Author Archives: George Howson

Vedant Sharma – An enterprising & undaunted face of Sports Media in India

It was nearly two months back to the day where I found myself biting my nails on an otherwise pleasant Jaipur evening. The date was April 9, 2022. The time was sifting towards 7:30 in the evening. 

Dinner plans had been made, though for later in the evening. 

I had close to an hour to discuss cricket and cricket alone with an impassioned bloke often described by his close circle as Jaipur’s biggest cricket nut. Make no mistake, on Twitter, he self-describes himself as ‘that cricket guy!’

But adjectives be darned, where was he?

I had already made my way into one of the salubrious and princely destinations that India’s famous Pink city offers: the Jai Mahal Palace, a Taj property.

No, there was no apparent reason to feel nervous. I wasn’t meeting Shah Rukh Khan or the serving chief minister of India’s largest – and also grandiose – state, Rajasthan.

Obviously, right!

Though, I was a touch concerned as to the whereabouts of the bloke I was to meet.

Where had he been caught up? Was he actually coming even later than I expected? There was no sign of him with me having waited for fifteen minutes, which is when I messaged him on Whatsapp.

And even before I could send out the text, bang came in the reply; “Almost there!”

I laughed to myself, “hey, he’s gonna take another ten”.

But he didn’t. My eyes lit up with a sense of relief as he walked down ambling gracefully in the comforting corridors of a place where we’ve previously met.

Only this time, there was no laptop bag but a book wrapped.

A present for me, I thought? And that’s exactly what it was!

Upon asking his permission to unwrap it, to my pleasant surprise, it was “Many Lives, Many Masters!”

Though, truth be told, it was absolutely perfect that my guest for the evening offered me that fitting read.

Because those who’ve worked with him, those who still do and those who’ve gotten a chance to be associated with him would know Cricket as being Vedant Sharma’s life. It’s one of which he’s a true master!

But it wasn’t always like that.

Cricket fanatic

Back in college, the sprightly youth, who considers himself as an adventurer (when he’s more) in the sphere of sports content and cricket media, was all about dramatics.

Cricket wasn’t ingrained in the DNA as such, nor work around the sport was supposed to have been a calling.

What’s the first thing that Vedant told me that evening soon as he met me?

“Sorry mate, the IPL got me a bit late.”

Boy, I should’ve known (I muttered to myself).

Vedant, a key figurehead of SportsTiger, one of the fastest growing and widely received sports content platforms in cricket-obsessed India, had spent much of his Saturday, a day off for some, strategising content on the IPL.

Vedant’s IPL commitments meant he was running late, but it would be well worth the wait

It’s a site that covers, in addition to cricket, of course, engaging content on myriad spheres- Kabaddi, Badminton, Tennis, Archery, Athletics, and even Formula 1, to quote some.

Yet, funnily, ten minutes into our conversation, as he sipped his refreshing lime, he put the-then IPL contest on his phone. Tilting his smartphone to portrait mode, Vedant reclined the gadget against my glass of soft-drink.

A perfect example of using every bit of space with utility; he uses the space he has, i.e., 24 hours, by developing original, first-hand, well-researched sports articles, devotes time for his Jaipur-based family, and even dons the pads and gloves to whack the ball wherever it is that he can play leather-ball tournaments in the city of Rajasthan Royals.

And as soon as he dreaded the dismissal of Faf du Plessis during RCB’s batting, he shut the phone but not before exclaiming, “It is only for you that I am evading the IPL, you know that right?”

A polite smile followed but so did an afterthought.

“Vedant” I asked out of sheer curiosity, “how did you enter this industry?”

It’s an industry that’s incessantly competitive. A flop article can result in boos over social media, much like how a trending article can increase your stock as a content platform.

The bespectacled wearer of cool weathers paused for a few seconds and went on, “Hmm, I only entered this industry out of sheer passion and love for the game. When I started, I never even thought about how much money I would make, what exactly would this industry give me but the only happiness was that I would be able to watch the game I so love.”

Mystic Vedant

Rather interestingly, it was a candid conversation between Vedant and his father back in the day that prompted the former to sit back and take note of just how good he was at analysing the sport. 

Apparently, with the father and son duo watching a live game of cricket on the TV, Vedant predicted what would happen in the next few deliveries, which turned out precisely as how the affable youngster had predicted.

Vedant’s maturity exceeds his years

This made his father encourage his son with a line of thought promising him that he’d get his son published in a leading Indian press daily if-and only- Vedant wrote about the game seriously. 

But after initial bouts of scepticism, Vedant nodded his head in approval, ever his dad’s doting son and went about pursuing cricket writing. 

