FRIDAY’S BIG STORIES

Saka speaks: Love always wins

“All I can say is sorry. I wish it had gone differently,” Marcus Rashford said on Monday.
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“I would like to say sorry to all of my teammates, coaching staff and most of all the fans who I let down,” Jadon Sancho said on Wednesday.
“I’m sorry that we couldn’t bring it home for you this year,” Bukayo Saka said on Thursday.
Yesterday Saka completed the trilogy of apologies this country does not deserve.
Little did we know before Sunday’s Euro 2020 final that in the following week, three England players would feel the need to apologise despite being the ones to have suffered racial abuse online.
A 19-year-old “knew instantly the kind of hate” he was about to receive following his penalty miss against Italy, but Saka stressed he “will not let that moment or the negativity I have received break me”.
This is the measure of the man, the player who Arsenal fans adore and emerged from Euro 2020 as more than just a star in the making. His words, along with those from Rashford and Saka, are as inspirational as the messages and emojis sent to them were spiteful, hateful and cowardly.
And so, with Saka following Sancho’s “hate will never win” by declaring “love always wins”, there is hope, not just that these three young men will recover from a traumatic week, but that after this sorry episode, positive change can and will happen - both on social media and in society as a whole.

Fans cover vandalised Rashford mural with love hearts and messages of support

IN OTHER NEWS

A Mourinho side scores 10!

A side managed by the risk-averse and pragmatic Jose Mourinho scoring 10 goals? No chance, what – were they playing a fourth-tier side or something?
Well, yes. Mourinho’s first friendly in charge was a 10-0 win over Serie D outfit Montecatini on Thursday.
Surprised? Us too, well kind of, but there's also sadness at discovering Gianluca Mancini – who scored one of Roma’s goals – is not actually related to Roberto, he of Italy Euro 2020-winning coach fame.

It’s transfer season

Well and truly, the ball is rolling. You’ve got Chelsea pursuing Erling Haaland, Manchester City looking at Robert Lewandowski, Arsenal keen on Tammy Abraham, and Kieran Tripper eager for a move back to England – reportedly.
And so while the purse strings are tight in some places, it appears that the Premier League’s bigger clubs have not felt the effects, although how deep they reach into their pockets remains to be seen...
On that note, we’ve also got a feeling this will be the day Sancho’s finally seen in red – that medical talk was ages ago (three days ago?) and so there could be a Friday feeling post coming. We’ve just got a hunch.

So long, again, Arjen

Should we believe him this time? Let’s say yes. Arjen Robben has retired from football for a second time – on this occasion aged 37.
It really does feel like goodbye because he only came out of retirement to turn out for boyhood club Groningen, and it didn’t quite go to plan due to injuries.

Arjen Robben: Why I returned to FC Groningen

“I only had to deal with physical setbacks quite quickly, which prevented me from playing matches for a very long time. After a long road of trial and error I finally managed to play the last games of the season," he said.
“Looking back on the past season, I have to come to the honest conclusion that the number of match minutes was disappointing.
“I knew in advance that this could happen, but I took up the challenge and gave everything to make it work.”
Happy retirement, then, Robben. In your honour we’ll enter the kitchen down the right-hand side and then dart inwards towards the fridge and grab a beer to toast with our left hand. Only fitting.

IN THE CHANNELS

After a superb Euro 2020, Jordan Pickford – who saved an actual Jorginho penalty – is rightly letting his hair down (although miraculously it’s still slicked back), somewhere on someone’s shoulders. A break well earned.

HAT-TIP AND RETRO CORNER

In a rare hat-tip, retro-corner combo we’re going back to a 2014 article which recalls a monumental moment 71 years ago today.
Before the 7-1 humiliation to Germany, this was the original embarrassment, with Brazil losing to Uruguay and missing out on the World Cup in front of a near 200,000-strong crowd at the Maracana:
For Brazil, winning the 1950 World Cup was a national priority. The government hoped that football would unite the country and mark it out as an emerging international power. As the centrepiece, Brazil had built the Maracana, a huge new concrete stadium designed to be the biggest in the world. About a tenth of the population of Rio de Janeiro crammed inside for the final game of the tournament - among them Joao Luiz de Albuquerque, then an 11-year-old schoolboy. Brazil had scored 13 goals in their previous two matches, so like every other Brazilian, Albuquerque believed despatching tiny Uruguay would be a mere formality.
Read more about “How Uruguay broke Brazilian hearts in the 1950 World Cup” by Simon Watts here

COMING UP

Quite unbelievably, there’s some Scottish League Cup action tomorrow, while there’s also Arsenal’s defeat to Rangers in a friendly and Tottenham taking on Leyton Orient.
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