As we reflect on a challenging year in the lives of many, 2020 is one year most people will not be nostalgic for. In the sports realm, athletes transitioned into superheroes and martyrs, risking their lives as they continued to entertain the millions of supporters across the globe. Here is a recap of some of the most defining moments in sports in 2020.
Kobe Bryant’s death
When former NBA player and basketball mogul Kobe Bryant died on Jan. 26, 2020, the sports world paused. The former Los Angeles Lakers star died in a horrific helicopter crash that saw nine deaths, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant. Kobe is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, as he was a part of five Los Angeles Lakers championships while also becoming an 18-time All-Star and a two-time NBA finals MVP in his 20-year career. Kobe left an indelible mark on the world of sports.
Diego Maradona’s death
Regarded as one of the greatest and most controversial soccer players of all time, Diego Maradona was laid to rest in 2020. Maradona is renowned for his famous “hand of god” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup which Argentina went on to win. He was named player of the 20th century alongside Brazilian icon Pele. He played 490 official club games during his 21-year professional career, scoring 259 goals; for Argentina he played 91 games and scored 34 goals. Napoli FC where he spent seven years, have officially retired the famous number 10 jersey Maradona wore during his time. The club also officially renamed their stadium “Diego Armando Maradona Stadium,” a fitting gesture for the iconic midfielder who won Napoli their only two Serie A titles and UEFA Cup.
COVID-19 was by far one of the heaviest influencers in 2020. The virus outbreak saw many changes implemented in order for sports to continue. Many leagues and team owners made the decision to save lives by closing their stadiums. Sports were abandoned to assist with limiting the spread of the virus but fans were able to watch their teams from home.
The German top-flight division, known as Bundesliga, was Europe’s first major soccer league to resume during the pandemic. Noregian striker, Erling Haaland, scored after only 29 minutes against the German team Schalke on May 16, 2020. The Bundesliga return paved the way for other leagues to return amidst the pandemic.
Liverpool FC ends 30-year drought
It may have taken 30 years, but Liverpool finally earned another championship in the top-flight division in the English Premier League. Led by pacey Egyptian forward Mo Salah with 19 goals and Senegalese forward Sadio Mane with 18 goals, Liverpool went 33-3-3 and registered 99 points in their title quest. It was their first title since it became known as the EPL. Still, it was their 19th time winning the top-flight division. The chants of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” rang throughout the streets and homes of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
From immigrant to Canadian hero
Ghanaian-born Alphonso Davies immigrated to Canada at the age of five. One of the brightest prodigies out of Canada, Davies made his professional debut for the Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer at the age of 15. He was signed by Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich in January 2019 and in 2020, he became the first Canadian player to ever win the prestigious Union European Football Associations Champions League, the first Canadian player to ever win a soccer treble in Europe. Davies was named Canadian Men’s Player of the Year and was the youngest player to have won the award at 18 and finished third on the list for Europe’s Golden Boy Award.
Black Lives Matter
Players, coaches and clubs across major platforms came together in the fight against racism in the world by raising awareness via different mediums. Many teams and players wore apparel with the imprint of “Black Lives Matter.” In the EPL, players took a knee before each game in support of Black players and Black lives across the globe. The unity shown by these athletes has garnered significant attention in the wake of the fight against racial discrimination.
Netherlands midfielders Frenkie De Jong and Gini Wijnaldum took a powerful stand against racism as they held their arms together in celebration to show skin tone differences after Wijnaldum was racially abused during a game. The players and organizations have come together to make it known that there is no room for racism in sports.
As we look back, we thank the many athletes and their clubs for taking extraordinary measures to entertain fans, while keeping the public safe. Many outstanding athletes were lost in the year, the likes of Kobe Bryant and soccer icon Diego Maradona who have left indelible marks on their respective sports. 2021 awaits for new legends and icons to emerge.