Competitive sport is one of life’s most wonderful phenomenons. During the hard times, it’s unforgiving in its emotional turmoil and shows no remorse when your hopes of victory are crushed dramatically at the final hurdle.
But cruelty is a necessary sporting beauty of its own, because without the low points, some of sport’s greatest moments of raw, unprecedented joy would simply cease to exist. Such moments of pure elation are rare, so we must cherish them at all costs and relive them when life throws us the opportunity to do so.
Prior to, dare I say it, Covid-19, it was unthinkable that anything could make the sporting calendar seem so insignificant, given that for so many of us, it’s the heartbeat of life as we know (or knew) it. However, the reality is such. I saw a remarkable but not surprising tweet last month which noted that every single professional football league in the world was under postponement. Astonishing.
It does however offer us the rare luxury to reflect on the past decade of sport in this country, a decade that I’d argue was the most iconic in british sporting history.
Back in December, Sky Sports toyed with the idea of giving this iconic decade the highlight reel it deserved; a twitter poll on golf’s greatest comebacks, a 30 min ‘classics match’ on Sky Sports Cricket and a Premier League Years omnibus replacing the usual day-time drab. Inevitably, each quickly became sandwiched in the archives between the more pressing Paul Pogba January transfer rumour and the usual illegitimate pundits claiming Liverpool FC may never lose a game ever again.
As with life, sport now advances at extraordinary speeds and the past decade pays testament to that; English football introduced the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), the England cricket team obliterated the ODI world record for runs in an innings (twice) and Team Sky raised the bar of global cycling to a new stratosphere. I could go on.
Admittedly, I’m horribly biased. The 2010’s was, after all, the first decade in which I can offer defensible commentary on. I like to think I was old enough to carefully dissect England’s dramatic performance at the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final, but as a 6 year old football fan, that’s a little far-fetched.
Opinions on ‘the greatest decade’ aside, I’m taking this opportunity to help you re-live seven of the most spectacular sporting moments of the 2010’s. Each of the following was, to my mind, undisputedly iconic.
Manchester City v QPR – 13/06/12.
For many, the greatest moment in English football history. When discussing this moment, it’s just common courtesy to raise the pitch of your voice and hold for at least 3 seconds at the end of Aguero’s name. After a generation in the shadow of United, Manchester City came back from the jaws of defeat to eclipse their fiercest rivals and claim their first Premier League title in 54 years. Stupendous.
Super Saturday, London 2012 – 04/08/12.
London 2012 was special, really special. Over the course of the month-long games, memorable moments mounted up: 8 cycling golds, materful boxing from Nicola Adams, Brownlie brothers in arms on the podium. But if one night summed up that summer and epitomized our country’s spirit, it was ‘Super Saturday’. An ‘I was there’ moment for the 72,000 in attendance at the London stadium, a Saturday evening to top all Saturday evenings. The roar that carried Farah home in the 10,000m final to secure GB’s 3rd gold of the evening, following Ennis in the Heptathlon and Rutherford in the Long-jump, could be felt from all corners of the country. Super Saturday was a sporting day for the ages.
Miracle in Medinah – 30/09/12.
The title says it all. A sporting miracle unfolded on Sunday 30th September 2012 and Europe’s Ryder Cup team were the beneficiary. The final day of a Ryder Cup is always hot on the sporting calendar as a potential ‘classic’, but the miraculous events across the pond in 2012 were particularly captivating. Poulter, a man that revels in the beauty of Ryder Cup magic like no other, gave Europe a lifeline with a famous five birdie streak on the Saturday evening, setting the stage for a remarkable comeback from 10-6 down to claim glory on Sunday afternoon in Medinah. A Molinari putt sparked jubilant scenes, whilst captain Olazabal emotionally dedicated the win to the late, great Seve Ballesteros.
Leicester’s Premier League Campaign – 2015/16.
5000/1 was probably a bad bet before the beginning of the 2015/16 season, such was the unlikelihood of a relegation-favourite lifting the Premier League trophy. But what followed was nothing short of unbelievable, this was the sporting underdog story of our generation and will be told for decades to come. An utterly inspiring sub-plot emerged too, ten goals in consecutive games sealed Vardy’s rise from Fleetwood grafter to Premier League record breaker, as he led the charge on the most remarkable campaign in football history. Bocelli’s spine-tingling performance of Nessun Dorma before Leicester lifted the trophy was a fitting end to the season that no english football fan will ever forget.
Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko – 29/04/17.
For many, this was the most anticipated heavyweight boxing fight in recent history, which then dramatically exceeded expectations. Heavyweight boxing was in a prolonged rut, the ‘classic encounters’ of years gone by had become a distant memory of the sorts you’d have to delve deep into archives to discover. Joshua v Klitschko felt real. A matchup in which the pendulum of dominance swung between the two titans, largely in the favour of the old guard, Klitschko, as AJ wobbled. Then came a Joshua entourage and a monstrous knockout to seal victory in the 11th, as pubs leapt to their feet across the nation. Finally, a proper heavyweight boxing classic.
England’s World Cup Campaign – 2018
It nearly came home, so it gets a mention. Whilst once again, it wasn’t the open bus parades, honorary knighthoods and BBC Sports Personality clean sweep we’d been desperately hoping for, this world cup gave us hope again. After the misery in 2010, capitulation in 2014 and with a former Middlesborough manager at the helm, expectations were unsurprisingly low. In true English fashion, things changed very quickly, a 6-0 group-stage win over Tunisia and we’d all but won the thing. As crushing as the defeat to Croatia was, this felt like a turning point for English football. Out with the WAGs and the scandals, in with the raw talent and exciting flamboyant youngsters. The future is undoubtedly bright. Come on England.
England v New Zealand. Cricket World Cup Final – 14/07/19.
Dubbed a ‘boring game’ by the uncultured, cricket throws up some of sports’ most exhilarating spectacles at every level. In this instance, on the greatest stage of all, potentially the greatest limited-overs cricket match of all time unfolded. A fantastic 6-week tournament, boiled down to the final ball of the final over. Enough drama? Absolutely not. A super over followed, 12 balls to decide the fate of two of the world’s oldest cricketing nations. Needing 2 to win from the final ball, New Zealand scurried between the wickets to race back for a second run, but England held their nerve. Jos Butler’s outstretched hand swept through the stumps to win England the World Cup by the finest of margins. Superlatives don’t do this one justice.
By Oliver Kriskinans