These were humble beginnings, which soon would culminate into something beautiful. 

Vedant Sharma is not only a BCCI-accredited journalist, has covered the IPL professionally for several seasons, has been associated closely with the Rajasthan Royals franchise, but has also written for revered publications that deal with sports, such as CricTracker, Sportskeeda, My Nation and Betting Circle. 

Having said that though, how did SportsTiger happen for someone who, back in the day, was as adrift from content as Sourav Ganguly from right-handed batting?

“The product”, Vedant continued, “started two years back in the day and am glad it did. The concept took birth to fill the void there exists between interesting, palatable content in sports and users’ demand for it!”

So has SportsTiger been able to fill that void, I asked? 

“I believe that SportsTiger has been able to make a difference in an industry that is truly thriving and unstoppable. With 140,000 followers on Instagram, with over 120,000 followers on Facebook, and over 10 million users every month on the website.

We are always rolling out content keeping in mind the divergent needs of sports fans given one may not always or only be cricket or soccer follower; and that there are fans for other sports as well!”

Frankly, for someone so young to be talking very serious and arresting numbers, I don’t know what could be more impressive.

Which is precisely when Vedant offers something more; much like the content SportsTiger provides. There’s always something more for the intrepid sports lover. 

He continued, “Now am personally entering into a few more verticals, none of which, however, are as interesting as what’s lined up in front.”

From Student to Teacher

“I’m going to be teaching Sports Management at the Westford University college in the UAE,” Vedant added and shared, “I want to share what I know, want to make sure that people enjoy what they do, and that they believe that anything is possible in life.” 

But in this realm of infinite possibilities, could there be some challenges as well in sports content field, I wonder? 

“Lack of readership” rather challenges with “scaling up readership” arrives as the firm reply! 

I coaxed him to elaborate for this is getting interesting. 

“I think somewhere there’s a blame that rightly rests with our generation that it doesn’t read all that much. For me personally, I remember and fondly so, the days when my mum would come home with an Archie comic and I’d always be like hey, I want to read this! That’s when reading became fun.”

“But I think what we as sports content producers need to keep in mind is to write from a perspective of what they [The readers] want not what we want to do!

“How do you give something to the user that encourages him to read? And that is where, at least I feel, things that become important are what we are writing, when we are writing it and how are we going about it!” 

“The span of time spent on textual articles is coming down and subsequently, many are spending time on video content. We are at an interesting junction where sports content is concerned and it’s precisely here where our skills will be getting tested.”

That’s when I feel content is much like cricket, it ebbs and flows! 

But as I see the glowing evening ticking towards dinner time, me having successfully overspent an already overworked Vedant’s for what is one to do for the conversation was so interesting, I thought it’s time for one last question. 

What advice would you give anyone wanting to find his bearings in the Sports content industry, Vedant? 

And customary to his fervid enthusiasm, pops comes another reply as if his perceptive mind was already aware of what I was going to ask. 

“I think it’s very important to love what you do. But at the same time, be consistent. Take it as a process. It can’t be that one day you’re all gung-ho and the other, not consistent. So my advice to anyone wanting to get into Sports media & content is to go out there, enjoy yourself, give it your hundred percent and never hold yourself back. Most of the people are not able to do what they want to do because of a lack of self belief.”

“So love what you do and your belief will add up to taking you places. It doesn’t matter whether a 35 or 40-year-old is entering the industry,” adds the earnest young man who perhaps doesn’t know that he’s among the few who tend to always make sense when they speak. 

For to speak is easy but adding substance and sense to it is not everyone’s cup of tea. That Vedant Sharma, a young symbol of self belief and determination, is doing just that with the awareness that he’s got much to offer so much more is yet to happen, is indeed commendable and honest. 

And hey, isn’t honesty much like a falling leaf from a tree during spring? You never know where it’ll end up. 

Though, I am glad that someone like Vedant ended up offering his skill and passion to the firmament of sports content. 

This interview was conducted by and article written by Dev Tyagi.

Sportlight Joins Chronicle Family

We are officially announcing that the Sportlight brand has joined the Chronicle family.

Founder of Sportlight, George Howson, who regularly hosts the Grid Talk podcast for the F1 Chronicle, was eager to combine his resources with those of the Chronicle suite of sites.

‘I’m buzzing about this move, as I think it is the next step in the evolution of what I dreamed of achieving with Sportlight.

‘F1 Chronicle has a huge following, and I’m eager to get stuck in and help to grow that even further.

