This might be the most heavyweight second-tier fixture ever

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<span>Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images


In the distant past, The Fiver may have, once or twice, casually suggested that perhaps we should stop football. “STOP FOOTBALL,” we might have pleaded, or something like that. But it’s been 12 long, hot, sweaty days since Euro Not 2020’s grim final act, and The Fiver is getting thirsty. The Queen’s Celtic aside, the closest we got to actual football this week was when we joined the Mill on an outing to the perimeter of Charlie Kane’s wedding, before being swiftly moved on.

On Friday night though, an oasis in the shimmering form of *checks notes* Zweite Bundesliga! The German second division kicks off with – wait, come back, honestly this is good – Schalke v Hamburg. At the risk of aggravating fans of the Football League’s assorted slumbering giants, this might be the most heavyweight second-tier fixture ever. Between them, the Miners and the Dinosaur have won 13 league titles and 13 domestic cups, with HSV winning the Big Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup, and S04 winning a Big Vase.

Related: Team GB’s Keira Walsh: ‘I work a lot with psychologists and that helps me’ | Suzanne Wrack

Indeed, four of Germany’s six most successful clubs are in the second tier this season, with relegated Werder Bremen and Nuremberg also in the mix. Now we can watch the quartet try and fail to get promoted on account of the institutional haplessness that got them here. Hamburg have finished fourth for three seasons in a row, ghosts of failures yet to come for Schalke to look upon and despair. The hosts will welcome up to 25,000 fans back – although given events during their dismal relegation campaign, they might prefer to keep the gates shut.

That’s just the starter for a weekend jam-packed with global highlights. Over at Big Sports Day, that bizarro world where football plays second fiddle to swimming, you can watch Japan v Team GB, Sweden v Australia and New Zealand v USA! USA!! USA!!! in the women’s competition, plus France, Brazil, Spain and Germany in the men’s event – and all at eye-wateringly early kick-off times. Not to mention domestic action in Mexico, Russia, Belgium, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina. What the hell, even Scotland!

The Fiver is a purist at heart, which is why despite historical quotes about STOPPING FOOTBALL being dredged up and taken out of context, we will spend our weekend with the curtains drawn, soaking up the beautiful game until we find ourselves rocking back and forth in the wee small hours of Sunday night, watching Qatar v El Salvador and wondering where all the years went. Wait, what’s that? Jadon Sancho has completed his move to Manchester United? Mill, grab the stepladder. We’re back in business!


“Unfortunately you who support me and not those who appear here to spread the words of hate DON’T KNOW HALF of what happens behind the scenes, I wanted to be more clear but unfortunately TODAY I can’t, the message I leave today is of gratitude and you will always be special. Everton is GIANT, has an incredible history and has the structure and capability to return to be and to conquer everything that it has been and conquered” – Bernard plays fast and loose with clauses and the caps lock key as he says farewell to Everton and takes the dirhams at UAE Pro League heavyweights Sharjah.

Bernard steaming out of Goodison Park.
Bernard steaming out of Goodison Park. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters


“Re: Inter Miami (yesterday’s Fiver). Beckham’s franchise has been pretty contemptible since he received the rights. They were caught breaking salary cap rules in the first year. Ryan Shawcross suggested he was ready to retire and Miami’s beach lifestyle changed his mind. He has since proven the first decision was the right one. They signed Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro, then Big Phil proceeded to bench him after six games despite having no player of remotely equal calibre to replace him. Really, they’re just awful. Arrogant, old, washed-up Euro stars thinking this was still a league for arrogant, old, washed-up Euro stars … which 10 years ago was true. Neville truly is an awful manager. Tactically non-existent, his players simply trying to run triangles, no overall idea of field position, time on the ball, unlocking defences, when to press or not. But that fits: he’s been hired by a truly awful football club” – Jeremy Loome.

“I know The Fiver is quite married to Big Sports Day as an epigram, but BSD in the American financial industry is more popularly used to refer to a Big Swinging [Tig]. Thought you’d like to know” – Matthew Richman.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Jeremy Loome.


Big Sancho news! SD Tarazona have announced the capture of speedy winger Jaime on loan from Zaragoza. Oh, and as mentioned, Jadon has checked in at Old Trafford.

Tracey Crouch has called for an independent regulator to “protect the future of our game” as part of fan-led review into the state of English football.

Son Heung-min has scrawled his name all over a new four-year Spurs deal. “It’s like home,” he trilled. “There was no decision. It was easy.” Meanwhile, Spurs insist they have no plans to sell Harry Kane to Manchester City which, in football-speak, means: “Dig deeper, City.”

Chelsea will begin their WSL title defence at Arsenal as part of a tough start to the 2021-22 season for both clubs.

The makers of Football Manager have announced they will be adding women’s leagues to the mega-addictive video game. “We want to be a part of the process that puts women’s football on an equal footing with the men’s game,” belatedly trilled Sports Interactive chief suit Miles Jacobsen.

And Lukas Podolski, 87, will honour a promise to his late grandma by making a debut for boyhood club Gornik Zabrze in the Polish Ekstraklasa on Sunday. “[Replica shirts] went on sale over the weekend, the effect was that the turnover of the store was the highest in its history,” cheered chief suit Dariusz Czernik. “Other products with the image of Lukasz have also appeared on sale. Mugs, pillows, T-shirts, posters …”


Maya Wolfe-Robinson on the new project at a community football clubhouse that links to a digitised archive of the messages on Marcus Rashford’s mural.

Catch up with the latest moves in our women’s and men’s transfer interactives.

And sign up for a daily Big Sports Day email here. It’s not particularly funny but, hey, glass houses and all that.

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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