The small brunette woman in a black sequined dress and suede heels climbed the stairs on the curved stage of the megachurch, leaning on her husband’s arm. The silver cross around his neck sparkled in the spotlight as Sarah Collins Rudolph sat in an armchair on a February evening.
The auditorium of the Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, went silent. Hundreds of faces, almost all African Americans, leaning high in anticipation.
“Let’s go earlier in the day,” said the Greater Atlanta Black Prosecutors Association interviewer, who was sitting in an armchair facing Rudolph.
And so Rudolph began to rewind his life in the hours preceding the attack by white supremacists who literally stopped the clock in the Baptist church of sixteenth street in Birmingham, Alabama, Sunday September 15, 1963.
Before her sister, 14-year-old Addie Mae and three other black girls died in the explosion, making the nation ashamed and leading to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Until before 26 glass fragments pierced the light 12-year-old body Rudolph, destroying the vision in his right eye and his dreams of becoming a nurse. Before Rudolph thought Alabama owed his restitution and apologies for his role in his suffering. Before this gentle and indomitable woman she became known as the “Fifth Girl”, who survived a known American hate crime that few knew existed until, at 49, she began sharing her story.
Now, with a slight southern accent from the stage, Rudolph told the hours before the clock froze on September 15th at 10:22 am, 56 years ago.
Sarah Collins Rudolph and her husband, George Rudolph, enter the Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, to let her talk about her experience in the bombing of the 1963 church. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
April Heard gets excited listening to Rudolph describing what he lost as a 12 year old in Birmingham. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Hundreds of African Americans attended the Black History Month event. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
ABOVE: Sarah Collins Rudolph and her husband, George Rudolph, enter the Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia, to let her talk about her experience in the bombing of the 1963 church. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM LEFT: April Heard grows emotionally by listening to Rudolph by describing what she lost as a 12-year-old in Birmingham. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM RIGHT: hundreds of African Americans attended the Black History Month event. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Rudolph and his sisters had sprung up before dawn so that their mother could press each girl’s hair for church and feed them all breakfast. The eldest of them, Junie, soon took the bus to Sixteenth Street Baptist Church to get ready to play the piano and reminded Sarah, Addie Mae and sister Janie of being on time for the annual Youth Day service.
Janie had a new black bag, shaped like a small soccer ball with a zipper, and the three girls threw it back and forth, giggling as they walked about a mile from home to the majestic brick house of worship on the corner of 16th Street and Sixth Avenue in central Birmingham.
From left: Denise McNair, 11; Carole Robertson, 14 years old; Addie Mae Collins, 14 years old; and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, 14, was killed when a bomb went off in Birmingham’s 16th Baptist Church (AP) street
In May, police commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor directed his forces towards the sic dogs against the young protesters and detonated them with fire hoses during the Children’s Crusade near Kelly Ingram Park. Thousands of protesters have been arrested by the summer, including King, who wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham prison”.
Governor George Wallace, resisting federal requests for desegregation, declared that “what this country needs are some first-class funerals.” But the city had already begun to bow to pressure, integrating the first schools in early September.
The crater left by the bombings of the Klan in the Baptist church of the sixteenth street. (AP)
By the time the Collins children arrived at church a couple of weeks later, Sunday school had already begun. The sisters ventured into the women’s lounge in the basement, so Janie headed for her upstairs classroom while Sarah and Addie Mae waited in the lounge until the class was over. Soon Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson joined them in the lounge. Addie and the other girls had gathered near the large windows of the living room, sharing the news of the first days of school, Sarah behind them at the sink, when Denise asked Addie to tie the band on her dress. Under the stairs just outside the windows, more than a dozen sticks of dynamite were stacked, a stopwatch going down.
Addie Mae’s arms reached out in mid-air towards Denise when the explosion occurred, Rudolph said.
The deacon of the church who saved her later told her that he had jumped down into the bombed void in the basement before peering through the dust that fell into the hall, now a mixture of brick, concrete and glass.
