Quote of the year
Phil Mickelson, February, on the Saudi LIV golf breakaway. “They’re scary motherfuckers to get involved with. They killed Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay. Knowing all of this, why would I even consider it? Because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates.”
Eddie Howe, March, asked about the 81 people killed in one day by Newcastle’s new owners. “I’m just going to answer questions about football. I’m still bitterly disappointed about the defeat.”
Politics awards: MP of the year
Nadine Dorries – ex-secretary of state for sport and essence of 2022. Dorries promised voters tennis pitches in April, forgot Glasgow 2014 had happened in July and reminisced about the wrong sport at a Rugby League World Cup launch in June: “My long-standing memory is that 2003 drop goal. Wow, what a moment that was.” She resigned in September, eyeing a peerage.
Also cutting through in 2022: a) Brendan Clarke-Smith, Tory MP for Bassetlaw, telling England players on the eve of the first tournament since they faced racist death threats to “cut out the kneeling nonsense and the rest of the selective virtue signalling”. And b) Rishi Sunak, tweeting 13 days after Qatari officials confiscated rainbow bucket hats off Wales fans’ heads: “Hats off to Qatar for hosting an incredible World Cup so far.”
Politics fan of the year
Derek Chisora, wearing a Boris Johnson mask in July at a weigh-in to support the fallen PM. “I was a big fan of Boris. I’m a big Brexit fan. I love the Brexit. I was one of the members of Brexit. I’m all about things that bring pressure to life.” In July Chisora was asked by the Times for his dream dinner party guests and chose Jesus, Hitler, and “Julius Caesar, the Roman empire guy”.
Legal awards: court case of the year
Among the early highlights from the high court in May, reported live by the Guardian’s @jimwaterson.
“Rooney’s lawyer claims WhatsApp messages that would show the leaking of stories to the Sun are on a phone dropped off the side of a boat. He says it is now ‘lying at the bottom of sea in Davy Jones’ locker’. Vardy asks the court: ‘Who is Davy Jones?’ The judge intervenes.”
Plus: “David Sherborne, acting for Rooney: ‘What does FFS stand for?’ Vardy: ‘Can I?’ Judge: ‘Yes.’ Vardy: ‘For fuck’s sake.’ Sherborne confirms he just wanted to check he understood. This is day one of a seven day trial.”
Arab gay disabled migrant woman of the year
Gianni Infantino, Fifa president, who ended November’s 57-minute “Today I feel gay” routine with arms outstretched comparing himself to Jesus. “Crucify me, I’m here for that.”
Among the Fifa head’s other big moments in another solid year of football administration:
Telling a global capitalism conference in LA in May why Qatar’s migrant workers caught up in modern slavery and abuse should, on balance, just be more grateful. “When you give work to somebody, even in hard conditions, you give dignity and pride. It’s not charity. You don’t make charity.”
Telling the Council of Europe in January how his lucrative plan for an expanded World Cup every two years was actually motivated by stopping African migrants finding “death in the sea … We need to give hope to Africans so that they don’t need to cross the sea to find maybe a better life.” After feedback Infantino said his remarks had “been taken out of context … It was just a general comment.”
And refusing to take action against Russia after the Ukraine invasion until public opinion became too hot – U-turning 24 hours later. Asked if he’d hand back the friendship medal Vladimir Putin awarded him in 2019, Infantino told media: “It’s not about individuals.”
Straightest faces of the year
Belonged to delegates at the International Anti-Corruption Excellence Awards – hosted in Doha in December by Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani. The awards featured a new category for 2022: “Safeguarding Sports from Corruption”, with Infantino presenting the prize. Sheikh Tamin told delegates that corruption was “the scourge that harms the public interest”.
Plus: bravest insight
David Beckham, August, on the real Qatar: “Qatar really is an incredible place to spend a few days on a stopover. The modern and traditional fuse to create something really special. It’s one of the best spice markets that I’ve ever been to. This will go down as one of my favourite mornings. This is perfection.”
Peacemaker of the year
Novak Djokovic’s dad, Srdjan – mediating in last January’s row between his unvaccinated son and Australian immigration. Srdjan told the press: “Tonight they can throw him in a dungeon, tomorrow they can put him in chains. Novak is the Spartacus of the new world which won’t tolerate injustice, colonialism and hypocrisy.” His broader point, when he’d calmed down: “Jesus was crucified and everything was done to him, and he endured, he is still alive among us. They crucify Novak the same way.”
On the Djokovic row: lockdown sceptic @Nigel_Farage – leaving his Twitter followers feeling uneasy after attacking Australia using its immigration system to control its borders. Farage said Australia’s use of “arbitrary power” to deport an eastern European was “nasty … it really is a banana republic.”
And the best clarification
As the row got out of hand: Novak Djokovic, February, BBC: “I’m not anti-vax, but will sacrifice trophies if told to get jab.”