‘My other passion, football, was very popular on Sportlight and I look forward to the work we did there continuing on the newly-branded Futbol Chronicle website.

‘This progression helps the Sportlight team tap into the resources of the Chronicle, while we bring our excellent writing and analysis to the table.

It’s a win-win for both brands!’

Co-founder of the Chronicle brand, Jarrod Partridge, was equally as excited, adding ‘I’ve seen the work George put into Sportlight over the years, what he has built there is an absolute credit to him and his writers. I can’t wait to be able to offer my expertise and help them all take the next step in their sports journalism careers.

While there is still some work to be done behind the scenes, in the coming weeks the Sportlight website and social media channels will be rebranded to reflect the new direction of both businesses.

F1 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Preview: Will Jeddah decide the championship?

A new circuit is always a voyage into the unknown. This weekend’s Saudi Arabian GP is no exception to the rule, as Formula 1 heads to the brand-new Jeddah Street Circuit. With both the driver’s and constructor’s championship on a knife-edge, this tricky and tight track could produce a fascinating contest.

Let’s see what we should expect for this night race in the desert!

Track Guide

Credit: F1

Jeddah is the fastest street circuit on the Formula 1 calendar. The walls are incredibly close throughout the lap, this is like Monaco at high-speed. Unfortunately, for the racing side of things, this track will also be very likely difficult to overtake on. However, there could be opportunities for mistakes from what should be a dusty surface.

There are a mammoth 27 corners, the most on the calendar. It’s also been confirmed that there will be three DRS zones, but how effective these will be remains to be seen.

Hamilton continues momentum in Qatar

Hamilton’s win in Brazil was one of the best of his career

Sir Lewis Hamilton won his second race in a row with a dominant display in Qatar two weeks ago. Hamilton started on pole and was untroubled from behind after Max Verstappen started further down thanks to a grid penalty. Verstappen came home second and took the fastest lap to keep the championship gap at eight points.

Fernando Alonso claimed his first podium in F1 since 2014 and his first for Alpine with a hard-fought third place. Sergio Perez recovered from starting outside the top ten to finish fourth, while Esteban Ocon made it an excellent day for Alpine with fifth.

Lance Stroll scored Aston Martin’s best finish in months, as he finished sixth. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc scored solid points again for Ferrari with seventh and eight, respectively. Lando Norris rescued two points for McLaren with ninth place, despite a puncture. Sebastian Vettel scored the final point with tenth place.

Will Verstappen win the title this weekend?

Mathematically, Max Verstappen can become the first Dutch Formula 1 champion this weekend. He’d also become the first non-Mercedes driver to win the driver’s champion since Vettel in 2013. Is this realistic, though? Given both Max’s and Lewis’ form in 2021, it’s unlikely.

The pair have finished 1-2 more often than not, and you’d be brave to bet against them both being on the podium in Saudi Arabia. Team tactics could play a role though, as passing will be very difficult and both Perez and Valtteri Bottas will be looking to make their cars as wide as possible.

Barring any mechanical retirements, the title battle will likely go to the final race in Abu Dhabi next weekend. This race in Jeddah though, will be a tight and tense affair, especially if 44 and 33 are at the front of the pack.

Session Times

Practice 1, Dec 3rd: 13:30 – 14:30 (8:30 – 9:30 EST)

Practice 2, Dec 3rd: 17:00 – 18:00 (12:00 – 13:00 EST)

Practice 3, Dec 4th: 14:00 – 15:00 (9:00 – 10:00 EST)

Qualifying, Dec 4th: 17:00 – 18:00 (12:00 – 13:00 EST)

Race, Dec 5th: 17:30 (12:30 EST)

All times are UK time (GMT), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Saudi GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Saudi Arabian GP Preview. George Howson hosted Owain Medford, Tom Downey and Tom Horrox in episode 156 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

F1 2021 Qatar Grand Prix Preview: Who will master the Losail Circuit?

The final leg of the last triple-header in the 2021 Formula 1 season sees us travel to a new circuit. Brought in to replace the cancelled Australian GP, this weekend sees the inaugrual F1 Qatar Grand Prix. Losail has never seen an F1 race, instead being used to host MotoGP since 2004.

This year’s championship battles shows no sign of being resolved anytime soon, so the action in Qatar will be crucial to see who comes out on top. Every twist and turn in 2021 has been entertaining, let’s see what Round 20 will bring!

Track Guide

The Losail Circuit was built in 2004 but will see its first F1 race on Sunday. This will be the only Formula 1 race here too, as the Qatar GP takes a hiatus in 2022 before moving to a purpose-built circuit in 2023.