“When he looked in there, he saw me standing, just bleeding,” Rudolph recalled from the stage.
“Were you still standing?” asked her interviewer.
“Yes, I was still on my feet,” Rudolph said softly.
Someone panted and someone else murmured “Amen” before the audience started clapping loudly, then even louder.
“As if we were germs”
Sarah’s husband, George Rudolph, made a sweeping hand gesture across the living room of the couple’s two-bedroom brick ranch in the Birmingham suburb of Forestdale.
“This – this – I call the museum of civil rights,” he declared, a big man with a gray mustache in a faded blue suit and a black cap from Vietnam veterans.
Sarah sat in the corner of a brown love chair while her husband spoke, silent and reserved in a tailored plum-colored dress and a matching jacket.
Embedded in a square box covered in black velvet on the low wooden and glass table, there was a replica of the Congress gold medal. Nearby, on the floor, there was an original paper program of her sister’s funeral, protected by a plexiglass sleeve that had been sent to her by a Michigan woman who had known that Sarah had not been able to attend the service or to hear the praise that King had delivered.
The white walls of the room were crowded with gilded frames with gilded proclamations, from Philadelphia, San Diego and Boston, and glossy photographs of Sarah with John Lewis and Jesse Jackson. A precious pencil drawing dominated the long wall in front of the living room windows, a gift from Sarah’s granddaughter. In it, Denise, Cynthia and Carole were cheering behind Sarah and Addie Mae, Addie clutching Sarah’s life, as if all four girls were delighted that Sarah had come out alive.
Rudolph at his home in Forestdale, Alabama, with a photo of his sister Addie Mae and a copy of his featured funeral program. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Rudolph’s husband, George, calls their living room “the civil rights museum”. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Plaques, photos and other mementos cover the walls of Rudolph’s home in a suburb of Birmingham. (Michael A. Schwarz / for The Washington Post)
ABOVE: Rudolph at his home in Forestdale, Alabama, with a photo of his sister Addie Mae and a copy of his featured funeral program. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM LEFT: Rudolph’s husband George calls their living room “the civil rights museum”. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM RIGHT: plaques, photos and other mementos cover the walls of Rudolph’s home in a suburb of Birmingham. (Michael A. Schwarz / for The Washington Post)
In the midst of glory, a screeching image on the board was resting on the base of a wooden sideboard with a marble top. The photograph was published in Life magazine on September 27, 1963, when time had started to move forward. In it, a 12-year-old Sarah sat in a hospital bed, her eyes covered with large white patches of gauze. Her lips look swollen, her hair needs a mother’s care. For a fleeting moment, photography made her famous and helped the nation find her humanity, although it would take 39 years to bring all three killers to justice. So the spotlight shifted, leaving Sarah to stumble, in relative anonymity unaided, for decades.
Last year, a then collaborator of the D.C. office law firm Jenner & Block saw Sarah speak in South Carolina. Hate crimes had increased across the country, including the 2015 attack on the African Methodist Episcopal Church Emanuel right there in Charleston, where nine faithful died in a class of Bible study in the basement. Among the three people who survived Dylan Roof’s racist fury: an 11-year-old girl.
Fascinated by Sarah’s story of the trauma she has endured for decades, Tom Bolling convinced her company to help her do the bono.
“It’s hard to think of a more compelling story,” said Ishan K. Bhabha, a partner and principal lawyer in the effort. “… Sarah is a civil rights hero who has suffered a serious error”, which “cannot be seen in isolation”.
After two months in hospital and surgery to install her first prosthetic eye in the fall of 1963, Sarah went from being a student to barely passing her lessons. She cried daily for her injuries and the loss of Addie Mae, who had been the closest to her in age, an artistic girl who was the outgoing sheet for her silent little sister.
