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The soccer gods, often so fickle, have blessed us with plenty to celebrate this summer. Just ask Jamie Vardy, Claudio Ranieri and every resident of Leicester, home of the English Premier League champs, who might still be at the pub cheering the most implausible title in any league’s history. They’re already chilling the champagne in France, which hosts the European Championship in June and whose national team might finally not fold epically in a major tournament—unless, that is, it runs into German keeper Manuel Neuer (Achtung!). Mexico fans are ready to crash the party in the U.S., where Chicharito will try to restore his rep and El Tri’s winning ways in the Copa America Centenario. And if the U.S. men disappoint the home crowd, we can always count on Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women to thrill us as they go for gold in Rio. What have we done to deserve such blessings? It’s best not to wonder. Long days, warm nights and really happy soccer fans. Here’s to a great summer on the pitch.
ON THE COVER: Manuel Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world. He plays for the best team in the world, Germany, and the best club in the Bundesliga: Bayern Munich. But he’s still a mystery to us—unlike players such as Messi, Ronaldo and Suarez. As his team attempts to win another major international trophy at Euro 2016, The Mag’s Andrew Corsello catches up with the enigmatic keeper in “The Stunning, Strange, Beautiful Game of Manuel Neuer.”
- A Hero’s Death and CTE’s Arrival: BMX pioneer Dave Mirra is the first action sports athlete to be diagnosed with CTE. His wife, Laura, details her husband’s landmark diagnosis and his legacy in an exclusive interview with senior writer Alyssa Roenigk.
- Yu’s Year of Magical Thinking: Yu Darvish is coming off Tommy John surgery and an offseason full of drama—MLB opened (and closed) an investigation into Yu’s involvement with his brother’s gambling ring. But despite being a massive celebrity in Japan, he’s a bit of a mystery to us. Senior writer Michael J. Mooney looks to decode Darvish and understand the pressure facing him as he goes into one of the most important seasons of his career.
Issue highlights and features:
Having a Party
Do you believe in miracles? Leicester City’s Premier League championship marks perhaps the most unlikely title in sports history. What does it mean for the team, the city and the summer of soccer we have in front of us? By Jordan Ritter Conn
Hungry for success at home, Brazil turns to Neymar. Good thing he’s awesome. By Gus Elvin
“I Want to Become a Legend”
Paul Pogba is one of the brightest young stars in European soccer, currently playing for Italy’s Juventus. He also plays for the French national team, which is hosting the 2016 Euro. Pogba sat for a Q&A with The Mag and spoke about his career so far and what it will mean to play in a major tournament in his home country. By Simon Kuper
Before the 2015 Women’s World Cup, 33-year-old Carli Lloyd was relatively unknown to mainstream America. But she has been a part of the U.S. women’s national team since 2005. What took the midfielder so long to be seen as great? And even now, is she recognized to the extent of her more famous teammates? By Hallie Grossman
They Love Me, They Love Me Not, They Love Me
Javier Hernandez, aka Chicharito, was loved by Mexico. And then he wasn’t. As the Mexican national team failed to produce results, he was often left off the roster. Now that he’s found success on his club team, Bayer Leverkusen, and he’s scoring goals again, the 28-year-old is making his way back into the hearts of Mexican fans. As he prepares for this year’s Copa America, Chicharito is struggling with the attention of his home country and the life he’s made for himself thousands of miles away. By Bruce Schoenfeld
The Fevered Dream of a Freedom Fighter
The story of a Syrian pro soccer player who fled his home country to help win the war he left behind. Now living in Turkey and attempting to stay afloat—and hopeful—in his country’s dark hours, Jassem Al-Nuwiji uses soccer as a lifeline in his new home. By Jordan Ritter Conn
Also in this issue:
NFL: The Mag charts the performances of the QBs drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL draft over the past 10 years to gauge what to expect from this year’s class.
NBA: Add the Olympics to 82 NBA games plus the playoffs and the season becomes a 10-month slog. Do NBA stars suffer after a Finals/Olympics double? Sage Steele and Jalen Rose weigh in.
Tennis: The French Open is in full swing (May 16-June 5), so The Mag took to the court to anonymously poll 31 tennis pros on everything from dress codes to drugs in the latest Tennis Confidential.
X Games: Concussions have become a growing health concern throughout professional sports, with the likes of football, hockey and soccer enacting new rules to try to protect players from traumatic head injuries in games. But what about action sports? BMX riders, skateboarders, snowboarders and others compete in events like the X Games and the Dew Tour, often without the same safety measures or protocols of the professional sports leagues. By Alyssa Roenigk
The Truth: There’s a reason athletes don’t always speak out. It has become something of a tired trope to ask why athletes (particularly African-American) don’t “do more” when we rarely if ever look at the mounting opposition—in the form of an increase in the number of “law enforcement appreciation days” on the schedule, the further embedding of the military into sports, the obvious backlash that athletes face when they do something as minimal as wearing a T-shirt. The combination creates an environment that suppresses speech and reduces activism. By Howard Bryant
Voices: An excerpt from The Origins of Sports, by Gary Belsky and Neil Fine.
Carrie Kreiswirth, ESPN PR at email@example.com