HUMANITY AND LAWYERS

Hurray! The football season is back! Six hundred years after the last match, everyone’s favourite sport has returned in the style we have come to know and follow with ill relish. And it’s all thanks to the French government, whose decision to ban team japes until September has kicked off the biggest hoohah since 2010, when Les Bleus decided it was simply impossible to envisage playing the World Cup so long as their manager spoke in a brusque tone.

Following their government’s decree, the French league declared the season over and then confirmed the standings after 28 matches (27 in some cases) as the final table. That sealed a fairytale title triumph for the Embassy of Qatar, and Big Cup qualifications for Marseille and Rennes. But it also condemned Lyon to missing out on European competition for the first time in 24 years, and the club’s overlord, Jean-Michel Aulas, says that’s a bowl of sick he won’t swallow. “This is robbing us of an opportunity that is very significant, of high value,” he howled before vowing to deploy a crack squad of lawyers in an eat-this-mofos formation. “We are going to claim damages worth several dozen million euros,” stormed Aulas, scratching his nails down a chalkboard. “Noël Le Graët has to face the consequences as president of the FFF. His management here was poor. There were poorly thought-out decisions.”

Aulas had proposed alternative ways of determining the final standings, including play-offs whenever, and pointed out that Lyon have a habit of finishing seasons strongly. A similar claim was made by the president of Amiens, who have been consigned to relegation. “Since our non-league days our success has always been built on our finishes to the season,” declared Bernard Joannin, the head of a club who had hope of survival despite being on a 13-match winless run. “I will go to the end to uphold our rights because I am a warrior. There were still 30 points up for grabs and we were just four below Nîmes! Football has shown a lack of humanity with this decision.” The only way to restore humanity, as everyone knows, is to call in the lawyers.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“When he arrived I was the only person who spoke English. So one night I went to his home and he asked me if I wanted something to drink. I said: ‘Yeah, I’ll have a Coca-Cola.’ I open the fridge and all he’s got in there are 300 beers” – Christian Vieri reveals how a 20-year-old Robbie Keane was never short of Tin when he was at Inter.



Robbie Keane in action for the club he supported as a boy. Photograph: Stefano Rellandini/Reuters

RECOMMENDED LISTENING

Check out the latest edition of Football Weekly Extra with Sid Lowe and Philippe Auclair joining Max and Barry. Listen right here.

Football Weekly

Sid Lowe on Michael Robinson, plus Euro confusion

FIVER LETTERS

“As esports have become the ‘in’ thing (unless you give a darn about Belarusian football), I suggest teaching Premier League managers video-game skills to finish the season. I can see Jürgen Klopp smiling at his monitor as Liverpool win the title. The vision of David Moyes and Mr Roy trying to figure the controls, however, would be comic genius or lead viewers to join the START FOOTBALL campaign” – JJ Zucal.

“While the top levels of football discuss how to end the season, the decision to completely void the 2019-20 campaign for most of non-league was taken several weeks ago, and teams are starting to plan for next season. One club, Basford United of the Northern Premier League, announced that five players have signed new contracts, including forward Rev James. He’ll presumably bring some Brains to the attack” – Ed Taylor.

Send your letters to [email protected] And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Ed Taylor.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

The Championship is making plans to hold play-offs on neutral turf and without fans even if the season isn’t completed, while promoting Nasty Leeds and West Brom.

Bradford City say the chances of fans being able to attend EFL games again this year are slim. The club think next season is “highly likely” to begin behind closed doors, with an “ever-growing possibility” that supporters will be kept away until 2021.

Premier League clubs have shelled out on coronavirus testing machines that can turn around results in two-and-a-half hours as they try to find a way to complete the season.

A football ground, earlier.



A football ground, earlier. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Brighton elder Glenn Murray is not into the idea of wearing a face mask at training. “It is going to be off-putting, it is not going to be natural,” he said. “People are going to be ripping them off in the middle of training. I think it is quite farcical.”

Sergio Agüero reckons footballers will be fearful of returning while Covid-19 is still wreaking havoc in society. “The majority of players are scared because they have family, they have children, they have babies,” said the Manchester City striker. “I imagine that we will be very tense. It does scare me.”

Meanwhile in Brazil, delightful-as-ever president Jair Bolsonaro wants footballers to just get back out there because they only “have a small chance of dying”.

And Marvin Sordell has welcomed the chance to “create a better environment for the beautiful game” after joining Liam Rosenior on the FA’s Inclusion Advisory Board.

STILL WANT MORE?

“I still don’t have the words and don’t think I ever will. I’ll never forget it; it’s etched on my heart.” Pablo Marí gets his chat on with Sid Lowe and recalls being the first Spaniard to win the Brazilian title and South American Big Cup and how his Arsenal career was put on hold before it ever got started.

Pablo Marí apparently doing a Jedi trick with a ball.



Pablo Marí apparently doing a Jedi trick with a ball. Photograph: Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Former Reading player Scott Davies talks openly to Ben Fisher about how he is using his experience of addiction to educate footballers about the dangers of and how the shutdown has left restless players at risk.

Michael Butler spent loads of time reading footballers’ autobiographies so he could bring you this quotes quiz, so the least you can do is give it a go.

Bale! Bendtner! Er, Lee Chung-yong? Martin Laurence looks back at the mixed bag that was his 2009-10 young team of the season.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!

‘KYLE, YOUR WORD IS PHYLUM’

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