Qatar’s layout is as flat as pancake with miles of runoff in every direction. That doesn’t sound entertaining, but its corners are very high-speed and the long start/finish straight will promote overtaking. The race will take place at sunset too, so it will be similar to Abu Dhabi in that regard.

Sir Lewis strikes back in Brazil

Hamilton’s win in Brazil was one of the best of his career

Sir Lewis Hamilton put on a show that we’ll never forget in Brazil last week. The defending champion produced one of the best drives of his career, as he not only overcame disqualification to take the top step, but also an additional five-place grid penalty.

Hamilton pulled off 25 overtakes across the Sprint and Race, including excellent passes on both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Verstappen maintains his championship lead, but it’s now down to 14 points when it could’ve easily been 28. Valtteri Bottas had a solid weekend and completed the podium ahead of Perez.

Ferrari consolidated their third place in the constructors championship with Charles Leclerc ahead of Carlos Sainz (5th-6th). Pierre Gasly scored more solid points in seventh, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon (8th-9th). Lando Norris overcame a first-lap puncture to recover to 10th by the end.

Verstappen in trouble?

Hamilton secured his 101st F1 win despite some controversial defending from Max Verstappen. Verstappen ran both himself and Hamilton off the road in Turn 4 and maintained his lead. Verstappen was passed a few laps later, but a five-second penalty would’ve dropped him to third.

Mercedes have protested the Dutchman’s moves, which the FIA are now investigating. At the time of writing, though, nothing has been decided.

The Stewards couldn’t access Verstappen’s onboard footage when the decision to not investigate was made. That’s utterly bizarre in this day and age. Either way, the gloves are well and truly off now, and these final three rounds in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be fascinating watches.

Session Times

Practice 1, Nov 5th: 10:30 – 11:30 (5:30 – 6:30 EST)

Practice 2, Nov 5th: 14:00 – 15:00 (9:00 – 10:00 EST)

Practice 3, Nov 6th: 11:00 – 12:00 (6:00 – 7:00 EST)

Qualifying, Nov 20th: 14:00 – 15:00 (9:00 – 10:00 EST)

Race, Nov 21st: 14:00 (9:00 EST)

All times are UK time (GMT), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Qatar GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Qatar GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Adam Burns and Tom Downey in episode 152 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

5 Drivers who need a good Mexican GP today

The last time a Mexican Grand Prix was held, it’s rather interesting to note, Nicholas Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda weren’t even F1 drivers.

Now that one of the most-anticipated F1 races is back, it would be interesting to see what happens in the 71-lap contest. That’s more so for the drivers championship still hangs on the knife’s edge even as Verstappen is out in the lead.

But where it comes to the 2021 Mexican Grand Prix, that’s not the case, for the one who’s out in the lead is neither F1’s “Mad Max,” nor the meastero Sir Lewis Hamilton.

With Bottas capturing his nineteenth career pole and Mercedes locking out the front row in Mexico, it seems that we have ahead of us a closely fought duel between the Black Arrows and the Bulls.

But having said that, which drivers need to have a strong Mexican Grand Prix?

1. Sergio Perez

The fact that a local hero doesn’t shine in his home race always stands out albeit not as the strongest point- right? In that regard, that Perez has never even been on the podium at his home race serves the Red Bull driver that extra bit of motivation to deliver a strong Mexican Grand Prix.

But in order to do that, the in-form driver, fresh from a P3 at Austin, USA will have to battle hard and that too, against a fighting troika of the two Mercedes’ as well as his own teammate, Max Verstappen.

That said, should the 31-year-old driver manage to step onto the podium, he’d have completed his first hat-trick of podiums in the ongoing season (P3 each at Istanbul and COTA).

2. Yuki Tsunoda

The young Japanese driver, who bounced back to some bit of form at the US Grand Prix given his P9, having lost it for good measure for much of the season, will be keen to improve here at Mexico.

But that’s also because Yuki Tsunoda currently finds himself sixteenth on the grid for the Mexican Grand Prix. To make matters worse, the rookie F1 driver found himself in the centre of the storm after he was allegedly called out for compromising Verstappen’s final Q3 run as Red Bull singled out Tsunoda for something he should perhaps not have been blamed for.

What was clear- if not significantly so- was that Tsunoda, in his final qualifying run, wasn’t really setting a flying lap but instead helping Gasly by giving him the slipstream.

Yet, that he went off the track only to see Perez follow him, which in turn, led to Max backing off didn’t help anyone’s cause and resultantly, led to others calling out Tsunoda for the gaffe, which wasn’t even one in the first place!

