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Pochettino resembling a character from The Office and more of the week's best sportswriting

Enjoy this selection of some of our favourite pieces published over the last seven days.

“It was easy to feel some sympathy for Djokovic’s treatment, not at all for his stance. In substance, what more could he do? He could stop dissembling about how his vaccination status is his own business when it would always have emerged once he tried to set foot in the country, and everyone knew it anyway. He could demonstrate the strength of his own anti-vax convictions by standing for them up-front, instead of shuffling around a few papers that say: well, I’m not vaccinated, no, but I could be, once this little six-month Covid-19 window passes, because I’m only deferring, wink wink, you believe me, don’t you, oh, and thanks for the visa.”

– Greg Baum offered his take on the Novak Djokovic/Australian Open saga in the Sydney Morning Herald.

novak-djokovic-is-seen-in-what-it-could-be-his-final-practice-at-the-2022-australian-open-at-melbourne-park-in-melbourne-australia-on-january-14-2022-australia-has-revoked-tennis-star-novak-djokovi Novak Djokovic practising at Melbourne Park earlier this week. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

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“In any case, the appeal of hosting some Euro 2020 games soon wore off once Ireland did not qualify, although Uefa seem to be trying to do their best to ensure nobody misses out by expanding the tournament to a ludicrously large 32 teams. I had bought tickets for the kids for the matches due to be staged in Dublin. The disappointment at learning they would not be able to go to watch Slovakia and Sweden is nothing compared to telling them yet another match has been called off because the pitch is unplayable. There is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable pitches. Let’s get that sorted before anything else.”

– Instead of attempting to host international tournaments, the Irish Sun’s Neil O’Riordan makes the case for the FAI to invest in facilities.

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“Putatively, he’s the man in charge. In reality he’s little more than a bystander, the coaching equivalent of Rowan, the training instructor in The Office: helplessly looking on as the lovelorn Icardi bares his soul, Mbappé describes his ultimate fantasy in unsparing detail (“Ronaldo. Zidane. I’m just watching”) and Neymar strums Freelove Freeway on his acoustic guitar. This is, if you think about it, quite some achievement. A 37-year-old Qatari billionaire buys a football club with an unlimited budget to attract the world’s best players to one of its greatest cities. Over the course of a decade he wins seven league titles by a combined margin of 101 points. On paper – and let’s set aside the morality of the thing for a minute – this sounds like the most riotously fun project in the history of football. And yet for some reason, it’s not.”

– For The Guardian, Jonathan Liew argues that Kylian Mbappe’s desire to join Real Madrid is emblematic of ‘the lack of any real fun’ at PSG.

IRRrij7Z 2 There are shades of Rowan from The Office about Mauricio Pochettino at PSG, writes Jonathan Liew.

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“There was a high turret with guns pointing out of it. Barbed wire everywhere. There were RUC and army patrols. Armoured vehicles. There was a huge, metal, fortified gate at the front and a wall all around it. The sense of tension in the air was tangible. At the gate the posh sounding British army officer in a beret informed us that under no circumstances would we be entering the hospital. Michael took the news calmly and went to work on the Englishman’s resolve. I don’t know what kind of training the officer had received at Sandhurst, and I don’t know what he had learned from whatever British conflicts he had been part of. But in opposition to the man from Innishannon on a mission to ensure that one of his charges was being well-looked after, he didn’t have a hope. I almost felt sorry for him. In a battle of wills between the British army and Father Michael O’Brien, there could only be one winner.”

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– In the Irish Examiner, Tadhg Coakley remembers the late former Cork hurling manager Canon Michael O’Brien.

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“How many men have gone running with a key primed between their fingers? You know, just in case they are attacked by a random woman. How many men have felt their heart rate spike due to fear of an unknown female or females walking behind them? How many men have crossed the road to avoid females coming towards them? How many men have learned some form of self-protection? You know, just in case? As a society we have to acknowledge we are not in a good place. I do not know many women who would go for a run down the canal, day or night. Many wouldn’t and I am one of them.”

Lisa Fallon, who recently left her coaching job at Galway United for a role with Fifa, reacts to the killing of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore on Wednesday afternoon for the Irish Times.

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