The two girls walked happily from door to door in the white quarters of Birmingham, selling aprons and potholders that their mother, a housekeeper, had expertly sewn to make ends meet. Sarah knew how degrading segregation was, she saw how her mother had to make a paper impression of their feet because the white department store wouldn’t allow her children to try on shoes. “They looked at us like we were germs,” recalls Sarah. But sometimes homeowners who bought their aprons offered the sisters freshly baked cookies and other treats, and then didn’t dwell much on the rest.
Rudolph attends Perfecting the Saints’ Ministries church in Birmingham, which helped save her. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
After the bombing, she found herself wondering what the friendly-looking whites were behind those doors, and a new thought opened up: the Klansmen whites who did it hated her just because she was black. Maybe they had smiled at her before putting on the hood. She went from her career dream as a practical nurse to work in the factories of Birmingham, to grind pans, to perforate aluminum. He began to hate his back, staring at his supervisors and white strangers in the streets. Once, twenty years old, she thought of shooting a man who had called her “negra” in the park, before contacting herself.
Her mother and father, a restaurant bus boy, had taught her to work hard and Sarah never expected a man to take care of her. But as she grew older it seemed that men thought they could treat her as they wanted, now that she was half blind with a face still teased by the scars. Her first husband, an edger for the city, beat her; the second, a mechanic, put the bottle down for the first few years just to get it back. He took $ 2,000 which he received when a woman he held the house for died and used it to divorce.
When she left her second husband, the grip of hatred and fear that seized her had begun to loosen.
In the mid-1940s, he began attending a Pentecostal church in Birmingham called Lighthouse. One day, during a tent rebirth meeting, the preacher pushed Sarah away and said that he had had a vision of her standing in a haze of smoke and dust. A ray should have fallen on her, he told her, but God had suspended time and sent his angels to capture the ray. One Sunday shortly thereafter, the preacher called Sarah to the altar. She was paralyzed with fear and suffered from “a nervous condition,” he said. Then he gently placed his hands on her head and prayed, and she curled up on the floor.
“That’s how I knew God was working on me,” Sarah was saying now.
George looked at his wife across the living room, clouded by the setting sun.
“I always tell Sarah,” she said, “that she survived because God was saving her for me.”
The next morning, in her bedroom, Sarah slipped her feet into black and steep pumps to match the beige and black chevron striped dress and jacket. Then he paused to pick up his bag from the kitchen table with his American flag centerpiece before going out to get his daughter-in-law and three grandchildren.
He darted nimbly through Birmingham’s back roads with his 2006 Golden Kia Optima, driving 50 miles per hour in a 30-mile per hour area, no matter the blind eye. He stopped briefly to pile everyone in the car before reaching the church of the Ministries of Perfecting the Saints, with three minutes of spare time before the 11:30 service.
Sarah climbed the imposing red steps to the church, a decaying brick block painted in concrete on a lonely street corner. Once inside, he took his position as an usher near the wooden door that led to the small sanctuary, gently greeting the dozen members who meandered. The pastor’s wife, who wore a black dress and a black wide-brimmed hat adorned with feathers, stopped in front of the short rows of pews humming “Amazing Grace”. From time to time, through the service, Sarah applauded gospel music or slowly waved her hands in the air as people stood up to testify, muttering “Amen”.
George would like them to have a larger house with a special room just for their museum if the return should come. But Sarah has other plans. He wants to help replace this old church building with its flooded basement and peeling walls and arched red carpet.
It was George who helped her believe she deserved something in exchange for her suffering. When they were students together with A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham noticed it while others looked beyond. “Sarah Collins! Sarah Collins! He would have greeted her. This is what she called about 30 years later, when she saw her come out of the post office as she lined up to buy stamps and threw herself behind her.
They married when he was 50 and he was 49, bonding to their shared trauma. George, a former city park employee who receives disability pay from veterans, has seen too much of a soldier in Vietnam. They suffered from PTSD at the sound of thunder together. She was drinking to numb, but stopped after being saved. He dried himself when his new wife demanded it. The son he had had with an old girl helped him grow up.
