Star of the year
Cristiano Ronaldo – won a fourth Ballon d’Or, launched a range of CR7 blankets, tossed a microphone into a lake, inspired a tantrum meme, and hosted the era’s defining football press conference, with the press banned from asking questions. He denied it was his idea to have all the questions posed by a Uefa media officer instead: “I decide nothing.” He also appeared to spit out a magic fully-formed Euro 2016 TV graphic during Portugal’s quarter-final. Flawless.
Manager of the year
Claudio Ranieri, taking the edge off 2016. “Hey, man, dilly-ding, dilly-dong. Come on!” Former Ranieri player Gianfranco Zola revealed the phrase was tried and tested. “He’s always said dilly-ding, dilly-dong. He’s a colourful guy. When I first heard it I knew what he meant. He told me it so many times.”
Modern footballer of the year
Plenty of contenders, but two Villa men share the title: club captain Gabby Agbonlahor, relegated on a nitrous oxide legal high two years after extending his Villa deal because: “I still get that same buzz pulling on the Villa shirt”, and team-mate Joleon Lescott, who livened up last season’s grim run-in by tweeting a photograph of a sports car after a 6-0 defeat and telling the press how going down was a real “weight off the shoulders”. He left on a free in August.
• Also standing his ground: Turkey midfielder Ozan Tufan – upset with media criticism during the Euros after he was caught on camera doing his hair as Croatia’s Luka Modric shaped up to score in front of him. “I don’t get how a single moment in which I do my hair is deemed a mistake. It damages my confidence.”
Best Olympic moment
Capturing the mood: Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino helping each other finish Rio’s 5,000m after colliding mid-race. Hamblin: “When I went down it was like: ‘What’s happening? Why am I on the ground?’ And suddenly there’s this hand on my shoulder. That girl is the Olympic spirit, right there.”
Story of the summer
Syrian teen Yusra Mardini winning her heat in the 100m butterfly for the Refugee Team in Rio, a year after surviving the capsize of a six-man dinghy carrying 20 refugees towards Lesbos. “This is really cool … there are a lot of stories about me now and a lot of people who want to take my picture: it’s helping to spread our message. This does not stop here … This is not the end.”
1) US women’s football star Hope Solo, reflecting on their Rio quarter-final defeat to Sweden: “We played a courageous game … but we also played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win, I strongly, firmly believe that. They won’t make it far.” They made the final.
And 2) The millionaire golfers delivering their pre-Games reasons for not going to Rio. Rory McIlroy: “Though the risk of infection from the Zika virus is considered low, it is a risk nonetheless.” Dustin Johnson: “My concerns about the Zika virus cannot be ignored.” Jason Day: “The sole reason for my decision is the potential risk to future members of our family.” And Vijay Singh: “I would like to play the Olympics, but the Zika virus, you know … all that crap.”
Best change of direction
Came from Sepp Blatter’s replacement at Fifa, Gianni Infantino – calling his new pay deal proof of its emerging anti-greed culture. Infantino said his modest contract – £1.15m basic plus bonuses, car, house, £1,542-a-month expenses and funding for one-off costs such as £1,100 for a tuxedo and £660 on flowers – “reflects more than any word can reflect my strong will to end recent behaviour”.
Former Fifa man of the year
Most relaxed as the FBI took a grip: former Concacaf head Jeffrey Webb, who hosted a Harlem Renaissance-themed blackjack party in February while under house arrest at the Georgia mansion he bought with fraud money. Webb, set for sentencing next May, took the Concacaf presidency in 2012 pledging to draw a line under the organisation’s “shameful” Jack Warner era: “We must move the clouds, and let the sunshine in.”
Interview of the year
Gary and Paul O’Donovan, live on RTÉ in August after winning Ireland’s first rowing gold – discussing the craic, Nutella, peeing in cups, how to row (“close your eyes and pull like a dog”), and how sad they felt to be in Rio because they were missing the Rio-themed parties back in Skibbereen. Last month they were named RTÉ Sport Team of the Year, starred in a new documentary Pull Like a Dog, were interviewed for Graham Norton’s New Year’s Eve BBC1 show, and named as Britain’s most Googled Irish-related search term in the whole of 2016. Gary: “It’s funny the way it’s worked out.”
Best commentary moments
Iceland’s Euro 2016 coverage, and this from Ireland’s Cathal Dennehy and Ronan Duggan, live streaming April’s Irish Universities Athletics Association women’s 4 x 400m dramatic relay final as an outsider charged “from the depths of hell” to victory. Dennehy admitted later he’d achieved a pitch “somewhere between a dog whistle and a squealing pig … We all lost our minds.”
