Diversity in sports more than about race

By Melissa Talbert September 08, 2020

Oftentimes, conversations about diversity in sports stop at race. There’s so much more to explore.

Don't get me wrong, discussions around race and diversity are important because there is more work to be done.

Just last Wednesday, TVJ's Prime Time sports featured international equestrian Lydia Heywood. Heywood, who is the daughter of a British mother and Jamaican father, does not look like most of her fellow competitors. Hence, she is pushing for more diversity in the sport.

Diversity in sports, however, isn’t only about race. Diversity covers a range of things including sexual orientation (yes, track star Caster Semenya is a symbol of diversity in sports) and age. Diversity would also mean accepting different sports. A diverse range of sports.

So, Heywood is onto something when she encourages prospective athletes and fans to accept non-traditional sports. In this case, equestrian.

Contributors to the gaming industry also want diversity. Before Jabari Brown decided to make his own game, he modified and animated characters. A video game modifier is a person who makes minor changes to another artist’s work. Jabari modified and animated characters because he wanted to see people who look like him. His modified black characters are called ‘cosplayers’. They have super speed, super strength; typical superpower stuff.

 Diversity is a superpower within itself. It gives a sense of worth and comfort through representation. When people identify with something, they’ll keep coming back. Jabari’s characters are influenced by Jamaican culture. His characters speak patois and the word ‘dark’ in his moniker ‘Japter Dark’ represents his dark brown complexion.

Jabari recently decided to make his own game but admits it will take many years to complete.

His mobile game will be a side scroller endless runner. A game where the player is always running. His other game will be more complex. The concept is an HD fighting game like Marvel vs Capcom. This means, it will be labour intensive and will definitely need funding.

 I get it, sprinting events spark joy and delight in Jamaicans. Our athletes give their all, excel, and have been doing so for many years. Just the same, I believe nontraditional sports can spark pride in us because anything Jamaica is a part of what makes us very proud. However, it will take truly accepting diversity for what is it for the island to be genuinely known for equestrian sports, esports, etc.

When diversity is grasped, non-traditional sports and industries can flourish. Prospective athletes and gamers will  see non-traditional sports as a plausible career choice.

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  • Liverpool sign Jota: Champions look to the future – Assessing £45m recruit in Opta data Liverpool sign Jota: Champions look to the future – Assessing £45m recruit in Opta data

    Diogo Jota's arrival at Liverpool gives the Premier League champions some added depth as they turn an eye to the future.

    The forward's move from Wolves for a reported £45million was confirmed on Saturday as Jurgen Klopp continued to strengthen his squad.

    But with one of the world's best attacks in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino already in place, just where does 23-year-old Jota fit?

    With thanks to Opta data, we take a look at Jota, Liverpool's front three and what the future could hold.

     

    A back-up upgrade … for now

    There is no doubt Jota will need to bide his time behind Salah, Mane and Firmino.

    Salah and Mane scored 37 goals between them in the Premier League last season, with Jota's return at least more comparable to that of Firmino.

    Jota scored a goal every 328.1 minutes for a haul of seven, a better return than Firmino (333.4), while converting big chances at a superior rate (33.3 to 23.1) as well.

    But the Brazilian's selfless approach is often lauded and he provided his playmaking credentials during Liverpool's title-winning season. Firmino created 10 big chances and had eight assists, with Jota finishing with three and one respectively.

    While his goal and assist output may not compare, unsurprisingly, what Liverpool are getting is a player who is willing to take their man on. Jota attempted the fifth most dribbles in the Premier League last season with 151, although his success rate was just 43.7.

    It gives Klopp a talent to be nurtured, and some much-needed depth in attack with Divock Origi and Rhian Brewster linked with moves and Takumi Minamino still unproven after his January arrival from RB Salzburg. It may also provide the Liverpool manager with another option in midfield if needed.

    An eye to the future

    At 23 and having signed a reported five-year deal, Jota looks to be a player of the future for Liverpool. With Salah and Mane both 28 and linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and Barcelona, one could move on in the near future.

    Unlike Salah, who arrived from Roma in 2017, Mane caught the eye in the Premier League prior to his switch from Southampton.