Best truth seeker
Was Matt Le Tissier, exposing how the same people who faked Covid and covered up Hunter Biden’s laptop also faked atrocities in Ukraine using “crisis actors”. He clarified later: “I do not advocate war in any shape or form,” then stepped down as a Southampton ambassador to focus on “the work I believe in”.
Most consistent performers
Russia – barred in name at February’s Winter Olympics due to state-sponsored doping, but still managing to register the Games’ first doping scandal. Journalists who revealed the story about skater Kamila Valieva received death threats while Vladimir Putin hit out at the smears. “Through her work Kamila has raised sport to the level of true art.”
Apology of the year
F1’s Bernie Ecclestone, feeling put out in June by the backlash after telling Good Morning Britain: “I’d take a bullet for Putin, because he’s a first-class person.” Nine days later: “I’m sorry if anything I said has upset anybody.”
Breakthrough sport of the year
Finally cutting through to the news pages in 2022: “Chess grandmaster accused of anal bead tactic ‘cheated over 100 times’” (Metro, October); “Cheat row erupts at World Conker Championships – but it’s not like anal-bead chess plot” (Daily Star). Plus, not bead-related: “Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent” (Guardian, July).
Rethink of the year
Came in August after Southend signed a stand-naming deal with estate agents Gilbert & Rose, making it “the Gilbert & Rose West Stand”. Chairman Ron Martin: “It’s unfortunate and really disappointing … I suspect that the people in our commercial department were not born at the time of that tragedy so I guess that’s why that’s happened. We’re changing it to ‘the West Stand sponsored by Gilbert And Rose’.”
Second biggest tractor scandal of the year
Two months after MP Neil Parish resigned in April’s surprise parliamentary tractor porn scandal, three teens joy-rode a tractor in circles on Plymouth’s Home Park pitch. Police arrested “three boys under of the age of 16”; Plymouth: “Any true fan would not engage in such mindless destruction.”
Product launch of the year
Was John Terry’s “Ape Kids” non-fungible token business. Terry pushed the opportunity in January for fans to buy cartoons of footballers looking like apes by tweeting a cartoon of Brazil winger Willian as an ape. Twitter racism watchdog @racismdog took a view; the NFT fell 99% in value by June.
Diplomat of the year
New Zealand doubles player Michael Venus, asked about opponent Nick Kyrgios’s Australian Open display in January. “There will always be his supporters and he’ll always spin it in a way that helps him. But at the end of the day, he’s just an absolute knob.”
Most unexpected injuries
Hurting most in 2022: a) Finnish cross-country skier Remi Lindholm suffered a frozen penis in 50km race in February: “It was one of the worst competitions I’ve been in.” And b) Eritrea’s Biniam Girmay celebrated his first stage win at the Giro d’Italia in May by firing a champagne cork into his eye causing a hemorrhage, putting him out of the rest of the tour. Girmay called it “a bad moment” but “still, I’m happy. See you soon.”
Plus: most lacking in empathy
These commentators, for a full two minutes.
Setback of the year
Came for marathon runner Eric Kiptanui, forced to sit out the Commonwealth Games men’s race after Kenyan officials entered the wrong Eric for the event. Eric Kiplagat Sang, a non-marathon runner, wasn’t in Birmingham at the time. Kiptanui: “This is painful, it’s simply bad. People must take their work seriously.”
Also cutting corners in 2022:
Autumn Nations Series organisers mistakenly using an outline of the US state of Georgia to represent the European country on official merchandise. “The design error was quickly identified.”
Great Scottish Run organisers apologising after Eilish McColgan’s 10,000m British record was invalidated when the course was found to be 150m short – a repeat of an error made in 2016 which annulled a record set by Callum Hawkins. McColgan: “Human errors happen. I’ve no bad words to say.”
Chesham Utd’s PA man – doing his best as the club improvised to pay tribute to Her Majesty in September.
Ending the hire-and-fire culture at their clubs in 2022:
Watford CEO Scott Duxbury in June, drawing a line under their past record to focus on stability: “In Rob Edwards we’ve appointed a manager we all totally believe in, a manager who can lead and drive that culture change. We will support him – come hell or high water.” 26 Sep: Sacks him.
Genoa president Alberto Zangrillo, pledging no more of the whim-based sackings which had been a trademark of his predecessor Enrico Preziosi. 24 Dec 2021: “When we hired Andriy Shevchenko we didn’t do it because he was someone’s pal or for some other daft reason, we did it with deep thought. He’s a Ballon d’Or winner, he’s rigorous, he’s serious, he’s made a big life decision to leave a stimulating city to come to us. The people love Andriy. We back Andriy. I love Andriy.” 15 Jan 2022: He sacks Andriy.
