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Dublin: 6 °C Tuesday 20 November, 2018

Cheating, Munster's coaching team and battling cancer; the week’s best sportswriting

We’ve also picked out articles on Marco Materazzi, Louis van Gaal and a fictional 1994 World Cup.

Louis van Gaal's past tells us little about what is to come at United, according to Gabriele Marcotti.
Louis van Gaal's past tells us little about what is to come at United, according to Gabriele Marcotti.
Image: Martin Rickett

1. SO, HOW DO we eliminate doping in sport?

I’ll tell you how: We can’t. Cheating is in our nature. Athletes are going to cheat.

In fact, “the idea of stimulating the body’s performance with all manner of concoctions is as old as mankind. The Inca chewed coca leaves to pep them up when doing strenuous work. Nordic warriors munched mushrooms before going into battle to dull the inevitable pain. Ancient Olympians chomped opium, among other things, to give them a competitive edge.” 

And not only has cheating been around since the inception of organized sport, it is actually hard-wired into us. 

The always-interesting Stuart McMillan takes a look at doping in sport, specifically focusing on why athletes dope. Can we eliminate the cheating? 

2. People change. For better and, sometimes, worse. And the more you know about someone, the more they come into focus. The more you see the warts as well as the beauty spots.

The thing about van Gaal is that you can take his career and spin it one way or another to make him seem like an obvious, no-brainer appointment or, equally, as a foolish gamble destined to crash and burn.

Which shall we do first? Soaring highs or crushing lows?

Writing for ESPN, Gabriele Marcotti delves into Louis van Gaal’s past, but intelligently argues that it offers us little insight of what is to come at Manchester United.

3. Are Munster rugby folk that different from Kerry football supporters? I’d say there’s little difference and that on some occasions they are one and the same. Jerry Flannery’s wise cracks and media experience ar an teilifis will doubtless come in useful next season but people will be paying attention to what he says then.

On the subject of players getting a free pass while coaches cop the flak, the xenophobia in Leinster has been a very disappointing aspect of the season. 

The Demented Mole writes about the new coaching team at Munster, while also discussing Matt O’Connor at Leinster, and expertly weaving Japanese foreign relations policies into the mix.

Anthony Foley Anthony Foley takes over from Rob Penney as Munster's head coach. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

4. Suddenly, however, after getting stuck on a cable, Ingesson fell forwards, out of the wheelchair and on to the ground, without a chance to dampen the fall with his hands. He was clearly in agony. Medical staff immediately ran to his rescue and an ambulance was there within minutes to take him to the hospital.

In the end it turned out that he had broken his thigh bone. Yet, at that moment, he did not want to leave the Gamla Ullevi stadion.

On the pages of The Guardian, Marcus Christenson tells the tale of Klas Ingesson, the top-flight manager who refuses to allow incurable cancer to get in the way of his passion.

5. I quickly apologised, but he kept saying, over and over again, that if I wanted his shirt so badly, I could have it after the game. He wouldn’t stop. So I said that, instead of his shirt, I’d rather have his sister. That was it. That’s all it was. 

Maybe it was the adrenaline; maybe it was the fatigue; maybe it was the occasion. But the next thing that happened was so difficult to understand. He walked towards me and, out of the blue, head-butted me in the chest. 

Gabriele Marcotti features again, this time as the ghostwriter for Marco Materazzi’s fascinating World Cup memories on ESPN.

6. What if Peter Reid had broken into something approaching a sprint in 1986, bundled Diego Maradona over and taken a yellow card with a semi-apologetic raised hand? What if Chris Waddle’s extra-time daisy-cutter had pinged into the net via Bodo Illgner’s left-hand post, with a satisfying metallic thud, against West Germany in 1990?

What if Sol Campbell’s unbridled 1998 reversioning of the Tardelli celebration hadn’t been cut short by a combination of Alan Shearer‘s elbow and Kim Milton Nielsen’s whistle? What if England had qualified for USA ’94?

Adam Hurrey attempts to answer those questions for The Guardian in his highly-detailed parallel universe, where England made it into the 1994 World Cup.

Here’s the dream scenario where LeBron James goes back to Cleveland this summer

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