Welcome back all, a bumper Notebook this week. In it, we’ve got the rise of social media, and its risk to mental health, an amazing African light show, and a wonderful wrap up of women’s sport unlike any other.
Maguire and Social Media
Since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United has been a club in ‘transition’. For a small club, transition can often bring excitement, energy and new blood to a stale organisation. For a big club, however, used to winning on the biggest stages, transition is often an unsettling time.
Manchester United fit firmly in the second category.
Since Sir Alex retired in 2013, the club have had various managers, new players and strategies which has led to lots of change and there is no doubt that this has yet to bring back the success that the fans expect.
When this happens, fans and pundits alike often look for someone to blame.
And it’s here where England centre back and £70m man Harry Maguire now finds himself.
For those football fans who look beyond the headlines, Maguire has had a steady season. He’s been a stalwart at the back and has turned in a number of high-profile performances.
But in a social media age, where games are distilled down in to digestible chunks of content, his odd lapse in concentration or misplaced pass have become the centre of the football discourse.
So much so, that he found himself booed by his own fans during England’s 3-0 victory against the Ivory Coast - despite putting in an admirable performance, and just months after he led England to their first major tournament final at Euro 2020.
Of course, the booing was unjust and players and managers came out in support of Maguire. But it served to prove how influential and infiltrative social media can now be on supporters.
For those booing, Harry Maguire’s performance was by-the-by, he’d become their pantomime villain for no other reason that a 6 second clip of a mistouch that went viral. For Maguire though, those boos will have hurt.
Miller continue to place athlete wellbeing at the heart of our work, this sad story of modern football fandom serves as a stark reminder of the intrusive and extensive impact that social media can have on the beautiful game.
Salah and the Senegal light show
Sticking with football, and a curious case this week in the Qatar 2022 African World Cup Qualifiers between Egypt and Senegal - a game which also pit Liverpool icons Sadio Mane and Mo Salah against each other in a winner takes all showdown.
The game - cagey throughout - went all the way to penalties, and Mane's winning shootout sealed Senegal's World Cup place.
Salah, meanwhile, was one of multiple Egyptians to miss amid a barrage of abuse and… green lasers were aimed down at them from the Sengalese home support.
Egypt have lodged an official complaint against Senegal in which they claim their team was subjected to racism and "terrorised" by home fans in Dakar.
FIFA’s disciplinary body is now analysing reports from the game before deciding on any next steps to be taken, but it’s unlikely the story will end there.
Amid the multitude of injuries, issues and risks that an athlete or team can face while on the pitch, the impact of a laser light show during a World Cup match might just be a new one!
Women’s Sport Wrap Up
To wrap up this week, a barrage of fantastic news to share from the world of women’s sport.
First up, a truly ‘magical’ night for women’s football, as the UEFA Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid saw the iconic Camp Nou entirely sold out, with a record-breaking 91,000 fans in attendance.
It was the Barca’s first appearance in front of supporters at the iconic stadium and the players produced a sensational display to thrash rivals Real Madrid 5-2.
All eyes were on the crowd, however, and whether it could surpass 60,739 and set a new record attendance for a women's club game.
It went much further, beating a 23-year record of 90,195 from the 1999 World Cup in the United States, to become the largest crowd to watch a women's football match.
Meanwhile, the women’s Six Nations continues apace and this year sees the blue-chip sponsor of TikTok lead the charge in pushing the game forward.
Coming on board as title partner of the tournament, the social media platform has invested heavily in supporting women’s rugby and is already seeing results.
Visibility on the tournament - of which England currently sit top - is at an all-time high, while federations such as Wales, who’ve previously struggled to match England and France, are now benefitting from the added investment that more sponsorship is bringing with impressive results.
And finally, over in women’s cricket - could they do it again?
After going winless during the Ashes and losing their first three World Cup matches, England are now one match away from defending their 2018 WC win.
The defending champions meet Australia in Sunday's final in Christchurch, and after five straight victories could be poised to make history.
They’ve never won back- to- back finals, and have lost their two most recent matches with Australia, but the tournament itself has seen thrills and spills a plenty - we wouldn’t be surprised to see more ahead.