    Mane turned 23 during the 2014-15 campaign – his first in England and the first of his two at Southampton. He has gone on to become one of the world's best players, but how does Jota compare to that Mane season, at the same age?

    Unsurprisingly, he is behind, but not by much. Mane finished that season with 10 league goals, one every 213.5 minutes, and had a better big chance conversion (40 to 33.3). But he created just four big chances to Jota's three and ended up with three assists (Jota had one in 2019-20), suggesting there is plenty for Liverpool to work with. Even Mane dribbled less (110 attempts), but he went at a success rate of 53.7. Southampton finished seventh that season, while Wolves ended up in the same spot in 2019-20. If Jota can get close to Mane's level in years to come, Liverpool will be pleased with their investment.

    What about Sarr?

    As recently as Friday, Liverpool had been linked with a move for Watford attacker Ismaila Sarr and the Championship club reportedly wanted at least £40m, a similar price the Reds are apparently paying for Jota. However, the payment structures for the two differed and led to Liverpool landing the Portugal international over Sarr.

    The 22-year-old Sarr enjoyed a fine season, particularly considering Watford were relegated from the top flight.

    He was directly involved in more goals (five goals and four assists) than Jota and in fewer minutes, and converted his limited big chances at a better rate (40) while creating three times more. Sarr had a similar dribble success rate (45.2) but attempted far fewer (104) in his first season in the Premier League. There was little between the two in 2019-20, but Sarr's numbers were impressive in a struggling side and he helped end Liverpool's ‘Invincibles' bid with a brace against the Reds in February.

    Liverpool were getting a fine talent either way and Jota shapes up as an exciting long-term prospect at Anfield.

  • ISSA tasks coaches with saving 2021 Champs ISSA tasks coaches with saving 2021 Champs

    Jamaica’s Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has sought consensus and some direction from high school coaches regarding the possibility of staging the popular Boys and Girls Championship next year.

    The event, which is typically staged in the month of March, was cancelled this year due to the credible threat of being a coronavirus super spreader event.  Since then, ISSA has announced the suspension of all school competitions scheduled for the Christmas term.

    With no creditable solutions coming to the fore as yet regarding the best possible ways to returning to the staging of high school sports, amidst the pandemic, concerns had been raised regarding the protentional of next year’s event being cancelled as well.

    In a letter issued to the coaches, ISSA was quick to point out that the December term cancellations had no impact on next year’s event.  But, in light of the need to satisfy restrictive COVID-19 protocols for staging the event, the body also pointed out that creative solutions were needed in order to host the competition.

    “ISSA has cancelled all ISSA competitions scheduled for the 2020 Christmas term.  This decision, however, does not have any impact on the staging of the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys and Girls Championships,” the letter read.

    “However, the national COVID-19 protocols dictate that if Champs 2021 is to be a reality, then adjustments have to be made to the general structure and scheduling of the meet.  These changes could possibly have implications for the number of athletes, classes, events and days of Champs 2021,” it continued.

    “We, therefore, invite each group of regional coaches (as per Regional Meets, Western, Central, Eastern, Corporate) to meet virtually amongst themselves and discuss possible suggestions as to what the 2021 ISSA/GraceKennedy Champs may look like in the context of COVID-19.  It is expected that from the regional discussions, coaches will submit their suggestions via an appointed team leader by email.”

    The coaches will have until October 2, to submit their suggestions.

  • Bale to Tottenham: A spent force, or more to give? Bale to Tottenham: A spent force, or more to give?

    In 2013, Real Madrid paid a then world-record fee to secure Gareth Bale's signature.

    The flying winger had been sensational in the Premier League for Tottenham and, in his final season in north London, scored 26 goals and provided 11 assists across all competitions.

    Bale's form resulted in Madrid paying €100million (£85m) to take him to Santiago Bernabeu, as Florentino Perez attempted to usher in a new galactico era.

    Yet seven years later, Bale is heading back to Tottenham on a season-long loan, now as a 31-year-old whose best days are most likely behind him.

