As a lover of sport as a whole, and primarily rugby and soccer, the lack of action across the board during 2020 put into perspective the privilege we as writers and supporters have always been offered in terms of accessibility to a variety of sporting codes. Two months into the year we have soccer happening nearly every single day, and rugby – with crowds – back in full swing, among tennis tournaments, cricket and everything else. I’ve decided to pick my sporting moments from the past weekend.
It may have taken 26 rounds of the Premier League to finally see the emergence of an emphatic Gareth Bale performance, but against Burnley on the weekend we finally got it. After scoring in the Europa League midweek, Bale took all of two minutes to calmly control a cross from Son Heung-Min and neatly touch it in with his left foot to begin Spurs’ ultimate 4-0 romp. Just over ten minutes later Bale was back with a 60 yard cross to assist Harry Kane for his goal, and on the 55th minute Bale, in the style that has characterised his career, slung in a stylish left-footed winder to make his stats two goals from three shots, one assist, two completed dribbles and five from eight duels won in his 70 minutes on the field.
On the 76th minute of the Blues’ Super Rugby Aotearoa opener against the Hurricanes, Rieko Ioane clutched a fumbled ball from the grips of the Canes’ right winger, inside the Blues’ ten meter line, brushed away all 95 kilograms and 1.96m of Jordie Barrett and sped the length of the field to dot down and close off an emphatic second half showing from the Blues which saw them thump the Hurricanes 31-16. I enjoyed Ioane’s try so much because it was reminiscent of the Rieko who burst onto the Sevens scene at 17 and proved so dangerous in his explosive power and out and out speed. His transition from 11 to 13 has seen fewer of the traits that characterised his early career being expressed, so to see a try scored in that fashion was a pleasure to watch.
NOISY NEW ZEALAND
Fans were screaming as the Crusaders beat the Highlanders and the Blues thumped the Hurricanes. Real fans! Not the simulated noise that the Premier League has had to resort to to combat the echo of 90000 capacity stadiums filled with just teams, management, medics and camera men. In a pandemic characterised by contradiction, perhaps one of the biggest ones has been the opening of many public places and events across the world, but very little intention to move towards regulated crowd attendance for sporting events during Covid. Understandably New Zealand are the outliers in that they don’t actually face the issue of Covid, but where regulated concessions are being made in every other sphere of life across countries, why not sport? Without fans, professional sport is left void of one of its integral pieces.