Louis Saha: Mourinho right to push players to play through pain

Former Manchester United striker Louis Saha says United manager Jose Mourinho is entitled “to put pressure” on players to line out in games.

In comments believed to be aimed at Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling, Mourinho said after his side beat Swansea 3-1: “There is a difference between the brave, who want to be there at any cost, and the ones for whom a little pain can make a difference. If I were to speak with the many great football people of this team, they will say many times they played without being 100%.”

Saha, who played at United from 2004 to 2008, was often injured in his time at Old Trafford but he backed the Portuguese in comments made at yesterday’s Web Summit.

“I had my little spell of injury, seven to eight years, I was very unlucky. I understand Jose Mourinho, that he wants his best players on the team,” said Saha.

“He’s entitled to put pressure on (players to play) — sometimes he’s wrong, sometimes he’s right, but it’s about winning. The manager is asking a lot from you as a player because you have the capabilities of doing that on the field.

“It’s hard to know when to stop and say ‘the injury’s too bad, I don’t want to play’ but it’s hard for a player to challenge a manager.”

Saha referred to his own injury worries during his playing career.

“I had that, my knee would swell on a Thursday evening to triple its normal size, it was very unstable and on the brink of breaking down again. I could train, but my the manager himself may say ‘you can’t play, the doctor says you’re not fit to play’, though you want to play — every player does.

“And if there are big games, you want to play, and some weeks you have more pressure than normal.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the sporting spectrum, the new Drone Racing League has raised $12m in the last 18 months and has been picked up by major broadcasters ESPN and Sky, the Web Summit learned yesterday.

It will race in Alexandra Palace in London next year and Nicholas Horbaczewski of the Drone Racing League was not ruling out the Eiffel Tower as a venue in coming years.

“It has endless possibilities,” said Horbaczewski. “Some people think of us as a different form of racing, a motorsport, or maybe an e-sport. There are different paths the audience will go down.

“To us it’s not about finding an audience — the audience finds it. Being on TV you get feedback now on what people want from the sport.”

There is no career structure to becoming a competitive drone pilot, said Horbaczewski.

“People come to our website, there are fantastic pilots out there and they submit videos to us... we have brought in pilots who are very talented at flying drones, but not everyone can handle the nerves.

“That’s why we’re also looking for performance athletes who can perform consistently, because those who consistently win are the people who can control their nerves, stick to their strategy, and stay calm in competition. We get people coming to us from motorbike racing because the same talents apply there.”

Matt Higgins of RSE Ventures, which supports the league, said: “Spending time with the pilots, you appreciate the hand-eye co-ordination. It’s really hard, I’ve tried it with dismal results.

“We need people to experience it to see why it’s so hard, but once more and more people buy drones they’ll understand that. It’s not just about the skill, you must have the nerve to withstand the pressure.

“The personalities are there in the sport. Just tune in and you’ll fall in love with the various pilots — the challenge is making it a spectator sport, making it accessible to people.”

Horbaczewski is confident about growing the sport: “We’ve been on Sky and ESPN and the results are very strong. There’s always a danger you put a new sport on the TV and it just disappears, but that hasn’t happened.

“We’ve raised $12m ahead of the 2017 league. DRL didn’t exist 18 months ago, drone racing wasn’t a sport five years ago and now we have top sponsors and broadcast partners.

“It’s gone from PowerPoint last summer to a race through the Alexandra Palace next year.”

Higgins had the last word: “Will it ever be an Olympic sport? Why not?”


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