'What more could there be?' Lionel Messi collects the World Cup at last / © AFP
Best quotes from a year in sport that included a World Cup, a Winter Olympics, iconic retirements, emerging stars and controversies and disputes.
“What more could there be after this?”
— Lionel Messi after winning the World Cup.
“I am not an Arab, I am not African, I am not gay, I am not disabled. But I feel like it, because I know what it means to be discriminated against as a foreigner in a foreign country. As a child I was bullied – because I had red hair and freckles.”
— FIFA President Gianni Infantino defending World Cup host Qatar.
“Denying us the armband is the same as denying us a voice. We stand by our position.”
— Germany’s football federation after their team held their hands over their mouths in pre-match team photo to protest a FIFA ban on rainbow armbands at the World Cup.
“What is the point of depriving the fans of the big matches? Nadal and Federer met 40 times. Nadal and Djokovic, 59, is it boring? Liverpool and Real Madrid have faced nine times in 67 years.”
— Real Madrid president Florentino Perez tells club members he still wants a Super League.
“If you take away the result, I’m one happy man. To go through what I’ve been through, being back is a wonderful feeling.”
— Christian Eriksen after his comeback for Brentford in a draw with Manchester United, eight months after a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark.
“It feels so good to be home!”
— Brittney Griner after her return to the USA following 10 months in Russian prisons
“This is crazy. I didn’t know that I was world champion, there was a lot of confusion, but I thought it was quite funny.”
— Max Verstappen retains his F1 drivers title after rain-hit Japan GP ends early.
Novak Djokovic saw his lawyer in Melbourne but never faced an opponent before he was expelled from Australia / © AFP
“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified… the best sportsman and man in the world. He will endure.”
–- Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan condemning his son’s detention in Melbourne before being deported and missing the Australian Open.
“I did definitely feel support and love from the crowd, so I’m very grateful for that.”
— Novak Djokovic on winning over Centre Court on his way to a seventh Wimbledon title.
“He’s never seen a point he’s not dying to win, a ball he’s not willing to chase.”
— Toni Nadal after seeing his newphew Rafael Nadal win the Australian Open.
“If anyone says I am better than Roger, then he doesn’t know anything about tennis.”
— Rafael Nadal On the debate about who is the greatest of the men’s tennis “Big Three”
“We win the Wimbledon tournament.”
— Russian tennis chief Shamil Tarpischev after Moscow-born Elena Rybakina, representing Kazakhstan, won the women’s title at a tournament where Russian and Belarusian players were banned.
“I have been pretty vague about it, right? I’m going to stay vague because you never know.”
— Serena Williams in her first round press conference after beating Danka Kovinic when asked if the US Open was her last tournament.
“After a big classic, a grand tour, and a world championship, I think I won everything I could have won this year…It will be a big party, I’m not going to see my bed I guess.”
— Belgian cyclist Remco Evenepoel after adding the world road race in title in Australia to his 2022 Vuelta and Liege-Bastogne Liege titles.
Tears of grief: Kamila Valieva reacts after her free skate routine at the Beijing Olympics / © AFP
“These are tears of happiness, but also it seems sadness…I’m of course happy to be at the Olympics and to try and represent my country. I hope I will do my best.”
— Russian skating prodigy Kamila Valieva after being cleared to compete in the Beijing Olympics despite a failed dope test.
“Why did you let it go? Why did you let it go? Tell me.”
— Coach Eteri Tutberidze berated Valieva after the Russian teenager fell multiple times in the figure skating final.
“It was chilling to see this.”
— International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Tutberidze’s reaction.
“My grandmother teaches me to take one step at a time and it also puts things into perspective. Towards the end of the Holocaust they marched through snow and cold for days on end in little sandals…She and her sister said ‘we are getting through this together or not at all’.”
— Australian walker Jemima Montag talks about her grandmother and great aunt after winning gold at the Commonwealth Games.
“That’s my son and he’s world champion.”
— Stadium commentator Geoff Wightman calling the race as his son Jake win the 1500m world title in Eugene, Oregon.
“Our country, our team are still in a difficult situation. Other teams can stay at home, train at home, see their parents, their children.”
— Ukrainian Yaroslava Mahuchikh after winning world championship silver medal in the women’s high jump in Eugene Oregon
“I am definitely going to find out how many beers can fit in this Jug for sure.”
— Australian Cameron Smith planning on a night of celebration after winning the British Open in St Andrews.
“We’ve got $2 billion backing us.”
— Greg Norman promoting the breakaway golf LIV Tour.
“I think she was at least two minutes without breathing because her lungs were full of water.”
— Coach Anita Fuentes after diving into rescue unconscious Anita Alvarez during the artistic swimming at the World Championships in Budapest.

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