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North Korean football, Suarez's tears of rage and MMA: the week’s best sportswriting

There is also space for a behind-the-scenes account of West Brom’s terrible season and a story of NFL ineptitude.

Luis Suarez covers his face at the end of Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace.
Luis Suarez covers his face at the end of Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. One of the big problems was that we had a computer analyst putting his boots on and coming on to the training pitch and trying to coach 20 professional footballers.

He was trying to translate for Pepe too, but in football you either have a reputation or you earn a reputation. It was difficult for some players to take, being told by a computer analyst how to play football.

That was a big area where the lads weren’t having it all, to be honest. A big thing we’ve been missing is honesty around the place.

West Brom defender Gareth McAuley lifts the lid on Albion’s behind-the-scenes turmoil in a season that ended with manager Pepe Mel leaving by mutual consent.

2. “We thought we were building a team to last, a consistently championship contending team in the NFC Central,” says Wood, the standout linebacker who played in Tampa Bay from 1976-84.

We thought we were really starting to put something together. But as we all know, we bungled it up. We bungled the team and just faded away. And it started with that ’82 draft. It was amazing to all of us that it went down that way. It was a bad decision and it just didn’t make sense. A move like that makes you start questioning management.”

Writing for Sports Illustrated, Don Banks’ longform piece details how one ill-fated phone call in 1982 began the NFL’s longest run of ineptitude

3. Pendred says that as a child he was competitive, but that this facet of his personality was honed by playing rugby at school: “What I loved about rugby was the physicality of it. I wasn’t that interested in getting the ball or making a run. I was interested in making a tackle or hitting the rucks.

“I also loved one-on-one competition. I always tried to pick one guy off the other team and try to outplay him. That one-on-one challenge appealed to me. I then started watching MMA on TV, but didn’t have time to try it with all my rugby training.”

Tadhg Peavoy of RTÉ speaks to Cathal Pendred about climbing the ladder in MMA, as the Dubliner takes part in The Ultimate Fighter series.

4. For the first time in many of their lives, the young players were permitted to travel abroad. In South Africa, they faced Brazil and then Portugal, two of the world’s top teams in the so-called ‘group of death’.

Their head coach Kim Jong-hun told the media that the Dear Leader himself gave “regular tactical advice during matches” via “mobile phones that are not visible to the naked eye”. Nevertheless the team lost both matches. “We were welcomed home with great warmth,” enthused Ri Myong-guk, countering the accusation that the coach had been publicly humiliated by government officials on their return.

On the pages of The Guardian, Rory McLean outlines a day in the life of North Korean footballer Ri Myong-guk.

5. ”I had a lot of rage inside me knowing that just a week before we had a great chance to win the league,” he said. “In that moment I realised that although we had a game left, the opportunity had probably gone. I just wanted to hide my face and get down the tunnel.

“We had had such a great season but it wasn’t going to be enough. The key game was against Chelsea. Maybe we lacked a touch of concentration or focus to stop that goal [from Demba Ba] or create a clear chance after it to get the draw and then depend on ourselves.”

The Independent’s Pete Jenson speaks to Liverpool forward Luis Suarez about the tears of rage that signified a realisation that his team’s title challenge was over.

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