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 with everything happening at Capitol Hill, it’s only right to highlight the reaction of the NBA players by taking “post tip-offs”. It’s almost become second nature for both them & the WNBA to ensure that they make the point after every significant moment that the nation seems to create. When you witness “History in the making”, you have to ensure that you’re on the right side of that when the next generation look back or learn in their history classes (hopefully they’ll include all of the important details).
And this leads perfectly onto the call from our latest knighted hero, calling for black history to be a part of education in the UK. Lewis Hamilton has once again taken his achievements and his platform as an opportunity to point out something that ordinary people have demanded for decades but have never had the voice in the right circles. Whether or not his passionate words are taken seriously, the work of him, Marcus Rashford and many others have become things that can’t be ignored and maybe without knowing, they’ve already created a black history for the next generation to admire.
I have to quickly touch on NFL, where the Cleveland Browns are on the cusp (at the time of writing) of reaching their first play-offs in 18 years, something that will bring great joy to their city in a time when joy has been hard to come by for the world. The Steelers are expected to be a tough opponent and hopefully, the recent covid scares won’t get in the way of them developing a positive chapter in their recent history.
Keeping with the history theme, the Bundesliga seems set to lose one of their greats with the predicament that Schalke currently find themselves in. To be onto their 4th manager halfway through the season doesn’t bode well for a team that has given German football some of their best talents in recent times from Neuer, Ozil, Goretzka, Draxler and Sane, just to name a few. However, this shows what mismanagement of such an institution can do at any level. A lot of those aforementioned players left due to Schalke ending up in weak negotiating positions for the renewal of their contracts and even in the cases where a good amount of money was made from their assets, bad investment decisions has resulted in what will be a inevitable relegation to the Bundesliga 2.
One league that seems to have cooled down on the concept of sacking managers is the Premier League. By this stage of the season, “the sack race” is as big a topic as the biggest transfers expected to happen. But as clubs have started to lean towards more focus on a philosophy of squad building and style of play (or just hiring an ex-player), it’s become more difficult to make the knee-jerk decision of expecting someone to revamp a squad in 6 months and subsequently completely changing the ethos of a club. Now that the makings of a team are so specific, sacking a manager results in changing a lot more than who is in charge, it’s ripping up every schematic and starting again essentially. The “sack race” is no more.
And finally, we’ve got to speak about Wilfred Zaha. It is clear that he is one of the most skilful players in the league, and he offers a threat that few others can match. But there are a few frustrating things that come with him, some of it falls on him, others don’t. Firstly, the media portrayal of “he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next, so how the opposition?”. It’s just lazy and stinks of racial undertones. Most of the things he does to every defender week in, week out, because he simply knows how to beat them. It’s only bamboozling to those that can’t deal with it and can’t do it. Other things he does are what I like to call “situational intelligence”. It’s not a skill that you can re-enact on FIFA, it’s just simple manipulation of the ball tailored to what’s going on around, and Wilf is one of the best at it. What this has started to lead to is teams targeting him; which is common for players that have his ability (just ask Eden Hazard & Jack Grealish). Some players like the intelligence to know how to deal with him, so they just hack him down. Pathetic, but it is something that Wilf can use to his advantage when they get reprimanded in the form of yellow and red cards. Now none of these are his fault but the last one is, his reaction. In some extreme cases, there can be a degree of understanding. But a player of his abilities and qualities has to start seeing it as a backhanded compliment that it’s the only way that they can stop him. Because eventually his implosions of passion will only end up increasing the reasons why defenders treat him this way. Not only to stop him, to get that reaction. It creates more of a knife edge situation. Some weeks, opposition players will get sent off (Mings for example), but other weeks, he will end up being punished for what he’s referred to as “pashun”. I understand the frustration but he needs to find a clever way of combating something that is unlikely to leave the game as long as the dinosaur pundits continue to inspire the physical side (maybe just go back to diving)