As a keen football fan, summertime (as Lana Del Rey so accurately said) is one full of sadness. Yes, there are a number of pre-season fixtures, but they’re just not of the same intensity as the cut and thrust of a Premier League match or a Champions League final.
Football did feature this summer, however, and it came with an added samba beat. Hosted before next year’s World Cup as a dry run for host nation Brazil, the Confederations Cup was quite exciting for a tournament that can be notoriously dry. While a great amount of media attention was diverted towards events taking place outside the grounds, on the pitch there were a number of excellent games taking place. Watching Brazil, inspired by the latest Barcelona poster boy Neymar, really deconstruct Spain for what seems like the first time in living memory will hopefully act as an indicator that we are going to have an exciting World Cup on our hands next year.
Football went truly global this summer when Real Madrid’s protracted and at times indecent courtship of Gareth Bale concluded in a sea of mega millions. Looking at his career – not just the one truly dynamic year he had – I remain to be convinced whether he was worth the money that La Real have decided to pay for him.
There is also another aspect to this deal, which is really quite questionable: how can a football team in a country with one of Europe’s most arid economies pay a world record fee when youth unemployment is at 56.1%? Football’s march to take over the world continues apace.
Away from a round ball to a more pointy one, this year’s British and Irish Lions Tour of Australia was dramatic. Sixteen years of hurt were quashed quite vigorously and spectacularly in Sydney’s ANZ Stadium. The first Lions’ tour I paid attention to was back in 2005 when Clive Woodward’s charges were put mercilessly to the sword. It made a change, therefore, to see the men in red jerseys dancing on the pitch Down Under.
I am sure I speak for the vast majority of tennis fans, casual observers of Wimbledon and a much relieved Lawn Tennis Association, however, in saying that Andy Murray’s victory at Wimbledon was the highlight of the sporting summer. The Scot (which, given his iffy form post-Wimbledon, has been the most common way the media have described him) rested the ghost of Britain’s woeful attempts at attempting to win the Men’s Singles. Why Andrew Castle feels he can criticize Murray after his own mediocre career astounds me.
It was a really special moment to watch this at-times loveable but equally annoying and abrupt beanpole collapse to the ground in sheer ecstasy knowing what he had achieved. The only other thing I would have to say is that I hope the media and British public do not expect the world of Murray.
Cycling, after a very difficult year following Lance Armstrong’s admission of guilt, had a summer where there was at least a tentative recovery. Chris Froome’s win in the Tour De France was exciting to watch. The most gratifying point was his strong and very robust anti-drugs stance. I am sure anyone with an interest in sport and not just cycling will hope that it isn’t simply more hot air in a sport that has seen its fair share of it.
It was a summer of highs in sport (provided you aren’t Australian, given their woes in both cricket and rugby). Thankfully football is back in vogue and I can watch the fortunes of the mighty Birmingham City fluctuate between mediocrity and average.
Sport never stops, however. The Autumn Tests will be upon us soon enough, as will the incredibly boring Champions League. The Europa League group stages will also be heading our way. For cricket fans who enjoyed this year’s domination of Australia by England in their quest to take hold of the world’s most physically underwhelming trophy, the return leg will be hosted Down Under in what will be a blood and thunder quest by the Aussies to regain their crown.
In 2014 we have a tremendous amount to look forward to: the Commonwealth Games will see some of the finest athletes around descend on Glasgow; in some ways football will be coming home when Brazil hosts its first World Cup since 1970; and earlier on in the year, despite unsavoury undertones surrounding the event, the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be a test of Russia’s ability to host a major international event while also showcasing snowsports to a general public who would otherwise not regularly watch it.
Whatever your persuasion, your sporting fix should be satisfied.