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But Hodges believes the outpouring of support for Kaepernick, especially on social media, “has to be heartening for him. He must know that, ‘Hey man, I’m doing the right thing.’” Hodges, in contrast, received no support. “None at all. Today, on social media, people can vibe with you even if they can’t do anything about your opportunity to play. Authentic Sonny Jurgensen Youth Jersey So I feel good he knows people support him. Now, if the NFL doesn’t stump up and he doesn’t get an opportunity, fans who are supportive of Colin should show their displeasure and stage a boycott. Don’t buy jerseys or don’t go to the game to show appreciation for his stance.” The way in which social media has publicised campaigns such as Black Lives Matter has meant sportsmen can no longer plead ignorance as Jordan and Scottie Pippen once did. When Hodges tried to get his team-mates to read more about black history, Pippen supposedly said: “What do I need education for? I make six figures.” Hodges harbors no animosity towards Pippen or even Jordan. “Michael didn’t speak out largely because he didn’t know what to say – not because he was a bad person.” It should also be pointed out that Jordan chose to snub President Bush’s invitation when the Bulls visited him in 1991. “I’m not going to the White House,” Hodges remembers Jordan saying. “Fuck Bush. I didn’t vote for him.” How does he regard Jordan, 25 years on? “He’s a savvy businessman. I applaud him for that, I don’t hate on that. But he’s gained knowledge through life experience and he has been getting into decent projects. I’m sure he is more conscious now.” Phil Jackson was the only man in the Chicago locker room to share Hodges’ unhappiness at America’s bombing of Iraq in 1991. “We get stuck in one idea of patriotism,” Hodges says, “and if I don’t march to the beat of that soundbite I’m unpatriotic. Me and Phil were different. When the Gulf war broke out in 1991, on Dr King Day, actually, everybody said: ‘We need to bomb the shit out of them.’ Phil let them finish and he said: ‘If we do that, then remember that’s going to leave an orphan who will feel the pain as he grows up with the idea of revenge. Don’t be too quick to cheer – because retaliation is in his hands now.” Jackson ended Hodges’ 13-year isolation from the NBA when he offered him a coaching role at the LA Lakers. Authentic Adam Lind Youth Jersey Hodges won two more championships with Jackson and the Lakers. The old wounds have healed but surely he despairs when, apart from the continuing loss of young black lives, Trump is in the White House? “You would love to think we’ve come a long way, and that’s saddening to me at times. The imagery portrays that black people have come a long way. We had a black president so we now can’t talk about race any more? But we’re still the least represented people in this nation.” Hodges dismisses Barack Obama’s presidency. “He did some good things, I’m sure,” Hodges snorts, “but I don’t know what they are. Maybe he tried to get healthcare for everybody, but they’re still running it the way they want.” Yet replacing Obama with Trump must dishearten Hodges? “No. It’s not disheartening because there are natural cycles of life. We have been so mis-educated we don’t understand there is a supreme answer. You know that old song – Age of Aquarius? It’s about the dawning of a new age. It’s coming, even if Trump says we’re going to make America great again. For me, as a black man, when was America great? What’s so great about the founding fathers, the civil war, the killing of Martin Luther King, the killing of Malcolm X? The blackballing of athletes during that period? What period are you talking about when America was great?’