Worst commentary moments
1) Canada’s Olympic broadcaster CBC apologising in August after their swimming commentator called the whole men’s 200m individual medley mistaking Michael Phelps for Ryan Lochte; and 2) John Virgo, confident he was off-air during BBC1’s live coverage of Mark Selby and Marco Fu’s epic contest at snooker’s World Championship in April: “I wanted to watch a bit of racing this afternoon. I’ll be lucky to watch some fucking Match of the Day.” Spokesman: “He’s embarrassed and apologetic.”
Pundit of the year
The clip that never grows old. Sky’s Steve McClaren in June, with his in-play analysis of England’s response to Iceland’s equaliser: “It’s been the perfect response from England. You just think: ‘No problem, start again, keep dominating, keep getting pressure on the Iceland back four’ – the only thing that they have got is the big boy up front Sigurdsson, who really … Sigthorsson … Oh, ohhh …”
Most professional attitude
Sam Allardyce – negotiating the £400,000 top-up that ended his 67-day England reign. He promised undercover reporters he’d deliver their pretend clients “keynote speaking, that’s what I’d do, I’m a keynote speaker” plus “value for money … not just the keynote speech but also in the bar after. I don’t come in like a lot of them, bang, you’re off. Do you know what I mean? I’m going to stand at the bar. Have a few social drinks.”
Charlton and Coventry fans, staging a joint protest in October against both clubs’ boards by hurling hundreds of plastic pigs at the pitch. @CAFCofficial, 3.02pm: “Play is stopped. Pigs on pitch.” 3.03pm: “(Not real ones)”.
Social media awards
• Best live tweeting:
1) Danny Willett’s brother Pete, watching the Masters in April with tweets including: “Speechless. I once punched that kid in the head for hurting my pet rat. Now look;” and: “I’ve shared a bath with a Masters winner.” His Ryder Cup online preview in September – which branded US fans “pudgy, unwashed cretins” and a “baying mob of imbeciles” – didn’t go down so well.
2) @hastingsufc, staying professional against the odds in October: “Apologies for lack of updates / I’ve been stung by a wasp. Even game, no significant chances.”
3) And Iceland’s @rvkgrapevine, giving a minute-by-minute appraisal of keeper Hannes Halldorsson’s summer performance against Portugal. “Ódinn’s breath propelled our heroic goalie to swat away that weak-ass header” and: “GOALIE LIKE THE CLIFF FACE AT DYRHOLAEY THE ONLY THING THAT WILL DESTROY HIM IS CENTURIES OF COASTAL EROSION.”
• Most sincere tweet: Sunderland’s Victor Anichebe, copying and pasting too much of what his PR team sent him after October’s defeat to West Ham – @VictorAnichebe: “Can you tweet something like: Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again!”
• Most confused: Californian Facebook user Petra Fyde, asking her friends and family in June: “At the risk of sounding stupid… Why are a bunch of strange men in my fb inbox saying WILL GRIGGS ON FIRE, YOUR DEFENSE IS PETRA FYDE?????? What the hell is going on?”
• And the most well-crafted pledge: @Joey7Barton, 24 May: “To be a Ranger is to sense the sacred trust of upholding all that such a name means in this shrine of football.” 15 Sep: “I apologise unreservedly.”
Andy Murray in August, asked by John Inverdale: “You’re the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis golds, that’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” Murray: “I think Venus and Serena have won about four each.” @jk_rowling: “Murray just reminded John Inverdale that women are people too.”
Among the footballers reacting to Brexit in June:
• @PetrCech: “It looks like the biggest decision in the history of this country was made based on a fake campaign and lies.”
• Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini: “The main concern is an eventual domino effect. I don’t think the simple UK exit can change the equilibrium of the whole European economy, aside from the heartburn everyone’s feeling. I think the discontent shouldn’t lead to disintegration.”
• Jermaine Pennant @pennant83: “Now we are not in Europe what’s going to happen with the next euros 2018???”
• And Nolito: “What is Brexit? I think it’s a dance. I may be wrong.”
25 Nov: England coach Eddie Jones, hailing wing Elliot Daly in the buildup
to their game against Argentina: “He does things you don’t coach.”
26 Nov: Daly sent off after five minutes.
Rio 2016 spokesperson Mario Andrada – explaining why organisers couldn’t be expected to just fix the green water in the swimming pool overnight: “Chemistry is not an exact science.”
