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Coaching abuse scandal in NWSL, racism in football and the best of this week's sportswriting

Stick the kettle on.

NWSL coach Paul Riley is facing allegations of sexual abuse.
NWSL coach Paul Riley is facing allegations of sexual abuse.
Image: Karl B DeBlaker

1. What did he feel on the night England played the final of the Euros against Italy? Zephaniah laughs. “I remember thinking: ‘I hope they win. It would be a great end to the film.’

“But we got to penalties and I thought: ‘Oh no. This will be mayhem.’ A lot of black people said the same thing. When they saw those penalties being missed [by Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka] they knew what was coming. I went on the computer and you saw it immediately. [Rashford] missed and the comment was already on Twitter. They were just waiting.”

Despite the racial abuse these three young players suffered, Zephaniah sounds hopeful.

“It’s terrible but that’s why we fight because there are some good people here. We do multiculturalism quite well in this country. If there was no hope, I wouldn’t be here. I can go and find another English-speaking country where I can do poetry. But I’m politically attached to here and I love the music we make and the way we do sport – on the whole.

Writer, actor and activist Benjamin Zephaniah talks to Donald McRae of The Guardian about his love of football and his respect for players who are willing to take a stand against injustice. 

43rd-ryder-cup-day-three-whistling-straits Team Europe pictured at this year's Ryder Cup. Source: PA

2. I believe the Ryder Cup reigns because it reminds us that we were created for something outside of ourselves. Sandcastles will not suffice. There’s a vulnerability in admitting that, and so often going at it alone for these professionals is the safer, less exposed option, but it is not the better one. That’s why these European teams are so immensely likable. They understand that, and they are willing to openly weep, not over losses but over the loss of that wisp of time.

The Ryder Cup, like the Masters for me, also represents a passage of time. Two years until the next one. Four years until the next one in the United States. So many different things will happen in the lives of these players and those of us covering them in that span of time. Marriages will begin, babies will be born, family members will pass away.

Then we will gather again in Rome and then at Bethpage and do this whole thing over again. Insane moments will happen. A complete theater of the absurd. There’s a through line, though. And that through line is that we will gather again.

Writing for CBS Sports, Kyle Porter explains the magic of the Ryder Cup.

3. The Athletic spoke to more than a dozen players representing every team Riley has coached since 2010, plus an additional 10 sources throughout the women’s game. The majority asked to remain anonymous because of fear of repercussions given Riley’s influence in the sport.

In addition to his alleged sexual coercion of Farrelly, Riley led Farrelly and Portland Thorns teammate Mana Shim back to his apartment after a night of drinking in 2015 and pressured them to kiss each other as he watched, according to Farrelly and Shim.

Riley told them the team would avoid a grueling conditioning session if they granted his request. He also sent an unsolicited lurid picture of himself to both women, Farrelly and Shim said, and he once invited Shim to a “film session” in his hotel room and then greeted her there wearing nothing but his underwear. Farrelly, Shim and several other Thorns players from 2014-15 said Riley also made inappropriate remarks about their weight and sexual orientation.

 Meg Linehan of The Athletic presents a chilling account of allegations of sexual abuse against NWSL coach Paul Riley.

4. Keogh had missed his lift home but his teammate Tom Lawrence was in his Range Rover, keys in the ignition, ready to go. Did Keogh want to jump in? There was a Derby player in the passenger seat and another in the back. Keogh does not name them. Everything happened so fast. Keogh believed that Lawrence was sober and, with two others already in the car, he saw no reason not to get into the back.

“I hadn’t spent the evening with Tom,” Keogh says. “I had no reason to believe he was over the limit. Everyone was in there before me so I didn’t think: ‘Hang on a minute.’ It was just: ‘OK. I need to get home. Let’s go.’ The next thing I know I’m waking up and speaking to the paramedics.”

Lawrence had followed another Derby player, Mason Bennett, out of the pub. Bennett drove his Mercedes – with no passengers – and, after a minute or so, when he stopped at a give-way line, Lawrence went into the back of him, before careering into the lamp-post. In the panic that followed, everyone fled the scene. Everyone, apart from Keogh. He had been abandoned by his teammates, left unconscious in the wreckage of Lawrence’s car. To all intents, he was left for dead and it was certainly a difficult moment for Keogh when he realised that later on. “I was like: ‘Wow. OK,’” he says.

In an interview with David Hytner of The Guardian, Richard Keogh recalls the horrific injuries he sustained in a car crash and the events that resulted in him being sacked by Derby County. 

ireland-players-dejected-after-the-game Ireland players console each other after losing out to Scotland in their World Cup qualifier. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

5. It is not a stretch to suggest there is a climate of fear on all sides of the house.

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Players are afraid of repercussions to their careers if they speak out. Administrators fear social media backlash for every misstep and there is a sense among the 2014 crop of players and coaches that the union are afraid of their strong personalities.

“They’re scared of us because we are really passionate and know what we’re talking about,” former coach Philip Doyle said with exasperation, while Davitt gets the sense that the most successful team in Irish women’s rugby isn’t wanted.

“After 2014, it was almost that they wanted a total clearout of that old-school team,” she said.

So, the highly qualified Lynne Cantwell is in South Africa, having been headhunted by Rassie Erasmus. What must she make of the way things are going back home?

The Irish Independent’s Ruaidhri O’Connor reflects on a troubling period for women’s rugby in Ireland and what the future holds for the sport.

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