Rioting spread across LA for six days and Hodges followed the televised news – noticing how often, amid play-off fever, a “Be Like Mike” commercial in homage to Jordan was repeated. After game two of the 1992 championship final against Portland, Authentic Bryce Harper Youth Jersey Hodges was asked about the NBA’s lack of black owners. He spoke out against racism in the NBA, and across America, and criticised Jordan for failing to address the judicial injustice towards King. The New York Times ran the story; and Hodges’ career was effectively over. Twenty-five days after Chicago became champions again, Hodges was told he would not be offered a new deal. He had just turned 32 – but Hodges had been part of successive title-winning campaigns and remained king of the three-pointers. Hodges’ knowledge of the game and enduring shooting skills could not compensate for his political conviction. His belief that Jordan and his agent Dave Falk were, in tandem with others, “going to run me out of the league” came true. Not one NBA team would offer a contract to a free agent of huge experience. His precarious situation deteriorated when his own agent, Bob Woolf, said he could no longer represent him. Hodges could not even find a new agent. “No one would return my calls,” he remembers. While he waited forlornly for an offer from the NBA, which never came, Hodges played in Italy. Unlike when Ali, John Carlos and Tommie Smith made powerful gestures of political defiance in the civil rights-enflamed 1960s, Hodges was an outcast. “It was a different climate. A brother facing oppression in the 1960s felt it the same, whether he was a bus driver or Ali. Look what the brothers did in Mexico City [when Carlos and Smith raised their fists in black power salutes during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner on the Olympic podium in 1968]. They faced unemployment and disenfranchisement. “I had that too but, in my era, not many people stood up. The climate was very conservative – and it got worse because athletes were afraid to speak because of the ramifications I faced.” In his foreword to Hodges’ book, the sportswriter Dave Zirin recalls that, when he started covering the NBA in 2003, he asked players why they did not speak out politically. The stock answer, fed to the players by their agents, was stark: “You don’t want to be like Craig Hodges.” That troubling quote is echoed by Kaepernick’s failure to win a new contract now he is no longer a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. Hodges is sympathetic. Brad Wing Youth Jersey “The cruel part about it, man, is he’s speaking on behalf of people who can’t speak for themselves. Now he’s spoken, it seems his platform has been removed. It’s like [the NFL] are saying: ‘We’re going to take him away because we don’t want his views to catch fire. We don’t want him in a locker room spreading this truth. “I applaud Colin. I’m trying to reach out to the brother so I can let him know personally: ‘I respect you. If there’s anything I can do please don’t hesitate to call me. I’ve got your back.’ I know he loves to play the game. So not getting a contract is hurtful to his essence. The fact he’s not even getting offers right now is depressing for me, for him. I know these feelings.”
He wore a dashiki and George W, the president’s son and a future occupant of the Oval Office, spoke slowly as if Hodges might not understand English. “Where are you from?” “Chicago Heights, Illinois,” Hodges answered, amused at the way in which W’s excitement at meeting the famous Bulls, which had him “bouncing around like a kid” at his father’s workplace, had disappeared into startled incomprehension. Phil Jackson, the Bulls’ coach, informed the president that Hodges was the Bulls’ best shooter. On a half-court set up on the South Lawn, Authentic Chandler Parsons Youth Jersey Hodges drained three-pointers from 24 feet. He hit nine in a row, his white dashiki swirling gently around him. As they left the court, Hodges told the president he had written him a personal letter. Did Bush reply to the letter? “He never did,” Hodges says, calmly. “I wonder sometimes if he got past page one. I wonder if he even read it? When I was researching my book I got in touch with the George Bush library to get the original copy. The lady there loved it. She was like: ‘Oh, this is a great letter. You actually gave this to the president?’ I said: ‘Yeah, and I got in lots of trouble for it.’” Hodges did not mind that his letter was leaked to the media in 1991. But it made him a marked man. He remained with the Bulls and, the following year, emulated Larry Bird by becoming the only other player in NBA history to win three successive three-point contests at the all-star weekend – showcasing his skill in sinking long-range shots. Hodges won $20,000, and asked his fellow Bulls to join him in each pooling a similar amount from their vast earnings to help local communities. His team-mates avoided the invitation, saying they would need to clear it with their agents. Authentic David Lee Youth Jersey Hodges was disappointed, because “I envisioned the Chicago Bulls making history in the most meaningful way. We also had a basketball player [Jordan] whose popularity exceeded that of the pope. If the Bulls spoke in a collective voice during the golden age of professional basketball, the world would listen.” In his absorbing book, Hodges stresses how he tried repeatedly to persuade Jordan to “break with Nike and go into the sneaker business for himself, with the aim of creating jobs in the black communities”. Jordan argued he was not in a position to take control while he was tainted by, allegedly, saying: “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” The veracity of that quote might be hazy, but Jordan, unlike Hodges, clearly avoided political engagement. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, such a force in the NBA in the 1970s and 80s, said Jordan chose “commerce over conscience”. On 29 April 1992, with the Bulls cruising through the play-offs, the Los Angeles riots broke out after the four LAPD officers were cleared of all charges resulting from their savage assault on King. That same day, Jordan scored 56 points against the Miami Heat. Asked to comment on the King verdict, Jordan said: “I need to know more about it.”
