I went to last Sunday’s World Cup final with my father (we sat in a box; a Russian friend of his had offered him two tickets). It was 22 years since I’d last been in Moscow. There was no sign now of the scruffy riotousness I remembered. Everything about the city gleamed: a giant project of beautification had been undertaken in the run-up to the World Cup. Decades of grime had been scrubbed from the buildings, and a plethora of new roads, parks and pedestrian precincts built. The kerbside kiosks that had once sold vodka through the night were bulldozed two years ago, in an act of official vandalism unofficially known as the ‘Night of the Long Shovels’.
Last season Raheem Sterling was a linchpin of the best club football team that England has seen in at least a decade. Manchester City smashed records, winning 100 points and scoring 106 goals, 18 of which came from Sterling (he assisted a further 11 of them). He is one of the best footballers of any nationality currently playing in this country. He is also the subject of a relentless campaign of abuse in the English media which deploys racist tropes about young black men in order to put him down.
Carlo Parola was born in Turin in September 1921. He won domestic titles with Juventus as both a player and a manager and was capped ten times for Italy. But he is famous for his mastery of the overhead (or bicycle) kick. He didn’t invent the move (a version of it is depicted in an engraving of the first international match, Scotland v. England in 1872) but he was synonymous with it in Italy, where he was known as ‘Signor Rovesciata’ (‘Mr Overhead Kick’). He once played in Scotland, too, for a European Select XI at Hampden Park, in front of 137,000 fans in 1947. Showing off his signature move on the wrong side of a 6-1 mauling by Great Britain, he insisted that, despite the score, he’d played well and enjoyed the atmosphere. The Italian press still called him the ‘Man of Glasgow’ when he died in 2000.
James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, has been trimmed of any back story that doesn’t prepare us, in one way or another, for his account of the events before, during and after the election of Donald Trump. It opens in the early 1990s, with the interrogation of Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano, ‘the highest ranking American mobster ever to become a federal witness’, who explains ‘the rules of Mafia life’. Comey is later reminded of this episode during his first meeting with Trump’s team: ‘I sat there thinking, holy crap, they are trying to make each of us an “amica nostra”.’