Best customer service
Back in August England’s slow over-rate against Pakistan prompted spectator Alexis Fuller to tweet: “I want 10% of my money back. Wouldn’t go to football and find it ended after 80mins.” Alex Hales tweeted back: “ok DM me your bank details” – then transferred £4.10.
Miss of the year
Italy’s Simone Zaza – tiptoeing his way to stardom from the spot against Germany at the Euros – the summer’s single biggest non-Ronaldo meme. Among the remixes: Zaza as a seagull stamping for worms, Zaza doing Olympic dressage, and Zaza in a queue for the toilet. Zaza: “Unfortunately the ball went too high. It will be with me for the rest of my life.”
Single worst moment of 2016
Setting the tone for Trump, Brexit, Farage and everything that followed – Germany coach Joachim Löw’s distressing televised in-trouser scratch and sniff routine in mid-June. “I’m sorry for it. When you are full of adrenaline, things happen that you don’t perceive. I will try to behave differently in the future.”
President of the year
Palermo’s 74-year-old owner Maurizio Zamparini went into 2016 looking to put his “coach-eater” image to bed. Here’s how it unfolded:
10 Jan: Zamparini denies he’s already feeling twitchy about his new coach Davide Ballardini. “I will not sack him, even though I could.”
11 Jan: Sacks him and hires Guillermo Barros Schelotto.
11 Feb: Discovers Schelotto doesn’t have his badges and hires Giovanni Bosi instead.
15 Feb: Sacks Bosi and rehires Giuseppe Iachini, who he sacked in November.
8 Mar: Calls Iachini “an idiot who has gone mad” and replaces him with Walter Novellino.
12 Apr: Sacks Novellino, rehires Ballardini. “People say I’ve gone mad, but I’m the victim here.”
6 Sep: Hires Roberto de Zerbi after Ballardini resigns two games into the season.
28 Nov: Denies that he already has his doubts about De Zerbi. “I will keep him. That is my decision.”
30 Nov: Sacks De Zerbi for being “pitiful” and hires Eugenio Corini to see out a difficult year. “Why Corini? There wasn’t much on the market.”
Most English moment
In April West Indies needed an unlikely 19 from the final over to win the World T20 and England’s Ben Stokes was the man with the ball in his hand to close out the result. Four balls and four Carlos Brathwaite sixes later, it was over. “I send Ben commiserations,” said Brathwaite. “He’s an absolute legend.”
Most unexpected hero
Marcus “Willbomb” Willis, world No775 when he stunned Wimbledon and, almost, Roger Federer – sticking it to trolls who dubbed him Cartman due to his big bones. His Wimbledon run ended with a cheque for £30,000. “It’s the biggest payday I’ve ever had. I can pay off a couple of credit cards now.”
Chant of the year
“Huh!” by Iceland. Also worth a mention: tactics-minded Carlisle fans with a Peter Andre-themed message to manager Keith Curle: “Woah-oh-oh-oh, Mysterious Curle, I wanna play 3-5-2.”
Best falling down
2016’s best football tumbles: Brazilian players Marcelo Cordeiro and Rossi pretending to have been headbutted by each other in October (Cordeiro: “That’s just life. That’s the game we’re in”); Toulouse coach Pascal Dupraz feeling upset in November by criticism of his reaction to a paper plane brushing his head: “All these critics, they’re so brave”; and Louis van Gaal’s Miranda Hart pratfall in February, as he made a serious point.
Best Strictly contenders
a) Everton manager Roberto Martínez, filmed dancing at a Jason Derulo concert in February; b) Sam Allardyce, spotted in Marbella in May spinning on the spot to Rihanna’s We Found Love; and c) Alan Pardew, marking Palace’s FA Cup final goal by throwing dad shapes on Wembley’s touchline. All three of them were sacked within months.
Politicians of the year
Were Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, @MFAIceland – explaining how their 23-man Euro 2016 squad chose itself by whittling down their total population of 332,529.
Michail Antonio’s horizontal-running grass-dance in February after scoring for West Ham. “I saw The Simpsons Movie the other day. I think I pulled it off.”
Least foreseeable setback
British cyclist Adam Yates, out in front of the main peloton in the Tour de France in July, only to be flattened when a fan’s belt punctured an inflatable Vittel advertising arch. He still went on to win the white jersey, though.
