PARIS, December 24 – Sportsmen and women are not always, it is generally accepted, the most articulate commentators on their own, or other peoples’, achievements. However, every year throws up a series of out-of-the-ordinary, unexpected or just plain humorous quotes.
The following is a selection of some of the more offbeat offerings from 2013:
“My only conclusion when I look from the outside is you’ve got a business guy operating the club who obviously knows nothing about football.”
– Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers sums up the opinion of many inside football at the trials faced by Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay in his battle with owner Vincent Tan.
“We live in a democracy of experts.”
– Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger takes an ironic pop at his ciritics, prompting one of the so-called experts to swipe back that Wenger was “crazier than a bag of weasels”.
“Never have I ever had the slightest thought about possibly fixing a game. If something was proven I would be willing to go out into the street and, I know this is a strong thing to say, I would kill myself.”
– Italian World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso responds to allegations that he was involved in a match-fixing scandal.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t stand to lose even a practice game, not even a game of cards with my friends. I’m angry and offended. I want to clear everything up so I don’t have a stain on my career. I have never gambled in my life.”
– Gattuso further defending his honour.
“The season was too long, it should have ended after 35 games.”
– Nancy coach Patrick Gabriel after the club’s relegation from the French First Division. (After 35 games, Nancy were a point above the drop zone).
“She begins every interview with ‘I’m so happy. I’m so lucky’ — it’s so boring. She’s still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.”
– Serena Williams hits out at Maria Sharapova’s romance with Bulgarian player Grigor Dimitrov.
“If she wants to talk about something personal, maybe she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids.”
– Sharapova on Williams’s relationship with French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
“My body is just done.”
– Shock Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli on her decision to retire just six weeks after winning at the All England Club.
“It’s as if they left a Ferrari in a garage. And it cost me ten euros — I bet he’d play,”
– Czech Republic’s Radek Stepanek on his surprise that Serbia neglected to select Novak Djokovic for the crucial doubles in the Davis Cup final, handing victory to the Czechs 3-2.
“I had to throw to show my husband and parents watching the worlds on television in Donetsk that I’m alive, feeling good and I’m the Iron Lady as usual.”
– Ukrainian discus thrower Natalia Semenova after refusing to go to hospital when she was struck by Pole Zaneta Glanc while miming a throw at the athletes’ area, suffering a broken nose and concussion.
“I’m more famous with the Russians than Usain Bolt in my hotel.”
– Ireland’s 50km walk world champion Robert Heffernan at the Moscow World Championships.
“I was given a gift, I know I’m clean. For me it happens (failed dope tests), I’m not going to stress about it.”
– Usain Bolt speaking after failed drugs tests by Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay.
“If you’re older and you’re good enough to play at this level, then you should be picked. If you nick off all your old blokes, who are the younger ones going to learn from?”
– Australia bowler Ryan Harris on calls for a ‘freshening up’ of the side.
– Lance Armstrong believes he has been ‘singled out’ again.
“It’s fun, honestly, because it’s so absurd, much more so than I had imagined.”
– Skiier Lindsey Vonn on her new-found celebrity status as Tiger Woods’ girlfriend which has made her a tabloid picture favourite.
“One magazine wrote that I was moving to Pakistan because I didn’t want to have kids with Tiger. How do they come up with this stuff? Tiger and I had a lot of fun with that at breakfast: ‘Bye, honey, sorry, I’m leaving you. Pakistan awaits.’ “And he’s like: ‘Good luck, say hi to the Pakistani ski team for me’.”
– Vonn on life with Tiger.
“I’m sorry for taking someone else’s spot. I actually feel like shit, to tell you the truth.”
– Sonny Bill Williams, after his late inclusion in the New Zealand Rugby League squad for the World Cup saw rookie Tohu Harris axed.
“To be a minute away from history and with the ball in our hands and deep inside their territory, not to do it is devastating.”
– Ireland rugby coach Joe Schmidt after his side led the All Blacks for 80 minutes and were within seconds of beating them for the first time only to see the All Blacks snatch a 24-22 victory with the last kick of the match.
“We had no idea it was going to happen. When Nelson Mandela appeared from under the grandstand with a Springbok jersey on, the crowd erupted. It was the most awesome experience I’ve had at a rugby stadium. Clearly it was a huge boost, not just to the crowd but to the Springbok team.”
– Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains on how the sight of the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black president, wearing a Springbok jersey before the start of the 1995 World Cup final had a huge effect on the outcome of the game.
And, one from the archives – a quote from the great man himself:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination.”
– Nelson Mandela, who died this year, speaking back in 2000 with his customary eloquence and summing up the very essence of sport.