“This fight is 50-50,” Klitschko said. “Can the younger guy make it? Has the older guy still got it? Question marks are making this event really interesting. Bobby Rainey Youth Jersey I’ve never had a pause for a year and a half. Is it bad? Is it good? Will I have rust? I want the answers myself. “One thing I believe is I don’t feel my age. It’s not empty words. I am getting in the best shape of my life, physically and mentally. I don’t see I’m stuck and not improving, even in a sport I’ve been involved with for so long. That’s what interests and excites me.” Klitschko certainly looked well as he spoke, flanked by his manager, Bernd Bönte, and his trainer, Johnathon Banks. The body remains imposing and defined, his face chiselled and those hands continue to look like weapons of mass destruction. Asked to predict how the fight with Joshua will go, Authentic Brandan Wright Womens Jersey Klitschko raised his fists and nodded towards them in turn. “Funeral or hospital? Hospital or funeral? I don’t need many punches to knock a person out.” That was a rare moment of trash-talking bravado from the veteran (alongside the moment he claimed Joshua gets confidence from his muscles and is better suited to bodybuilding). Generally Klitschko was respectful of his opponent, borne partly out of the fact Joshua goes into their fight on the back of a perfect professional record – 18 wins from 18 fights, all achieved via knockout – and partly because of the respect Klitschko developed for the man from Watford, having invited him to be a sparring partner in November 2014, before taking on the Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. “He impressed me with his attitude,” Klitschko says. “He was in the background and learning. Sometimes you need to be quiet and just watch, and he was observing everything. He could also box, so I gave him credit and I was there in the arena when he won gold [at London 2012]. Every medallist in the super-heavyweight division at the Olympics has to be considered successful. He has a lot of potential and so far has done good.”
Stanglwirt is a sprawling bio-hotel located in the Austrian Alps and which at first glance looks like the setting for a slow-burning, creepy horror movie. With its mountainous background and somewhat kitsch interior – heavy wood panelling, Danny Green Authentic Jersey stripy sofas – it brings about memories of the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’s The Shining. Walk through the lobby, past the staff dressed in lederhosen, and it feels like only a matter of time until a clock goes off, a cuckoo springs out and a body falls down the stairs. But on this spring visit there is no horror to be had. Instead, amid the restaurants and bars, the spas, saunas and swimming pools, resides a story of redemption. Or, as Wladimir Klitschko puts it, fulfilling an obsession. The heavyweight is here to prepare for his bout with Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium on 29 April. Stanglwirt has been his pre-fight base since 2003 and a place he describes as a “home away from home”. It is easy to see the appeal – for all its “Here’s Johnny!” qualities, the complex, now more than 250 years old, is a beautiful place to spend some time. Pristine, picturesque, warm, friendly and with plenty to do and consume. For Klitschko it is somewhere to get his mind and body right, which now more than ever is important for a boxing great who, as he admits, is about to take on a career-defining challenge. Klitschko has not fought since his shock defeat to Tyson Fury in Düsseldorf 17 months ago. It was an outcome that not only stripped the Ukrainian of his WBA, IBF and WBO titles but also of his cloak of near-invincibility. Dr Steelhammer, a fighter who had secured 53 of his 64 victories across a 27-year career by knockout, Allen Bailey Authentic Jersey was outgunned by a man who dressed as Batman for one of their pre-fight press conferences. Fury was a joke, yet after a unanimous points decision on 28 November 2015 he was the one laughing. Much has happened to Fury since that night and one of the consequences has been Klitschko missing out on a rematch that would have provided him with a chance to prove he is no busted flush after a fourth defeat since turning professional in 1996. “Unfinished business,” as he puts it. Now, finally, comes the chance for him to go again against a British fighter. Joshua, the IBF champion, poses a different threat to Fury – a year younger at 27, stronger and more deadly. Then there is the setting: a stadium Klitschko has never fought at, in front of a 90,000 sellout crowd. He goes there on the back of his longest period of inactivity since first lacing up a pair of gloves, and having just turned 41. Little wonder this most assured of men is full of questions, full of doubts, as he spoke at Stanglwirt.