A strong performance at the Mexican GP will only aid the young driver who has massive talent. But can Yuki deliver a strong drive at the upcoming race?

3. Lando Norris

The marvelous talent who took pole for the Russian GP and in the process, stunned one and all, including Sir Lewis Hamilton, hasn’t really been in sensational form in the events that have since happened.

Take the Turkish GP and the US GP where the young British driver finished eighth and seventh, respectively.

Now that Norris has copped a penalty for a power unit change, he begins his Mexican drive from the rearend of the grid.

Can that ever be a fine position to begin any race from?

A fine run by Norris at the 2021 Mexican GP will do two things- it’ll help McLaren, fighting hard with Ferrari in the Constructor battle, gather useful points and will also boost the confidence of a driver who’s won everyone’s hearts given his talent.

Mind you, he’s also the same talent who really needs to find his groove especially where recent results stand as mentioned above.

4. Antonio Giovinazzi

Time’s running out for Antonio Giovinazzi, who’s yet to find his name announced for the 2022 season (or possibly beyond) by his Alfa Romeo racing team.

It’s imperative for the Italian driver’s confidence to get an F1 seat, should he harbour hopes of etching a bold racing career at the top annals.

One saw the Martina Franca-born drive an ace of a race at COTA recently where despite Alonso’s mighty assault at the midfield, the long locked bloke kept fighting back. 

In the end, a rare error from Kimi allowed Giovinazzi to take eleventh, but even that wasn’t the most ideal result for the man who is still sitting on a solitary point in the 2021 campaign.

Can that change at Mexico? Can we expect a strong drive from the very driver who needs to prove his doubters wrong and contest a strong contest in Perez-land?

It’s all to play for one of the nicest and often, under-appreciated drivers on the grid at the Mexico GP

To make things better, the Italian starts the 71-lap run from P11.

5. Lewis Hamilton

It’s not always that a legend of the sport like Hamilton finds his name on a list that lists drivers who need to do better than they are. But then, if the defending world champion expects to bring home an eighth world title, he will have to deliver a strong Mexican Grand Prix.

That Sir Lewis Hamilton can do anything possible on his day is beyond doubt but whether that’ll actually happen at Mexico will be down to the fact that Hamilton will find in his front mirrors a Mercedes to beat whilst having two-not one- Red Bulls in his rearview mirrors.

The last time that Hamilton won the Mexican GP was back in 2019, so a return to the top step of the podium will be an ideal step forward for the great Briton. And that’ll only help his chances at taking a new world title for even as Max finishes P3, the Dutchman will still maintain lead over the Mercedes stalwart.

F1 2021 United States Grand Prix Preview: Who will fare better on F1’s American tour?

This year’s championship battle has been nothing short of sensational throughout the season. Heading into the final six rounds of the season, Max Verstappen leads Sir Lewis Hamilton by only six points. The Red Bull driver will have his work cut out for him this weekend though, as F1 heads for its first Grand Prix in the Americas in almost two years.

The Circuit of the Americas plays host to the United States Grand Prix and we can expect another close fight between Red Bull and Mercedes on Sunday.

Track guide

The Circuit of the Americas revived the United States GP when it joined the Formula 1 calendar for the first time in 2012. This is the first pupose-built F1 circuit in the U.S. and it shows, as it’s a terrific facility and a great place to watch a race at.

Image: F1

Overtaking isn’t usually too difficulty here, as the long back-straight provides opportunities into Turn 12. Turn 1 is also a good passing spot, thanks to the multiple options for which line to take. A good all-round car is often rewarded here, as sector one is all about downforce, sector two is straight-line oriented and sector three is largely about mechanical grip and a good chassis.

Lewis Hamilton has dominated here over the years, with five wins. However, the British legend has failed to win in both of the previous two outings here, with Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas claiming the wins in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Last time out

Bottas dominated the wet race at Istanbul Park to claim his first win in 2021

With Hamilton starting from 11th, Valtteri Bottas had to step up to prevent a maximum score from Red Bull. The Finn dominated the wet meeting from start to finish, with Verstappen managing a P2 that saw him lead the championship.

Sergio Perez got his first podium since France, as Charles Leclerc picked up an excellent 4th for Ferrari and even led for a brief period. Hamilton finished a respectable 5th, but the damage was done.

Pierre Gasly again impressed in his AlphaTauri to claim 6th, with Lando Norris salvaging 7th on a poor day for McLaren. Carlos Sainz won driver of the day for his 20th to 8th by the finish drive.

Lance Stroll got 9th in his Aston Martin, with Esteban Ocon scoring the final point after going the whole race without a pit stop.

