Sporting heroes and villains of 2016

Sporting heroes and villains of 2016

It is that time of the year when Nobby hauls himself out of the armchair to honour the sportsmen and sportswomen who have acted above and beyond the call of duty over the past 12 months.

Sadly the year will be remembered for the tragic plane crash which killed almost the entire Chapecoense football team from Brazil.

The year also saw the passing of one of world's greatest ever sportsmen, Muhammad Ali. And close to our hearts, we lost former Bangkok Post sports editor Edward Thangarajah at the age of 84.

But through it all there was some great sport and it was definitely the year of the underdog.

The May Queen: Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn won her first three LPGA titles in the merry month of May, which also happens to be her nickname. A hat-trick of titles in May for "Nong May" was -- brilliant. She went on to win Thailand's first-ever major, the Women's British Open in July. And there's more to come…

Best of the Best: After another success in the Canadian Women's Open to make it five titles in the year, Ariya clinched the LPGA Player of the Year Title and several other awards, as well as US$1 million in bonus, to complete a truly amazing 2016 for the 21-year-old Thai.

No One Saw This Coming: After just surviving a relegation battle the previous season, Thai-owned Leicester City, led by manager Claudio Ranieri, won the Premier League at a canter. Ranieri celebrated by announcing in his own inimitable way: "We are the champions -- dilly-ding, dilly-dong!"

Gaffer Of The Year: Leicester's unexpected success sparked glowing headlines including "Greatest Fairytale in Football History" (Daily Express), with the Guardian offering, "Ranieri Floats on Claudio Nine". Few would argue with the paper calling Ranieri "a man of unfailing modesty, courtesy and charm."

Most Honest Football Chant: At the same time they were clinching the title, Leicester fans, far more familiar with relegation struggles, gleefully singing "We're Staying Up!"

Try The Other End: Blackburn Rovers' Irish centre-back Shane Duffy, who in a Championship defeat against Cardiff City, scored two own goals before being sent off. The previous week he had scored another own goal in the 3-0 loss to Wigan Athletic, effectively scoring three own goals in the space of 47 minutes.

If At First You Don't Succeed: Chicago Cubs finally won the World Series after a record 108-year drought in a thrilling victory over the Cleveland Indians. A relieved Chicago Tribune front page headline said it all: "At Last!"

They Said It Couldn't Be Done: A British male tennis player rises to No.1 ranking in the world. OK, Andy Murray is Scottish, but until he starts losing again he remains firmly British.

Another True Brit: When Johanna Konta played in the semi-final of the Australian Open, she became the first British woman in three decades to reach that stage in a Grand Slam event.

But There's A Catch: Australians were quick to point out that Konta was born in Sydney and represented Australia until 2012, has Hungarian parents, trains in Spain and only occasionally drops in on her home in Eastbourne. She also comes out with "G'Day Mate" with a distinct Aussie twang. It prompted entertaining exchanges during her Melbourne matches, with British fans singing "When the Brits go marching in" while the Aussies responded with a very English "Jolly good show!"

Time For A Little Attitude Adjustment: When asked if he owed the fans for clearly not trying at the Shanghai Masters, Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios responding: "I don't owe them anything. If they don't like it, don't come. Just leave''. It prompted former bad boy John McEnroe to suggest Kyrgios retires from tennis.

Ask A Stupid Question: When a reporter asked Venus Williams at the US Open, "just talk about the joy quotient versus the win quotient," Venus replying with a puzzled "The what?"

Bad Timing: After watching defending champion Jordan Spieth sink his fourth consecutive birdie to open up a five-stroke lead in the Masters, Nobby switched the TV off (it was 3.45am in Bangkok) knowing no one could catch him.

Wrong Again: Switching on the TV later that morning to discover Spieth putting the green jacket on England's Danny Willett, following Spieth's meltdown at Amen Corner. It's not only football that's a "funny old game".

Probably About Time: "It was a magical week," US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love on leading his team to a deserved and much needed victory over Europe.

Hard To Dispute: "There you go, I'm the greatest." Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt summing up his career after winning his ninth Olympic gold medal.

Olympic Spirit: "The only truth they told was that they were drunk." -- Head of Rio police after American swimmer Ryan Lochte alleged he was robbed at gunpoint after an altercation at a gas station.

Well England, That Wasn't Very Good: Roy Hodgson's team got knocked out of Euro 2016 by Iceland, the smallest nation ever to compete in the finals of an international tournament. At least the English newspapers provided entertainment with headlines like "England's Darkest Day (Times), "England's Greatest Humiliation" (Daily Telegraph), "Ice Wallies" (Sun) and the Daily Star's "Cod Help Us", a reference to past fishing disputes between England and Iceland known as the "Cod Wars".

Welsh Wizards: "You dream about nights like this." -- Wales manager Chris Coleman as Wales reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals after stunning Belgium.

Hard to Argue With: "He's a fantastic footballer, but not a gracious human being." -- Iceland's Kari Arnason after Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo said his team had a "small mentality". The superstar had the last laugh, however, as his team won the Euro 2016 title.

Spin Doctors: India's cricketers were simply too good for England thanks to stunning spinners Ravichandran Aswin and Ravindra Jajeda who took 54 wickets between them, plus the masterful batting of captain Virat Kohli.

Now That Takes Some Doing: In what the Guardian described as a "record-breaking whimper" England becoming the first team to lose a test match by an innings despite scoring as many as 477 in their first knock.

Warne Bowls A Googly: "There's a lot of reasons I don't like Steve Waugh… because he's the most selfish player I have played with." -- Shane Warne not being nice about the former Australian cricket captain.

That Wasn't In The Script: Sam Allardyce lost the England job after just one game for what was politely termed "an error of judgment". As the Independent put it, Allardyce quit "after 67 days, one win and one awful own goal".

Palace Coup: Sam didn't have to wait long for a new job, however, with Crystal Palace giving Alan Pardew the sack as his Christmas present.

And Pigs Actually Can Fly: In the game at the Valley between Charlton Athletic and Coventry City, hundreds of plastic pink pigs were thrown onto the pitch by supporters of both sides, unhappy with the way their respective clubs are being run.

Modest He Ain't: Zlatan Ibrahimovich on leaving PSG to join Manchester United announcing: "I came like a king, left like a legend." So far at Man U he is actually living up to his own hype.

Fair Dinkum: "We're only going to get better." -- England rugby union's Aussie coach Eddie Jones on the team's unexpected success since last year's abysmal World Cup campaign.

Wise Decision: Nico Rosberg explaining "I have climbed my mountain, I am on the peak, so this feels right " on announcing his retirement shortly after become F1 world champion.

That's Alright Then: "I've done lots of cocaine. Lots of it. That ain't a performance-enhancing drug." -- Former world heavyweight boxing champion Tyson Fury.

Silly Money: Former Chelsea star Oscar, 25, being paid £400,000 A WEEK playing for Shanghai SIPG in the China Super League. Has the football world gone mad?

Get the Handkerchiefs Out: The tale of the little Afghan kid with the football shirt made from a plastic bag, who got to meet his hero Lionel Messi. A rare heart-warming moment in the greedy world of modern football.

Well Done Mate: To coach Kiatisak 'Zico' Senamuang leading Thailand to victory in the Suzuki Cup. He's an excellent coach and a nice guy, so please don't boot him out when results go wrong against the big boys.

A Happy New Year to all readers and it will be even happier if Reading win promotion.

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