    While Bale has certainly had his injury issues, his lack of game time at Madrid in recent seasons – he featured just 20 times in all competitions last term – seems to have been due to a breakdown in his relationship with Zinedine Zidane, more than any doubt over the quality he can offer.

    Back at his former club, Bale will aim to lift Spurs and get his career back on track, but can his seven-year stint at Madrid be considered a success – he did after all win four Champions League trophies, one Copa del Rey and two LaLiga titles – or a failure?

    Using Opta data, we take a look at his season by season stats.

     

    2013-14

    In his final season at Tottenham, Bale was involved in 37 goals in all competitions – only Robin van Persie (39) and Juan Mata (49) were involved in more for a Premier League club in 2012-13. Bale maintained that form in his maiden season in Spain, scoring 22 times and providing 16 assists across 44 appearances. Of his Madrid team-mates, only the imperious Cristiano Ronaldo managed more direct goal involvements (65).

    He capped his first season in Madrid with a brilliant goal against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final, which Los Blancos won, before scoring in extra-time to put Carlo Ancelotti's side 2-1 up against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League Final.

    2014-15

    Having averaged a goal every 0.56 LaLiga matches in his first season at Madrid, Bale's output dropped in his second campaign, with the Welshman managing 13 goals from 31 league appearances, at an average of 0.42.

    In total across all competitions, he registered 17 goals and 12 assists, despite playing four games more than in 2013-14. On average, he attempted five dribbles per 90 minutes, down from 5.8 the previous season, while he had 51.8 touches per 90 – the fewest amount of any season from 2007-08 onwards.

    2015-16

    Bale managed just 31 appearances in an injury-hit third campaign, though his goal statistics improved. While providing 12 assists, he scored 19 times in all competitions, including netting four in a 10–2 victory over Rayo Vallecano. In Zinedine Zidane's first match in charge – in January 2016 – he netted a hat-trick to help crush Deportivo La Coruna 5-0.

    On March 23, Bale scored his 43rd LaLiga goal to overtake Gary Lineker as the highest scoring British player in the competition's history. While his dribbles attempted again decreased, he threatened the goal more regularly with 4.2 shots per 90, while he averaged 58.4 touches.

    2016-17

    It was in Bale's fourth season in the Spanish capital that things began to turn. Having only signed a new contract in October, Bale suffered an ankle injury in November that kept him out for four months. His injury troubles plagued him throughout the campaign – he was forced off in his 100th LaLiga appearance for the club, which ended in a 3-2 defeat to Barca.

    Madrid nevertheless won their 33rd LaLiga title and the Champions League, with Bale managing 27 appearances in total, scoring nine goals and setting up a further three.

    2017-18

    Despite an injury-hit 2016-17, Bale enjoyed one of his most productive seasons at Madrid in the next campaign. He created six goals and scored 21 himself – his highest total since 2013-14, with 16 of those goals coming from 26 LaLiga appearances, at an average of 0.62 per 90 and a conversion rate of 20.78 per cent.

    Bale managed this despite averaging only 53.4 touches – his second-lowest total from 2007-08  – and 3.8 shots per game. His season ended in fantastic fashion, as he came on to score a remarkable overhead kick goal to put Madrid 2-1 up against Liverpool in the Champions League final, before he netted a second to put the result beyond doubt.

    2018-19

    With Ronaldo having left for Juventus, Bale played 42 times in 2018-19, though his total goal involvements dipped from 27 to 20 (14 goals, six assists). On December 19, Bale scored a hat-trick in a 3–1 win over Kashima Antlers in the semi-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup, becoming the third player to net three goals in a match in the tournament after Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.

    In February, Bale scored his 100th Madrid goal, making him one of only 21 players to have scored 100+ goals for the club in all competitions.

    2019-20

    The writing seemed to be on the wall for Bale at Madrid as speculation over a big-money move to Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning grew, but a transfer failed to materialise and the forward stayed at Santiago Bernabeu.

    However, in a season elongated by the coronavirus pandemic, Bale was used just 20 times by Zidane. He managed three goals and two assists, taking his respective tallies to 105 and 57, with a total of 162 goal involvements across seven seasons – only Ronaldo (318) and Karim Benzema (235) have been involved in more for Madrid in the same timeframe.

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