Anthony Joshua, the Hertfordshire bricklayer who has become British boxing’s greatest star, is a busy boy. After months of trying to find a gap in his schedule, we finally isolate a weekend in Watford. Within 24 hours, that’s shifted to a Friday in Sheffield, and a modern, unremarkable cul-de-sac on the edge of town. Here, in what appears to be a block of student accommodation, Authentic Bruce Bowen Youth Jersey I almost trip over my 6ft 6in interviewee, who is doing stretches on the floor in the middle of a cluttered sitting room-cum-kitchen. Around the place, his team squat on beanbags, scrolling through their phones and sharing jokes; on a flat-pack table are stacked plastic boxes filled with the day’s meals. This, surely, is not the stuff of boxing legend. Don’t be fooled. A month out from his fight with Wladimir Klitschko – or “Doctor Steelhammer”, as he is also known – 27-year-old Joshua is leaving nothing to chance. The relaxed surroundings aren’t a sign of his complacency about taking on a 41-year-old whose last fight, against Tyson Fury in 2015, ended in defeat; they’re about stripping it back to basics. “My new saying at the minute,” he tells me, “is: ‘I’m grinding like it’s 2005’” – the year he was still on civvy street, yet to step into a boxing ring. It’s 10am, and Joshua has returned from his four-mile canal run (days after we meet he posts a picture of himself shadow-boxing on the towpath on Instagram; the Daily Mail reports it, such is the interest in him). For all the world as if he’s slipping into a pair of comfy old jeans, he puts on an extraordinary contraption – compression trousers that inflate and deflate like a blood pressure cuff, wheezing gently, and settles down to talk. So, I ask. You’re in digs, you train at a public facility where it can take you a while to get through the crowds to your session. What’s that all about? He laughs. “Yeah, we’re accessible, which is good. I think being a boxer you have to be a man of the people. It’s old-school, isn’t it? When you think of boxing, you think of the Rocky films, you know what I mean?” The Rocky reference is interesting. He captioned that Insta picture: “My Rocky IV moment.” Joshua did not grow up obsessed by boxing, watching re-runs of the great bouts. “Never watched it,” he says. Authentic Allen Bailey Womens Jersey “Not into sport.” He clarifies. “I like the entertainment. I would definitely watch football. I would go with my pals to watch a game. I’m not against it. But for some reason I don’t understand how the leagues work and what’s the point in playing friendlies? I’m not going to go and sell out Wembley to have a friendly fight with Klitschko.” He roars with laughter. There’s a paradox emerging: Joshua is exceptionally committed. For the foreseeable future his life is “ring, ring, ring”. No time for girlfriends, no parties, no clubs, no celebrity hi-jinks. Indeed, he still lives with his mum, social worker Yeta Odusanya, in Golders Green, north London. He has an infant son, with former partner Nicole Osbourne, but thinks of retirement as the point when he will really be able to spend time with him. The team he’s assembled around him – from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing to his coach Rob McCracken, trainers, PR people, and the friends who accompany him – is a slick operation. He is frequently spoken about as a new breed of professional: organised, forward-thinking, tipped to amass serious amounts of money. Despite a couple of brushes with the law (fighting, which saw him put on remand in Reading prison in 2009, possibly its most famous inmate since Oscar Wilde; possession of cannabis in 2011, made slightly worse by the fact he was wearing his GB Boxing tracksuit when he was busted), he is pretty clean-cut. Joshua does not throw tables in press conferences, nor indulge in much trash talk at all. A recent social media “furore” which resulted when he posted a picture of himself praying in a mosque in Dubai – he is not a Muslim, but was with a friend who was, and likes the idea of embracing other cultures and religions in a show of unity – saw him gain 16,000 followers in 24 hours, and numerous expressions of support in the face of the anti-Muslim bile that had greeted the original tweet.
