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2019 in sport: A year of redemption

  • Published at 10:57 pm January 1st, 2020
cricket england
Photo: AFP

In the sporting arena, the past year has been one that is best characterized as one of redemption. Fallen giants rose from the ashes to reclaim honours they had long been denied, just when many were starting to believe they had been lost from the limelight forever. In a year chalk full of comeback stories, here are some of the best:

England win the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup

This one may be a bit of a misnomer, given the form Joe Root, Joffra Archer and Co were in in the lead up to the global extravaganza. However, few had to wait as long as England had to win the World Cup, and the road to the final was not without its hiccups. The final itself was a spectacle unlike any before seen in the sport, even if both England and New Zealand were far from flawless.

Nail-biter does not even cut it. In a low-scoring affair defined by dogged batting and nervous running, both teams scored 241 at the end of regulation play. In the super over that followed, both teams tied again- Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler hitting 15 off Trent Boult before Jimmy Neesham and Martin Gulptildid the same against Archer. The rulebooks were pulled out and one of the topsy-turviest encounters in cricket history went England’s way, as they had scored more boundaries (26 to New Zealand’s 16).  

Liverpool win the UEFA Champion’s League

The past year has been spectacular for Liverpool. The team narrowly finished second in the English Premier League last year and are miles ahead of the competition this year, but the highlight is undoubtedly their victory in the Champions League in June. What better way is there to announce your return to Europe’s football elite?

The win was particularly sweet for German coach Jurgen Klopp, who had lost on his last six appearances in major finals, including Champions League showpieces with Borussia Dortmund in 2013 and Liverpool in 2018.

Photo: AFPThe final itself was a drab affair, with Mo Salah and DivokOrigi handing the Reds a fairly easy 2-0 victory over Tottenham. However, there was plenty of drama in the semi-finals against Barcelona, with Liverpool staging a sensational comeback by winning the second leg at home 4-0 after losing the first at the Camp Nou 3-0. 

Messi wins sixth Ballon d’Or

It may be unusual to call it a comeback when Lionel Messi wins an accolade, but the Argentine magician’s sixth Ballon d’Or is unlike those he had previously one. Not only does it take him one beyond eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo, it is also the first time Messi has won the award since 2015.

Either Messi or Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’or in every year since 2008, with the exception of 2018. When Luka Modric finally broke the pair’s stranglehold on the trophy, with Ronaldo having won the previous two years, some thought an era was coming to an end. However, Messi continues to maintain his extraordinary levels and is now even more important for Barcelona, with many of his more experienced teammates having retired.

Tiger Woods wins fifth Masters

Undoubtedly, the comeback of the year is Tiger Woods’s fifth victory at the Masters, 11 years after he had last won a major and 14 years after he had last won the prestigious Green Jacket. Woods’s comeback in the tournament itself, from a position of behind after 54 holes, was a feat in itself, but what really made the victory sweet was the fall from grace that had preceded it.

Photo: AFPThe legendary golfer’s downfall had begun late in 2009, when he ran over a fire hydrant. Subsequently, reports of infidelity surfaced in the media, leading to the end of his marriage and nearly the same for his career. Injuries also played their part, and he did not play at all in 2016 and 2017 due to back problems. The final nail in the coffin appeared to be when he was arrested on a DUI charge in 2017, and Woods reportedly even told his friends that his professional career may be over. 

However, Woods never lost his love for golf and came close to winning two majors in 2018. He completed the comeback with his fifth Green Jacket at Augusta National Golf Club, the same course on which he had announced his arrival on the world stage in 1997.

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