Plus: most all-in
Michael Beale, 20 Oct, snubbing Wolves to stay at QPR: “Integrity and loyalty are big things for me, and if they are the values you live by you have to be strong. I’ve been all-in here and I’ve asked other people to be all-in, so I can’t be the first person to run away from the ship.” 28 Nov: Joins Rangers.
And best use of literally
“It was quite literally the siren call from the mermaid as the sailor passes by on his ship. They got the right mermaid going past the right ship.” Roy Hodgson, February, taking the Watford job.
Reverse sweep of the year…
Was this, from East Dean Tigers.
… and double blow of the year
49 seconds of elite village cricket action, given a re-run in July.
MCC chair Bruce Carnegie-Brown – picked up on microphone at the Lord’s AGM in May complaining that members were slow returning from a comfort break because “it’s taking them ages to empty their colostomy luggage”. The MCC said the remark “does not reflect the club’s views”.
Best gridwalk moment
Came in May: Martin Brundle chasing down basketball prospect Paolo Banchero on the Miami grid shouting “Patrick” at him. Brundle, who thought it was NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes, was told as the interview unfolded. “So … what is your name sir? I thought I was talking to somebody else.”
Learning experiences of the year
Among 2022’s rookie errors:
The Mirror, August: “Athlete comes last in 400m race after penis falls out of shorts”. Alberto Nonino said his decision to “run without pants” at the World Athletics Under-20 Championships in Colombia was “a mistake … I’m thankful to my friends and family for helping me get over it.”
And the BBC blaming a trainee-related “technical glitch with our test ticker rolling over to live programming” after the breaking news scroll announced in May: “Manchester United are rubbish.”
Best final day
South Africa’s fourth-tier promotion race in May, featuring two games ending 33-1 and 59-1. Investigators later banned all four clubs, saying suspicions were initially aroused by the 41 own goals and because “when these teams had previously met in March, the scorelines were considerably more sober”.
Also raising eyebrows: two games in Sierra Leone’s second tier ending 95-0 and 91-1 – having been 2-0 and 7-1 at half-time. The FA president, Thomas Daddy Brima, called it “an embarrassing situation”.
Among the year’s online missteps:
February: Uefa, sponsored by Gazprom, failing to unschedule a timed tweet announcing ‘HAPPY THURSDAY EVERYONE!’ on the day Russia invaded Ukraine.
New Zealand Rugby’s official Twitter account celebrating International Women’s Day in March without mentioning their world champion women’s team. @AllBlacks: “Forever grateful to all the women in our lives that allow us to play the game we love. Partners, mothers, daughters, doctors, physios, referees, administrators and fans. Appreciate you every day.” The tweet featured a photo of All Blacks winger Sevu Reece, fined in 2018 for assaulting his girlfriend.
The Chicago Bears tweeting a Happy #StPatricksDay image in March in which they Photoshopped the usual green dye in the Chicago River into Bears orange. They deleted it inside an hour after feedback.
And @Lord_Sugar, tweeting during the Women’s Euros in July [all sic]: “I am watching the women football and notice that ALL the comentators are women. I also note when mens football is on there is a symobilic female commentator to cover the broadcasters arse. Should I complain there should me a male commentator in women’s football?” #Symobilic trended.
Best live tweeting
Among the year’s most engaged-with live match updates:
Plus: most in-tune with events
Kettering’s @KTFCOfficial, January: “We agree and understand that there have been rumours that we lost last night’s match. We, of course, could have done things differently, but would advise people to await the outcome of Sue Gray’s inquiry before jumping to any conclusions.”
Top attention seekers
Headlining 12 months of animal cameos:
Principled stand of the year
Came from West Ham, “unreservedly” condemning Kurt Zouma for kicking his cat, then starting him a day later. David Moyes said Zouma started the game “because he is one of our better players … And I stand by that.”
Best pet rescuer
Wigan’s Jason Kerr, earning praise in February for carrying an on-pitch cat to safety then appearing to wave it goodbye. It emerged the cat, Topsey, had been missing for seven months; fans crowdfunded the vet bill. See also: Clitheroe manager Billy Priestley untangling a sheep by the M6.
Jill Scott earning her place in the jungle in July. “She swore at me first but the camera was the other way. I do apologise. I actually hate swearing.”
Most intense highlights package
Whitehawk v Three Bridges in January. The Whitehawk website reported: “When people look back on this it will be to the surprise of many that the venue was not the Western Front, and the year was not 1916.”
Goal of the year
Marcin Oleksy for the Warta Poznan amputee team against Stal Rzeszow, November.
Morocco’s Sofiane Boufal dancing with his mum; Lionesses on the desk at their press conference in July, and eight-year-old Tess going viral during Sweet Caroline. She was later gifted an Alessia Russo shirt live on air.
Award for making the most of your big moment
And retweet of the year
Helping lift spirits during last winter’s Covid peak was this old commercial blooper reel – retweeted in January, going viral one more time.