Mercedes need to win in the U.S.

Two of Max’s favourite circuits are on the way after COTA.

While COTA isn’t a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, it is for Mercedes. Mercedes have won all but one race here in the hybrid era, with Hamilton winning all but one of those.

With Mexico and Brazil to follow, The Black Arrows will need to capitalise in the States. Verstappen has been a class above in both of those Latin American tracks, so a good result here will do his title challenge no harm.

Austin is an all-round circuit, so that should favour Mercedes, but strategy can throw up some surprises, just look at Raikkonen’s win here in 2018 and even Hamilton himself in 2012 produced a shock result.

Session Times

Practice 1, Oct 22nd: 17:30 – 18:30 (12:30 – 13:30 EST)

Practice 2, Oct 22nd: 21:00 – 22:00 (16:00 – 17:00 EST)

Practice 3, Oct 23rd: 19:00 – 20:00 (14:00 – 15:00 EST)

Qualifying, Oct 23rd: 22:00 – 23:00 (17:00 – 18:00 EST)

Race, Oct 24th: 20:00 (15:00 EST)

All times are British Summer Time (BST), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview this weekend’s United States Grand Prix? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their USGP preview. Ruby Price hosted Tom Horrox, Tom Downey and Aaron Harper in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

Eric Djemba-Djemba: “When you work hard, you can make it”

Former Manchester United player Eric Djemba-Djemba has recently opened up about his time as a professional football player. Speaking to Cal Blankendal and Vernon Springer on their Football Insight Podcast, the now-retired midfielder reflected on 15 years as a pro footballer.

Thankful for everything

Djemba-Djemba has been dubbed by Red Devils fans as the player so good “they named him twice”. While he never managed to live up to that hype at Old Trafford, the Cameroonian international is thankful for the opportunity to play at the top level.

Moving to United fulfilled a boyhood dream for Djemba-Djemba. Image: Shoot

“I enjoyed every moment, every second, every day. It was a dream for me to play for Manchester United, because when I was a kid, I loved to watch them on TV.” Djemba-Djemba told VA Sports.

“After three years in Nantes, I joined United and it was a dream.”

The 40-year-old also explained how he achieved his dream and sealed a £3.5 million move from Nantes in France:

“Some scouts came from England to watch me play. After that, I remember [Sir Alex] Ferguson came to watch me play. I think the decision came from him (Sir Alex) to buy me.”

Djemba-Djemba went on to say that Ferguson was like a father figure to the younger players in the Manchester United dressing room.

Mentality is key

Djemba-Djemba was also asked what players nowadays have to do to succeed and how much things have changed in football since he burst onto the scene 20 years ago:

“If you have a strong education, you will learn very fast. Today’s it’s not like 20 years ago, you can play in the Premier League at 16 years old. At that age, it’s very difficult to move to another country, you have to be strong mentally. You have to train hard and have respect for your teammates.”

Playing with the biggest players in world football was an honour for Djemba-Djemba. Image:

One pressure associated with modern football and sport is that related to social media. There has been no-end to the abuse that professional sportspeople face on the internet, so what’s Djemba-Djemba’s advice to them?

“It’s easy to deal with that [online abuse]. Like I said before, it depends how they and your parents educate you and it depends where you want to be in life. So, you can have these social medias, but if you don’t know where you want to get to in life, you can’t deal with that.”

“Sometimes you need to be out of social media, because it can get to be too much and you can lose your concentration.”

Eric also said that he had never personally experienced racism while playing football.

Be sure to check for more excepts from this interview!

This interview was in association with Islands Cup Open Football.

Full podcast

If you want to check out the full interview with Eric Djemba-Djemba, we’ve linked the podcast below.

F1 2021 Turkish Grand Prix Preview: Can Hamilton repeat his heroics from last year?

Despite starting at opposite ends of the grid, by the end of the Russian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton were seperated by only one place. Hamilton appeared to be surprised to see his title rival take the number two spot on the podium, but it’s great for the title fight, as the pair are almost inseperable.

This weekend sees the Turkish Grand Prix make its second one-off appearace in a row, and just like twelve months ago, rain is forecast.

Track guide

Istanbul Park is considered to be one of the best circuits to have been designed by Hermann Tilke. It’s hard to argue against that as well, as thrilling corners like Turn 8 are one of the best in Formula 1. Turkey’s track surface caused chaos last season, as a recent resurfacing made the circuit like greased ice after a deluge of rain.

Image: F1

As thrilling as that was to witness, we are very unlikely to see that replicated in 2021. Even if we do experience large amounts of rain, the circuit organisers have ensured that there is more grip on the tarmac that in 2020.

