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Northampton Town v Forest Green Rovers - Sky Bet League Two

Photo: Pete Norton/Getty Images
Reuben Reid (front) of the Forest Green Rovers in England went fully vegan after the team’s owner introduced healthful food. He says it’s made a huge difference in his life.

Even after the retirement of founding host Bill Littlefield, the WBUR show Only a Game continues to have stories that appeal to sports lovers and lay people alike. I got a kick out of this one about England’s vegan soccer team.

Gary Waleik was the reporter.

“The menu at sports events has traditionally been a bit limited … and unhealthy. Especially at soccer games in England.

” ‘On a match day, you’re looking at a lot of sausages, burgers, bacon sandwiches. Quick and easy fried food,’ says Forest Green Rovers striker Reuben Reid. His team is broadening its menu with healthier fare. But that’s just one part of a much larger mission.

“In 2010, Forest Green Rovers, then a fifth-tier football club in Nailsworth, England, was in financial trouble. Dale Vince, who loved the sport as a kid, was approached by the team.

” ‘They said they needed a little bit of help to get through the summer,’ Vince says. ‘And I thought it would be a nice thing to do — because we could, so we should. But within a couple of months, it was clear that they needed much more than just a little bit of money.

” ‘And they said to me, “You really need to be the Chairman.” And I said, “I really don’t. I’ve got so much else to do.” But I then faced the choice — if I walked away, they would fold.’

“It was heady stuff for a guy who, two decades before, was living a hermit’s life on a hill in England’s bucolic Cotswolds region.

” ‘I had an old U.S. Air Force radar trailer that I rescued from a scrap yard and converted into a home,’ Vince says.

“In 1991, he was traveling in Cornwall. And something caught his eye.

” ‘It was England’s first modern, proper wind farm,’ Vince says. … That inspired him to build his own windmill farm, beginning in 1996. He called his new company Ecotricity. It was a big risk.

” ‘When I got started, renewable energy powered about 2 percent of Britain,’ Vince says. ‘Last year, it was 30 percent. And we’ve grown to be a company of about 700 people supplying about 200,000 customers.’ …

” ‘I saw the opportunity to use football as a new channel to speak to a new audience of people about sustainability,’ Vince says. ‘It’s still a football club, but it’s become something else, as well.’ …

” ‘We cut red meat out of the menu straight away for the players. We did it across the whole ground at the same time, so staff and fans and visitors as well. And then we took a series of other steps over the next couple of years toward full-on veganism.’

“The team dropped all meat, fish and dairy. By 2015, Dale Vince was the Chairman of the world’s first vegan sports team.

‘There were people at the time that said, “You’re gonna kill the club. Nobody’s gonna eat it. This kinda stuff,’ Vince remembers.”

Read more here.

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Photo: Steven Senne/AP
New England Patriots 23-year-old rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell joined a suburban women’s book club when he was at the University of Georgia.

Here’s great story that John sent me. He had been to an event at Life is good and heard a young football player talk about the sequence of events that followed his joining a women’s book club.

Emmett Knowlton wrote about the football player at Business Insider.

“New England Patriots 23-year-old rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is perhaps the biggest book lover in the NFL and, now, a published children’s-book author — all thanks to a chance encounter in a bookstore.

“In a fun story in The Boston Globe back in May, Mitchell said that when he was a junior at the University of Georgia, he decided to join a suburban, all-women’s book club after a serendipitous meeting with one of the members in the stacks of a Barnes & Noble.

” ‘I was there picking up “Me Before You,” the next book for the club,’ Silverleaf Book Club member Kathy Rackley told The Globe. ‘Malcolm walked up to me and said: “Can I ask you something? Can you recommend a book?” ‘

“Rackley had no idea that Mitchell was a star receiver on the Georgia Bulldogs, but the two got to chatting. When Rackley revealed that she was in a book club, Mitchell asked if he could join, and the two exchanged contact information. …

“Two days later, Mitchell showed up to the meeting. From The Globe

‘ “I didn’t mind [inviting him] at all,” [the hostess] recalled. “Because I didn’t think there was any way he’d show up!” But he did and [impressed] the group with his thoughts and opinions — and his own life experiences. …

“Mitchell continued to participate in the club, and he became a real book lover. According to The Globe, he was often found reading at his football locker, and when it was his turn to recommend a book he made his new friends read Marcus Luttrell’s ‘Lone Survivor.’

” ‘The book club helped me grow into a better individual, a person who learns and grows throughout life in general,’ Mitchell said.

“Mitchell’s current lifestyle has made it difficult for him to regularly attend the club. But he remains an avid reader, and he recently published a children’s book, ‘The Magician’s Hat,’ about the magical powers of reading. He started a foundation, too, called Read With Malcolm, that encourages childhood literacy.” More here.

I love the openness and enthusiasm of a guy who would ask a stranger for a book recommendation and then ask to attend the book club!

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If you’re a country called Ireland and your soccer team doesn’t make it into the 2014 World Cup competition in Brazil, what do you do?

Change the “r” in your name to “c” and adopt another team.

I like David Trifunov’s headline at the Global Post, where you can read the background: “Iceland closes in on World Cup bid. Wait … Iceland has a soccer team?”

He continues, “Iceland is now one game away from becoming the smallest nation ever to advance to a World Cup. … It started in 2008 when the national economy, under the weight of an inflated currency, tanked.

“The modest Iceland soccer league cut ties with nearly all its more expensive foreign players, leaving the door wide open for homegrown talent. They took advantage, getting the experience they needed. …

“Ireland is one frustrated World Cup nation that has taken notice. At least the fans have. Eoin Conlon and friends were lamenting their country’s failed attempt to reach Brazil when he realized there’s only one nation that deserves their support now.

“ ‘And we kind of laughed, saying: “Well, that’s as close as Ireland’s going to get to Brazil. It’s only a letter difference. A ‘c’ for an ‘r.’ We might as well be brothers,” Conlon told Public Radio International.

“So they struck up a website and Twitter profile to encourage Irish football fans to back tiny Iceland.

“ ‘There are only about 320,000 people in Iceland,’ Conlon told PRI. ‘So if they were a county in Ireland — I’m calling them the 33rd county — it would [be] only the fifth-largest county in Ireland.’ ”

More here.

Photo: (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Iceland’s striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, right, and Croatian defender Vedran Corluka vie for the ball during their World Cup playoff in Reykjavik on November 15, 2013. 

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The Manhattan Paris Saint-Germain soccer team is made up of both rich and poor boys from many cultures. Coach Wilson Egidio thinks the team’s diversity is part of its success.

Vivian Yee has the story at the New York Times. She writes that Amara, for example, “joined the team after an eagle-eyed former player for Mr. Egidio spotted him playing on a Bronx playground. [He] wound up scoring the goal that made Paris Saint-German the first Manhattan youth club to reach the national playoffs.

“For the players, their coaches and parents, the team’s diversity is a source of success as well as pride. Their international styles, they say, add fluidity and creativity to their game.

“Combined with Mr. Egidio’s Brazilian approach — he grew up in Brazil and played professional soccer there — that could be key in the national tournament.”

Click here to read about this week’s competition and the backgrounds of the players.

Photograph: Christopher Gregory, New York Times

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