Welcome back to another edition of the Notebook.
And so, on we go with a look at the biggest stories from the month of May.
Champions League Chaos
While the Premier League season wrapped up in dramatic fashion, the Champions League final was anything but.
An early second half goal from Brazilian Vinicius Jr. sealed the win for Real Madrid who then played out the game with a clinical professionalism, lifting their 14 European trophy in doing so, and seeing the likes of Karim Benzema, Luca Modric, Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Isco, and Gareth Bale become leading figures in the history of the tournament.
The story of the game though wasn't necessarily on the pitch, it was off it as ‘delays’ in fans arriving at the stadium caused a 15-minute postponement of kickoff.
What caused the delay, though, is still to be officially ruled.
Over the coming years France will host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 before welcoming the entire world to the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, and with an existing impeccable track record of hosting major events, it will be a key learning on the very real risk of event cancellation that all organisations can face.
Joe Root Captaincy
Summer has officially started. England Test match cricket is back, with home stadia full of huge crowds once again, following years of COVID-impacted series and playing in bubbles.
It's been a tough time for English men’s cricket of late. The team went on a string of losses, in England, in Australia and then in the Caribbean, and has had major upheaval across its management team.
Rob Key is now in place as Director of Cricket, there’s a new Test head coach in Brendon McCullum, and more importantly, a new Test captain in Ben Stokes.
Following defeat in the Caribbean over the winter, Joe Root announced he would step down as captain and in doing so, he ended a proud and fruitful reign as leader.
So, last weekend, as New Zealand descended upon Lords and the English cricket summer finally began, the players took the pitch with trepidation and excitement as a new era dawned.
Impressive with the ball on Day 1, a rocky start with the bat followed, and the game sat finely poised on Day 3 as the now former Captain Joe Root, strode to the middle.
What followed was a true master class in both ability and mentality. A fluent and flourishing unbeaten 100 guided England to victory on the morning of day 4 and the release of emotion on Joe Root’s face was there for all to see.
Speaking after, he was asked how he felt now as just another foot soldier and he spoke with a freedom that fans of English cricket haven't seen from him in quite a while. There was a calm excitement to him and it was clear that a weight had been lifted.
He spoke about the difficulty of being Captain just as much as his pride for having held the role, and the toll it had taken on his mental health, on its impact on his family and his inability to leave it at the stadium.
We've spoken at length on the notebook about the impact of playing mental health and cricket and scarcely has it been seen so obviously. Root continues to be a true ambassador for game, captaincy or not, and as he continues to excel in his later career, we're here to support any player that needs help throughout their journey.
…and finally, we close with a story from the United States about the crossroads between sports and politics.
For those of you who follow American sports, you may well have seen players, fans, members of coaching staff and administrators alike wearing orange armbands and t-shirts both on the pitch or during training.
The eye-catching apparel is aimed at raising awareness of gun violence in the United States following the tragic events in Uvalde, Texas earlier this month. Of course, this is neither the place, time, nor platform to discuss US politics, but we include it to highlight the increasingly mixed world of sport and politics - a world taking athletes and administrators in to new, challenging positions of power.
The platform that sport gives to its athletes and coaches is immensely influential, and it is yet another reminder of how ‘player power’ helps the world react to such tragedies, and that sport - for all its whimsy - can still make a real difference.