Image Credits: Reuters/Bernadett Szabo
The concluding year of this fantastic sporting decade has undoubtedly been one of the most riveting, engrossing and eventful. We have been treated to three major sporting tournaments: the first (and perhaps the most important) was the FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted through June and July in France.
The tournament was fascinating for numerous reasons, not least the vastly increased coverage and attention it received in the mainstream media. Coupled with breaking numerous audience engagement records (FIFA estimating that 433 million people tuned in to watch the group stage alone) spectators were rewarded with superb footballing contests.
England’s Lionesses performed admirably, reaching the semi-finals, breezing past Cameroon and Norway, only missing out to eventual champions USA through an agonising miss from centre back Steph Houghton. Nevertheless, England can be proud of not only their displays on the field, but also the impact they have had in building a women’s football across the U.K.
Cricket was another sport that flourished during that fantastic summer, unsurprising considering the heroics of the England cricket team in the World Cup. After navigating the tricky preliminary stages to reach the last four, they comprehensively beat arch enemies Australia, setting up what has widely been regarded as one of the greatest crickets matches of all time against New Zealand. Cue the super over: steely nerves from bowler Jofra Archer, and of course, the incredible performance of Ben Stokes, carrying England to their first ever Cricket World Cup win and landing himself firmly in cricketing history. The final was the first Cricket game viewable on public TV since the 2005 Ashes series, thus drawing millions of spectators from across the country to revel in England’s victory.
More freshly impressed upon the memory is the Rugby Union World Cup, held for the first time this year outside of the sport’s traditional heartlands, the host nation being Japan. The fans were gracious and magnanimous, embracing their role with open arms; not only did they create a stellar atmosphere when the Japanese team took to the field, but provided the same lavish treatment for all competitors.
Eventual winners South Africa were worthy of their title, beating Japan, Wales and then trouncing an in-form England 32-12 on their way to glory. The sporting highlight of the year, in my opinion, was Siya Kolisi, the first black South African captain, lifting the Webb Ellis trophy, a prise so long out of reach for black Springboks. The scenes this triumph provoked, wild celebrations across the Rainbow Nation’s in communities in which Rugby was withheld and segregated, will live long in the memory.