As for overtaking spots, the main passing points are at the end of the DRS Zones at Turns 1 and 12. You can also pass through the 13-14 chicane as well, as both the inside and outside lines are fast here.

Last time out

Hamilton mastered the wet conditions to take victory in Russia two weeks ago

2021 has been a bizarre year in Formula 1. Circuits that are considered to be poor for action have produced incredible races, including Sochi a fortnight ago. Lando Norris started from his first ever pole position and dominated the majority of the race. After being overtaken by Carlos Sainz at the start, Norris expertly took the lead back after 15 laps.

The rain hit with a few laps to go and Norris gambled on staying on dry tyres. This backfired massively, as the circuit became impossible on slicks. Hamilton had battled through the pack and took his fifth win in Russia, and 100th overall in F1.

Max Verstappen started from the back row, but incrdeibly used the wet weather to his advantage and came home in second. Sainz completed the podium with third, a great result. Daniel Ricciardo finished an impressive fourth to spare McLaren’s blushes, with Valtteri Bottas lucking into a fifth place.

Sixth was the evergreen Fernando Alonso, dragging that Alpine to heights it doesn’t deserve to be in. Norris limped across the line in seventh, with Sergio Perez a disappointing ninth. Kimi Raikkonen got Alfa Romeo’s best result of the season in eighth, with George Russell scoring another point for Williams with tenth.

Can Max keep it together in Turkey?

Verstappen couldn’t keep his car pointing the right way last year in Turkey

If there’s been one criticism of Max Verstappen both this year and in past seasons, it’s that the Dutchman can make mistakes under pressure. This is Verstappen’s first title fight and is his seventh season in Formula 1. That’s the same amount of titles that Hamilton has won in his illustrious career.

While Hamilton was blamed by the stewards for their crash at Silverstone, Max handed a penalty for their Monza clash. Istanbul Park is also a circuit where Verstappen should’ve won last year, had he not spun mid-race. With rain predicted again this weekend, could we see Mad Max go for a slide?

We certainly hope not and it’s unlikely given Max’s incredible talent in the rain. What Max and Red Bull need the most is for Perez to get back to his form earlier in the season and back the Dutchman up against the Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton.

Session Times

Practice 1, Oct 8th: 09:30 – 10:30 (4:30 – 5:30 EST)

Practice 2, Oct 8th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Practice 3, Oct 9th: 10:00 – 11:00 (5:00 – 6:00 EST)

Qualifying, Oct 9th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Race, Oct 10th: 13:00 (8:00 EST)

All times are British Summer Time (BST), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Turkish GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their Russian GP preview! Ruby Price hosted Jack Watson, Tom Downey, and Louis Edwards in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below:

Deadly Driver Review: Unique concept keeps you gripped throughout

Travelling the world, competing in top-level sport and having millions of admirers all sound like dreams so many of us hope to achieve.

But there’s often a dark side to every story, and Bryce Winters’ tale has one of the darkest of them all. Winters’ fictional story is chronicled in Deadly Driver, an excellent book by J.K. Kelly. On the surface, Winters appears to be a racing driver, but through the lens of Deadly Driver, we read about his government-sanctioned activities and how he ended up in this situation.

A Formula 1 driver being a secret agent is a concept that most of us would never have considered, but Kelly explores this idea and does so brilliantly.

Caught between a rock and a hard place

Bryce Winters is an American racing driver with one goal, to beat Mario Andretti’s record as the most-successful U.S. Formula 1 driver ever. Winters already has one championship under his belt, but a second would see him stand above both Andretti and Phil Hill in this tally.

Winters’ racing goal is to beat the great Andretti’s record

Winters though, lives a double life, with the second being as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA have dirt on Winters, and use him to carry out missions overseas, including assassinations.

It’s a situation that could easily be farfetched, but Kelly does a great job of humanising Winters and making him relatable. Most people, especially those with families, could level with Winters and would probably make the same choices if they found themselves with the CIA’s axe swinging above their heads.

Rags to riches

Max Werner is perhaps inspired by Mercedes’ Toto Wolff

The road to Formula 1 was a very long one for Winters, but he’s bankrolled by Max Werner, German billionaire and F1 team owner. Winters worked his way up through series like NASCAR and IndyCar to get to F1, thanks to Werner’s ambition and finances.

The relationship between Winters and Werner has echoes of that between Ayrton Senna and Honda, or Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff. It’s something that we haven’t seen in F1 to this extent, though, and their arc is probably the best in this story.

