is sure of two things about himself: He is a hockey man, and he is a gay man. In the sport he has devoted his life to, this has proved an untenable intersection. In February, the N.H.L. sponsored “Hockey Is for Everyone” events at games throughout the league — to foster more inclusive communities in the sport, it said. Players used rainbow-colored tape on their sticks, and teams hosted pride nights. And yet, for some time now, Barone has been trying to decide if hockey is still for him.”

Jason Buckland of the New York Times on Andrea Barone, who nearly quit his job as a minor league hockey referee after years of hearing coaches and players use anti-gay language during games.

“There were two minutes to go in the final, his final, when Andrés Iniesta began the long walk goodbye. Slowly, swallowing hard, eyes red, he made his way across the pitch, team-mates coming to embrace him as he went, and all around the Metropolitano supporters got to their feet, applauding. They stood in the Barcelona end and they stood in the Sevilla end too. Iniesta’s name rolled around, accompanying him until he ducked out of sight, taking a seat on the bench. He sat there for a little while, tears forcing their way through, and then he got up again and went to collect the Copa del Rey, alone. It was the 34th title of his career and a 35th will follow, but it was this one that felt like it marked the end: the last waltz. As he climbed up to collect the trophy, down on the grass Barcelona’s players waited for him, much as they had waited for him when, 51 minutes into his 670th game for Barcelona, he scored the fourth goal, ensuring this would always be his night: the Iniesta Final.”

– Departing legend Andres Iniesta belongs to us all – tears, applause and another moment of quiet awe marked a fitting cup final farewell, writes Sid Lowe for The Guardian.

Mickey Harte Tyrone senior football manager Mickey Harte. Source: Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

“The association is in the country’s bloodstream – a generally positive state of being and yet not always one in which it necessarily delights. This is one of the situations in which its very ubiquity feels like more a curse than a blessing. The GAA’s greatest strengths – connectivity within communities, the name recognition of its leading practitioners, its thriving brand – make it ripe for being co-opted by any and all causes that take a fancy to it. It has ever been thus. There isn’t a political party or cause in the State who hasn’t plugged into the GAA mainframe at some point or other, with or without the association’s blessing. Usually, if only in the interests of a peaceful life, without.”

Malachy Clerkin for The Irish Times on why Tyrone football manager Mickey Harte isn’t entitled to speak on behalf of the GAA regarding the Eighth Amendment.

“The school that my sons attend, a stone’s throw from Highbury Stadium, a slingshot from the Emirates, does not allow mobile phones on the premises. Every morning, my boys and the friends that walk to school with them leave theirs in our kitchen, where they lie still and silent until the end of the educational day. They surrendered them as normal on Friday morning, and I sat down to read the paper in the suddenly peaceful house, but then the phones all started to buzz and ping at the same time. There is only one subject — Arsenal Football Club — that can provoke that kind of simultaneous activity. Even news of a North Korean nuclear strike would probably drip through over several days. My own phone had started to buzz, too; by this stage, it was hard to imagine what else could have happened, apart from the resignation of Arsene Wenger.”

Nick Hornby for ESPN on Arsene Wenger’s imminent departure from Arsenal after 22 years in charge.

NBA: Playoffs-Miami Heat at Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid of the 76ers hugs rapper Meek Mill after their game-five win over Miami Heat in the NBA Playoffs. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

“Before tipoff, Meek rang the Sixers’ prop Liberty Bell as the in-arena PA announced to the crowd that the rapper was supported by Sixers owners Josh Harris and Rubin and longtime fan Kevin Hart. As he completed his final wallop, ‘Dreams and Nightmares’ started to play. This was the Eagles’ song. It sounds like a motorcycle engine being revved in your chest cavity; it sounds like watching Creed on a loop; it sounds like Brian Dawkins screaming at the moon on Monday Night Football. It’s got lots of words about Popeye and Aston Martins and murder, but it doesn’t matter. The song came out in 2012, but in the past year it’s been distilled down to what it was always meant to be: a war cry for Philadelphians. You don’t believe in us, you don’t respect us, you don’t think we can do it. Well, we don’t need you. Your children are wearing dog masks, and your quarterback is getting strip-sacked.”

Chris Ryan writes for The Ringer about the Philadelphia 76ers, “the best young team in the NBA”.

“I wasn’t there long before I concluded that the main job of every successful Qatari was hiring enough foreigners to do all the real work; the bartender in my hotel was a Filipino teenager who hadn’t seen his passport in a year. I spent a lot of time with expatriate Americans, rotated in-country by the various oil companies for which they worked. That was one reason why, in an Islamic state, there were so many loopholes through which foreigners could drink. (There was one liquor store in the whole country, way out in the desert. The Americans called it, “The Little House On The Prairie.”) I came to be revolted by the ostentatious wealth earned on the backs of people who were trapped there and paid poorly, when they were paid at all, and by the distance between all the sleek sheikhs and that teenager behind the bar. By the end of two weeks, I was ready to swim home.”

– Tom Brady has no business promoting Qatar, writes Sports Illustrated’s Charles P Pierce.

‘I told Fergie to shove his Manchester United contract and he told me to get out of his office’

“They asked me about Effenberg. And I said: ‘If he thinks I was like his father, he played like my mother’”

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