Welcome to The Final Ball Blog! This is where we’ll have weekly a weekly detailed insight into the last week of sport for those of you who just couldn’t live by only listening to us for an hour a week!
And we’ve finally reached the end of an era. The imminent departure of Mesut Ozil signifies the end of the beautiful football that once was the vision of the manager that brought him to England. When it comes to the generation of traditional “number 10’s”, he would surely be deemed as the last of his kind. But there is one problem that he brought that may be presenting themselves under another format, his wage demands. His £350k will be paid off but in the shadows lurks two more vultures of the Arsenal cash, Aubameyang & Willian. Let’s be clear, in the same way that Ozil has leeched on the purse strings of the Arsenal faithful despite being past his best, Aubameyang & Willian surely fall into the same category. You would hope one day that these will be the last grave financial mistakes especially given the pandemic, but common sense has never been common in the world of football.
And a moment’s thought for Sol Bamba, after recently being diagnosed of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Respect to all the Cardiff fans that have shown him love & support, and credit to him to choose to continue with his coaching badges as he receives treatment. But right now Cardiff as a football club have an opportunity to put football teams in a positive light, especially in times that are getting more difficult by the day. I remember the case of Jonas Gutierrez at Newcastle, when he was quickly & ruthlessly tossed aside and we hope that the same club that were forced to mourn a player that never got the chance to play for them in Emiliano Sala, will have the strength & wisdom to do the right thing by Sol, a man who has served the club as a leader for so many years.
Moving onto to NBA, and it finally seems that James Harden is playing with a smile on his face again. The way he went about leaving can be questioned, but in this day and age, it’s “obtain joy by whatever means necessary”. Time will tell whether the decision to move to the Nets will end with rings on the fingers of him & his superstar teammates but there is a lot of work to be done to make this a cohesive side that can overcome the challenges of the Eastern Conference, and the likely meeting with AD & LeBron in the finals. Eventually we’ll know if al of this juice was worth the squeeze.
And in NFL, the treatment of Eric Bieniemy breeds another example of the glass ceiling placed on the success of black people. It’s been less than a year since he won the Superbowl (technically, his name is the last name on the trophy), and nobody wants him? Really? Black Lives Matter quickly became a social media trend across the Atlantic. While NBA & WNBA continue to break boundaries, the NFL stays in the same mindset as 5 years ago when Colin Kaepernick took the knee.
Similar sport to finish off, the England national rugby team seems set to call up Beno Obano (cousin of Maro Itoje) and Paolo Odogwu for the Six Nations next month. Although in the past England have had their fair share of black players (mostly with lighter skin), there’s something about seeing people that appear unapologetically black in terms of culture (hearing their names alone takes you right back to the village), upbringing and skin tone. There has always been a stigma around the “banter culture” in rugby, and you rarely find black players in what I call “decision making roles”, but slowly by including more diversity should come more awareness in terms of treatment and respect for different walks of life. This is something Lewis Hamilton & Naomi Osaka are being recognised for fighting in the public eye, but the fight in the changing room is a different battle that these guys are capable of.