Tony Soprano once noted that “‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation”, but he was only partially right. We are nothing if not our memories, so it makes little sense not to glory in them, Dirk Nowitzki Authentic Jersey all the more when circumstances take a turn for the worse. And for Dundee United – for Scottish football in general – that is irrevocably the case, so, T, with all the love and respect, “vaffanculo”. Founded in 1909, Dundee United spent their first 62 years doing not very much: they won the second division title twice, but otherwise not even an international cap. Things improved when Jerry Kerr was appointed manager in 1959 – he established the club in the top flight and led them into Europe for the first time, but that was pretty much it. United did, though, achieve brief notoriety during the freezing winter of 1962-63, using a tar-burning truck to thaw the Tannadice pitch and removing all the grass in the process, before pouring on a load of sand and applying whitewash like a goth doing their eyebrows; such did they earn their nickname “The Arabs”. Kerr retired in 1971, and United’s board did not look far for his replacement. They had observed that the players across the way at Dundee were always incredibly fit; the man responsible, Jim McLean, had also played for the club. But despite that allegiance, and though the Dark Blues were by far the more illustrious of the neighbours, he fancied the job and was appointed aged just 34. The first request he put in was for a stopwatch, and during one of the first practice matches he oversaw, stopped the action within 10 minutes. “I thought we had 11 coaches on the park,” he said. “Naebody was prepared to do any running.” This terse tyranny bestrode Scottish football for a generation. McLean’s maternal grandfather had played for Rangers and his father was a decent player too, but things changed when, after getting married, he joined the Plymouth Brethren. Bestowing upon his children all the fun of an ascetically religious upbringing, Authentic Brandan Wright Youth Jersey two of his sons – Jim and his older brother Willie – nonetheless followed him into the local team, Larkhall Thistle, before Jim left school and took an apprenticeship as a joiner. Though he soon signed for Hamilton Academical, he maintained his trade, and after spells at Dundee and Clyde, joined Kilmarnock, where he played with his younger brother Tommy. Arriving at United, McLean quickly realised that his grand ambitions could be satisfied only if he developed his own talent – the average attendance in his first season was just 9,743. So he restructured the club’s youth system, at the same time cementing himself as its sole source of power. And it worked! Though United remained in mid-table, in 1974 he led them to their first Scottish Cup final – they were walloped by Jock Stein’s Celtic, McLean later admitting to being in his thrall – and things continued improving thereafter. The lean years were over; now it was time for the McLean years. McLean was less than gruntled, having spent hours working with Gray on the training ground. “It was no use plying him with good balls for he scored too easily,” he said. “It was the bad balls that helped him. His right side was not nearly as strong as his left side. We helped him develop that.” Accordingly, he ensured that never again would he be so burned.
Towards the end of his life Mozart wrote a piece of music called Ein musikalischer Spaß, or “a musical joke”, intended as a satire on bad composers. As you might expect it contained a hilarious discord in the horns section, some off-key sonata and – LOL – a polytonal finale. No doubt back in the 1780s this was all very weeping-laughing-emoji-face. Listening to it now, A Musical Joke just sounds predictably ace, brill, fun, Al Montoya Jersey yeah, really good. It turns up on the kind of CDs you buy at petrol stations called The Cream Of Mellow Classics Vol IV. It was the theme tune to the Horse of The Year Show. Even people who know what they’re talking about, whose store of Mozart knowledge isn’t drawn from that film where he was a shrieking little American sex maniac, call it a progressive, post-modern, experimental piece of music. It turns out even when he’s trying to be bad, Mozart is somehow still a bit more interesting than everyone else. It was tempting this week to apply the same kind of reasoning to Lionel Messi, who came up with something new and slightly startling in the draw with Juventus that ended Barcelona’s Champions League campaign. Weirdly, Messi had a bad game. Not just a quiet game: an actual bad one, like the bad games other, non genius-level footballers have. Messi still had seven shots at goal. He still did some wonderful things. But that usual hyper-awareness, the beautifully cruel clarity in every pass and every shift of feet was absent. He seemed to walk around a bit more than normal. He put a difficult volley with his weaker foot over the bar in a way that made it actually look like a difficult volley with his weaker foot. It was all a little disturbing, like seeing your favourite cat on drugs at the vet, Authentic Andrew MacDonald Youth Jersey legs wobbly, eyes drooping, the old gliding elegance weirdly askew. But then, it turns out even bad Messi is oddly unignorable, fascinatingly semi-good, a bit like Mozart’s grippingly dissonant parpings. Even when he’s bad, or not great or just average, it feels as though this ought to mean something. Predictably enough, there was a temptation afterwards to suggest that something significant had passed at the Camp Nou. Football likes this kind of narrative arc. Full stops are drawn. Things end. But what exactly? Clearly Messi isn’t finished. He is still brilliantly effective, scorer of 45 goals already this season. He may be 30 in June, but Messi’s passing is so good, his brain so sharp, it feels like even a dip or a lull is likely to be followed by other, deeper gears, some late blooming reinvention as Argentina’s deep-lying midfield creator at the Qatar World Cup when they are managed by a mad, frazzled, wild-eyed Pep Guardiola.
