Mark Keohane’s sport wishlist for 2021
CAPE TOWN - Please 2021, let me – and every other South African rugby supporter – get to finally see our world champion Springboks in action in South Africa.
1. Siya Kolisi’s Springboks have not played since whipping England in the World Cup final in Tokyo, Japan. That famous 32-12 win happened on November 2nd, 2019. Then Covid-19 struck and sport, like every other aspect of life, was plunged into a crisis that remains as intense as it was more than a year ago.
The second wave of Covid has put the British & Irish Lions eightmatch, three-test series, from July 3rd to August 7th in doubt. Ideally, there will be a miracle over the next few months and the Lions will arrive in South Africa. If not, and the tour is postponed to 2022, then the wish is that I get to see Siya lead out the Boks against anyone, anywhere in South Africa.
2. The Brexit exit for the United Kingdom has meant that those South African cricketers who pursued county contracts can no longer play as local players because the Kolpak ruling, which allowed this, does not exist. For those not aware of the Kolpak ruling, any South African who signed such a contract, forfeited eligibility to be available for national selection. With that gone, it is my wish that the best of those South African cricketers be welcomed back into the fold, so as to add potency and depth to the current national set-up.
I want the Proteas to be the best cricket team in the world, in every format of the sport and I want the selectors to be able to pick the best
South African cricketers, regardless of where they are playing. The Proteas, despite the series win against Sri Lanka, were at a low in 2020. My wish for 2021 is they once again dominate on the field.
3. Now that he is finally on a free transfer, I want to see Lionel Messi in the English Premier League and I want to see him reunite with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. My love for Liverpool is well documented, but Messi has always been my favourite player and his partnership with Guardiola at Barcelona made for so many magical moments. Messi, for me, is the greatest player of his generation and one of the best to ever play the game because his assists have been as impressive as his goal scoring, which for the record equates to 43 goals on average every season for the past 15 seasons. There will always be a Messi v Ronaldo debate but I see them as two different players, with different strengths. It’s been a privilege to watch both, so in 2021 I want to see Ronaldo continue to thrive and Messi in sky blue.
4. The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan was postponed to 2021 because of Covid and my sporting wish is for the Games to happen this year and for South Africans Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya and Chad le Clos to reclaim those magnificent Olympic moments from 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio and add 2021 Olympic gold to their wonderful list of world records and gold medals. The romantic in me is dreaming of Van Niekerk also being the first athlete to go under 43 seconds for the 400 metres. I also want to see a South African sprinter, preferably Akani Simbine, medal in the men’s 100 metres. This sprinting wish extends to South Africa’s U20 100-metres record holder Phatutshedzo Maswanganyi regularly breaking 10 seconds and the SA men’s 4 x 100 metres jet-fuelled speedsters upstaging the fastest quartet from the United States on the greatest stage of them all, the Olympics.
5. Finally, before the clock sounds for the end of 2021, the glutton in me wants just one more Grand Slam final between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. The two have delivered the greatest rivalry in tennis, shared 40 singles Grand Slam titles (20 each) and provided the most thrilling and dramatic matches in the game’s history. Nadal on clay has hammered everyone, including Federer, and Federer has always had the edge on grass at Wimbledon.
With Federer injured for the Australian Open, scheduled for February, my wish is for these two gladiators to give the sporting world one last hurrah at Flushing Meadows in the United States – and for that match in September to be played in front of a packed crowd, which would mean fans were back to turn matches into occasions.