A real human

Winters would undoubtedly be a fan-favourite like Kimi Raikkonen is in our world

At its core, Deadly Driver is the story of a man who drives fast and wants to be the best in the world at it. He’s already proven himself, but outside factors complicate his life and provide layers to his story.

This is further fleshed out by the excellent cast of supporting characters. Everybody from Bryce’s Uncle, to his best friend, love interest and CIA handler work so well.

Winters is in a situation that, in truth, is unrealistic, it’s never likely to happen in the real world. However, he’s humanised and feels more real than some of the Formula 1 drivers we know. He’ll sit down at a bar and have a drink, party in between races and make full use of the hospitality provided to him.

Something that should be mentioned is that this story has very little to do with the racing on-track. You’re kept up to date with events in the championships, but the recaps are little more than a few lines. Kelly describes the world of Formula 1 well, but petrolheads could be disappointed by what at times is a summary that’s too brief.

Another slight gripe is that real-life historical drivers like Senna and Andretti are mentioned, but current drivers aren’t. Given the nature of the book, it’s understandable why this is, but how cool would it be to have the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen thrown into this mix?

Overall, we highly recommend giving Deadly Driver a go. Both motorsport fans and non-motorsport fans will definitely enjoy this Formula 1 spy thriller!

Sportlight Rating 4.5/5 Stars

F1 2021 Italian Grand Prix Preview: Can Max Make it 3-in-a-row at Monza?

A lot can change in just a few races in Formula 1, just ask Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s back-to-back wins have seen him take back the driver’s championship lead. The onus is now on Hamilton and Mercedes to respond, but can the Temple of Speed see them win for the first time since the British GP in July?

Track Guide

The Autodromo Nazionale Di Monza is the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar. Drivers are on full-throttle for around 80% of the 160 mph average speed lap.

Image credit: Formula 1

Monza has hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since F1’s beginning in 1950 and is one of the cornerstone races of the season.

Monza may have multiple long straights, but passing here isn’t easy, thanks to the minimal downforce cars run. Straight-line speed is king here, but you need downforce to get around corners like the Lesmos and the Parabolica.

Last time out

Verstappen may have lucked into a win at Spa (in some people’s eyes) but he absolutely earned his victory at Zandvoort last weekend.

The Flying Dutchman was the class of the field in the Netherlands and won thanks to a faultless drive.

Verstappen is riding a huge wave of confidence after winning his home race. Image: Guardian

Mercedes earned a double podium with Hamilton second and Valtteri Bottas in third. Merc still sit too of the constructors championship as a result.

Pierre Gasly produced the biggest surprise of the day with an incredible 4th place in his AlphaTauri.

Ferrari leapfrog McLaren into third in the constructor’s standings thanks to a 5th for Charles Leclerc and 7th for Carlos Sainz.

It was a great day for Alpine too, Fernando Alonso overtaking his biggest fan for 6th and Esteban Ocon a respectable 8th.

Sergio Perez went from the pit-lane to 9th, while Lando Norris scored a solitary point for McLaren in 10th.

Can Mercedes challenge at a power track?

In general so far this season, Red Bull have been faster at power circuits, with Mercedes better at the windy, more downforce-orientated tracks.

Zandvoort and the Hungaroring bucked that trend though, with Red Bull and Mercedes, respectively, being the quickest.

Hamilton hasn’t won a race since his incredible win at the British Grand Prix. Image: Guardian

Honda will leave Formula 1 at the end of this season, and as such, have thrown everything into their final season as an engine supplier. That has seemingly paid off, as Red Bull and AlphaTauri have both seen fantastic results at power circuits.

Monza has not been a happy bunting ground for Red Bull though, with only 2 wins to their names here. Incredibly, that’s the same amount of wins as Toro Rosso & AlphaTauri have managed here combined.

Verstappen has never won here, with Hamilton taking the top step five times and looking to break Michael Schumacher’s record tally this weekend. This would also be Lewis’ 100th Grand Prix victory too, if he managed it.

Session Times

Practice 1: 10 September              13:30-14:30 (8:30-9:30 AM EST)

Qualifying: 10 September             17:00-18:00 (12:00-13:00 EST)

Practice 2: 11 September               11:00-12:00 (6:00-7:00 EST)

Sprint Qualifying: 11 September  15:30 -16:00 (10:30 -11:00 EST)

Race: 12 September              14:00 (9:00 EST)

All times are in British Standard Time (BST), unless stated otherwise.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Italian Grand Prix weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the 2021 Italian Grand Prixview. George Howson hosted Tom Downey and Jawad Yaqub, both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

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