Dutch striker who de­cided grass was not greener away from Sport­ing

World Soccer - - People Of The Year - Nick Bid­well

Back in May, af­ter fans of Lis­bon gi­ants Sport­ing had vi­ciously as­saulted him and sev­eral team-mates at the club’s train­ing ground, there seemed lit­tle chance of Dutch cen­tre-for­ward Bas Dost ever play­ing for the club again.

In the wake of a tur­bu­lent sea­son of un­der­achieve­ment at Sport­ing – fin­ish­ing out­side the Champions League qual­i­fy­ing spots and los­ing to Atletico Madrid in the quar­ter-fi­nals of the Europa League – a slew of first-team­ers were de­ter­mined to head for the exit, out­raged not only by the vi­o­lence but also the at­ti­tude of ever-bel­liger­ent pres­i­dent Bruno De Car­valho, who fol­low­ing the loss to Atletico vir­u­lently crit­i­cised their com­mit­ment to the cause and threat­ened them with sus­pen­sion.

Dost, left need­ing hos­pi­tal treatment for two wounds to his head, ac­cused an ul­tra of hit­ting him re­peat­edly with a belt, and like many of his col­leagues im­me­di­ately re­scinded his con­tract, cit­ing “just cause” – a legally wa­ter­tight pre­text for a course of ac­tion. Most of the dis­con­tented crew – in­clud­ing goal­keeper Rui Pa­tri­cio, mid­field en­forcer Wil­liam Car­valho, wingers Gel­son Martins and Daniel Po­dence, and full-back Cris­tiano Pic­cini – all duly moved on to pas­tures new. How­ever, for Dost, break­ing up was much harder to do.

De­spite Mi­lan, Sevilla, New­cas­tle United and Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers all show­ing strong in­ter­est, his want­away in­stincts even­tu­ally cooled and in late July he plumped for the sta­tus quo op­tion and signed a new three-year deal with the green-and-white hoops.

Why the change of heart? Ba­si­cally, the 29-year-old ex-Heeren­veen and Wolfs­burg striker looked over the border and re­alised the grass was not greener. He had en­joyed tremen­dous per­sonal suc­cess in his first two sea­sons in the Por­tuguese cap­i­tal, net­ting 71 goals in all com­pe­ti­tions and, apart from a gang of hooded thugs, had the back­ing of the vast ma­jor­ity of the sup­port­ers.

On the evening of the at­tack, hun­dreds of Sport­ing afi­ciona­dos gath­ered out­side the club’s Al­valade sta­dium to present a com­mon front against hooli­gan­ism. Pride of place at the demo was a gi­ant poster of Dost and a smat­ter­ing of Dutch flags.

He would have been equally re­lieved to see the Trump-like De Car­valho ousted from the pres­i­dency. No more in-house snip­ing or psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare for the dress­ing room to con­tend with. Here is a foot­baller at peace.

One-nil in favour of for­give­ness.

Ups and downs...on tar­get for Sport­ing and (right) play­ing with a ban­daged head af­ter the at­tack

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