For Mamadou Sakho, there is no satisfaction to be had in vindication. He has known for over a year he had done nothing wrong, and that the fat burner containing higenamine, for which he tested positive after helping Liverpool to Europa League progress beyond Manchester United, Al Montoya Womens Jersey was not included on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list. Uefa had admitted as much last July before, in the first section of a 104-page dossier released this week by its control, ethics and disciplinary body, the blame game over the player’s ban degenerated into petty finger-pointing between the governing body and Wada. The real victim, the man who had been denied involvement in a cup final and a place in the host nation’s squad at Euro 2016, can only watch as the bickering shames the authorities. “I worked so hard to prepare myself for the European Championship, Jose Barea Womens Jersey to help my country, to wear the France shirt in a tournament on home soil,” says Sakho. “Now I’ll never do that. Whatever they say or do, they cannot replace what they took away from me. My lawyer can see what happens next but, for me, I focus on other things. I have learned in life you should never look back over your shoulder, wondering what might have been. That is the past. Always look forward, at the next challenge. It’s life. Good and bad things happen, but my mentality is always to try and find a positive. It is the only way to be and, today, I am really happy.” The last 13 months have tested that admirable mindset but, while his circumstances have shifted dramatically, Sakho is not one for changing. He is sitting in a backroom at The Hoxton, a hotel in east London’s trendy Shoreditch, a Crystal Palace loanee whose impact at Selhurst Park has helped wrest five wins from seven matches to ease Sam Allardyce’s team away from the condemned. A player more used to competing at the top end of a division has been a colossus – a leader and organiser, a warrior and inspiration – delivering everything Palace hoped he might. He has already achieved cult status among his adopted supporters, just as he had back at his parent club. On Sunday at Anfield, where he will be ineligible, he will watch on from the stands with both teams potentially, if privately, wishing they had him to plug the Sakho-shaped holes in their respective defences. He admits to finding that scenario “awkward”, as if uncertain where his loyalties should lie, but it is just the latest twist to an unconventional year. Some of his setbacks have been self-inflicted – perceived tardiness on Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States, for which he apologised and was fined, helped fracture his relationship with Jürgen Klopp – but it was that routine drug test and the assessment of his urine sample undertaken at a Wada-accredited laboratory in Cologne which had nudged his career on its unexpected course. Sakho has never denied taking the product which contained higenamine and, after liaising with Liverpool, voluntarily made himself unavailable once Wada flagged up the positive test. Uefa would ban him for 30 days pending its own investigations, inquiries which ultimately saw it query whether higenamine should even be considered a prohibited beta2-agonist.Chandler Parsons Womens Jersey
The decision had already been made when Nasser Hussain went out for his final Test innings. An international career that spanned 14 years had seen him become perhaps the pivotal figure in the last few decades of English cricket. C.J. Wilson Youth Jersey It was Hussain’s brilliant captaincy that had pulled England up from the nadir of being ranked last in the world and laid the groundwork for Michael Vaughan, the 2005 Ashes and all that. Vaughan got the glory, but he had Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss at their peaks: Hussain’s first Test as captain featured Aftab Habib and Alan Mullally. Hussain deserved to go out on top. The night before the final day of the first Test against New Zealand in 2004 Hussain, who had given up the captaincy the previous year, told the coach, Duncan Fletcher, that he was done, that the next day would be his last. Strauss was making his debut, had scored a century in the first innings and Hussain knew that he was the future. Hampering his progress would be irresponsible. Still, he quite literally did that in the second innings, running Strauss out when he was on 83. “God, I can’t go now,” thought Hussain, Authentic Darrell Green Womens Jersey thinking that the public would never forgive him if his last act was to prevent Strauss becoming the first Englishman to score two centuries on debut. He had to do something to make up for it, which he did with a flourish. Hussain’s last three shots all went to the boundary: the second brought up his century, the third won the Test. “It was like someone upstairs saying, ‘You are doing the right thing and this is your reward,’” Hussain wrote in his autobiography. “As I walked off with Thorpey to the acclaim of Lord’s, my team-mates came down to congratulate me and the MCC members in the Long Room patted me on the back as I walked through to get the to dressing room. It was the most amazing time of my career, and it confirmed my decision for me.” This Joy of Six is not necessarily designed for careers that ended happily, or even perhaps end on that athlete’s terms. Rather it is to provide a few examples of sportspeople whose last act was one of glory, who didn’t see their career drift away into ever diminishing returns. Hicham El Guerrouj did not run straight off the track and into his dotage, medals flapping around his neck. There was in fact a two-year lag between his final race and retirement, two years in which he tried to compete but was scuppered by an increasingly debilitating series of injuries. A virus prevented his participation in the 2005 World Championships, a back problem in 2006.
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