Skiing star Lindsey Vonn, ambassador for Head skis and bindings, reacted to a ski detaching mid-race in February by posting a video of herself destroying her Head bindings with a hammer. After talks with her agent she clarified: “This was in no way, shape or form a reflection on the performance of the Head skis and bindings. I believe in Head.”
French fencer Enzo Lefort – going into the Rio Games declaring: “I’ve given everything to get here. It’s important not to be distracted” – then being booed by the crowd after his phone fell out of his pocket mid-bout.
Roy Hodgson, spotting himself on the big screen as England trailed to Iceland.
Andy Townsend, back on ITV for the summer: “That’s as blatant a penalty as you’ll ever see. Was it definitely in the box? I don’t know.”
Australian rugby league star Jarryd Hayne, cutting short his presentation to 200 school pupils on the dangers of the internet when his screen started flashing up porn. Organisers said the images “did not come from Jarryd’s device”; Hayne: “It was awkward. Wow.”
Biggest last laugh
Heather Watson – picking up the second largest fine in Wimbledon history, £9,040, for racket smashing – £1,500 more than Viktor Troicki’s fine for ranting against “the worst ever umpire in the world”. She came out ahead, though: winning £50,000 for her mixed doubles victory.
Spare a thought for Serb rowers Milos Vasic and Nenad Bedik, who arrived in Rio feeling good after four years of dawn training – and sank after 1,250m.
Biggest attention seekers
Headlining 12 months of viral animal cameos:
a) an unflustered cat holding up play at January’s Everton v Dagenham game, then losing its poise when keeper Joel Robles shooed it;
b) a squirrel doing the same at March’s third T20 between South Africa and Australia (@samuelfez: “Watson into the attack. Zampa at square leg. Maxwell gully. Squirrel deep point #SAvAUS”);
c) 20 mongooses storming a green during November’s European Tour’s Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa;
and d) two pitch-invading dogs – one sparking an early tea in November’s second India v England Test, another chasing Goiás left-back Juninho during a Brazilian Serie B game. Juninho said he ran because “you can’t tell with dogs”; locals told RBS TV that the stray, Zulu, is “just soppy … If he sees a ball, he goes chasing.”
None of them outshone the year’s top sporting animal, though: Brazil’s hefty and nonplussed golf course capybaras. Australia captain Ian Baker-Finch: “That bloody thing is huge. Have you seen it? It’s half wombat, half dog.” US player Matt Kuchar: “It’s like a moosehead on a gigantic rat.” US director Andy Levinson: “It looks like a dog. Kind of a like a dog-pig.”
• Plus – special mention for: Lorenzo the horse, dancing to Smooth by Santana in Rio’s individual dressage.
These warning notices stuck above the toilets in Rio’s Olympic Village, banning a range of unlicensed toilet activities. US basketball star Elena Delle Donne: “Guess I won’t be toilet fishing today.”
Most depressing fact
For fans of a certain age: in May Bury’s Callum Styles became the first footballer born in 2000 to appear in a League game; in November fellow millennial Moise Kean turned out for Juventus in the Champions League.
Bringing people together
Wales midfielder Joe Ledley: dancing for Europe last summer. Among the headlines: “La drole de danse du Gallois” and “Ledley enflamme le vestiaire”.
Cricketer Liam Thomas wasn’t discouraged in October when his prosthetic leg came off as he dived near the boundary while fielding for the England Physical Disability team. He hopped after the ball instead and delivered a fierce return. “If there are kids out there watching who thought they couldn’t play the game before this week,” he said later, “I want them to know they can do anything they put their mind to.”
Most complete reply
Came from 15-year-old Wimbledon girls’ singles winner Anastasia Potapova – responding to press questions about her life after winning the final. “I don’t have any brothers or sisters but I have a duck, Vita. She’s small.”
Haitian hurdler Jeffrey Julmis – the undisputed star of the 110m hurdles in Rio. In the lineup before his race he gave the camera some textbook Usain Bolt-style attitude, then went head over heels at the first hurdle.
Proving the world isn’t totally broken: Barcelona’s under-14s side, gently consoling their tearful Japanese rivals after beating them in the final of August’s Junior Soccer World Challenge – a mix of hugs and pep talks.
Plus: most offended
Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita – upset by reports in August that he’d knocked the bar off with his penis. “I never expected the foreign media to take me down like this. It’s untrue, and I am devastated that they mock and ridicule me so much.” He later tweeted: “Watching again, this is pretty funny, if I say so myself. LOL.”