Nobody gets to Sarah without overcoming George. “I’m his protector,” he likes to say.
After the attack, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover said the chances of conviction were “remote” and blocked his agents from meeting with state and federal prosecutors to share their findings. The city managed to convict Chambliss, known locally as “Bob Dynamite”, in McNair’s death before the charges were finally brought against Blanton and Cherry, based in part on the testimony of their relatives. Sarah boiled when Cherry’s attorneys attempted to prove that she was incompetent to be tried.
Klansman Robert E. Chambliss, known in Birmingham as “Dynamite Bob”, in a court hearing on October 1, 1963. He was convicted of the murder of Denise McNair in 1977. (Horace Cort / AP)
During the trial in the Birmingham courtroom, Jones showed the photo of Sarah’s Life magazine in the hospital bed and the barely recognizable remains of the other girls. Eventually, Jones called Sarah to the booth.
Sarah told the jury how close to the sink she was when she heard a horrible noise and heard the glass pierce her eyes.
“I started calling Addie. I said “Addie, Addie, Addie”, “he said, according to the trial reports.
“Did your sister ever answer?” Jones asked.
“No sir, he didn’t.”
Later, when the verdict was read, she didn’t jump or cry – that’s not what she does. But deep down, he said, he felt that something was finally calming down.
Until she married George, Sarah had shared her story mainly in church, but George opened a Facebook page for her, and requests soon began to creep in. They have grown in recent years as interest in African American history grows, taking a look at King’s January birthday and Black History Month.
“Let’s see, we’ve been to San Angelo, Texas; Chicago and Arkansas. Then to Cleveland and California,” said George from a stand in Buffalo Wild Wings after the church, with the black Vietnam cap on his head.
“We’ve been to five different states,” she said, although it sometimes seems that Sarah’s story is more appreciated elsewhere than here.
But the Rudolphs don’t want to talk too much about it. You never know who might be listening. Maybe the Klan too, Sarah said.
They still have to live here, in a city where Sarah believes so many people have erred in the facts – praising the pastor of Sixteenth Street at that time for saving her, instead of Deacon Samuel Rutledge, who had taken her away from the dust; reporting that she had been around in the rubble when it was still frozen, unable to see. They had been wrong to spell Addie’s middle name as “May” on the low granite monument to the girls murdered outside the church; she misrepresented her sister, Sarah feels, in the sculpture “The Four Spirits” in Kelly Ingram Park. A tanned Addie Mae bends barefoot to tie Denise McNair’s headband, her knee goggles and her rainy Mary Janes on the ground, which really disturbs Sarah because she’s not like that at all, and nobody’s even worried about asking, the only living testimony in the women’s room.
The Four Spirits statue in Kelly Ingram Park across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Sarah opposes the way her sister is depicted in the Kelly Ingram Park memorial. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
Addie Mae has tanned Mary Janes. Sarah is sad to see them fill with water when it rains. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
TOP: the statue of the Four Spirits in Kelly Ingram Park in front of the Baptist church on 16th street. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM LEFT: Sarah opposes the way her sister is depicted in the Kelly Ingram Park memorial. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post) BOTTOM RIGHT: Mary Janes has been tanned by Addie Mae. Sarah is sad to see them fill with water when it rains. (Michael A. Schwarz for The Washington Post)
And then the strangers, using Sarah’s story to help burn their careers, under the pretext of believing the story. Spike Lee called to interview her for her Oscar-nominated documentary in 1997, “4 Little Girls,” but declined her payment request, telling her that the proceeds would go towards scholarships. (“I never paid for an interview, ever,” Lee replied in an interview with the Washington Post.)
Sometimes it also seemed that people just wanted to feel like good people without ever really confronting the state-sponsored hatred at the root of the crime and the endless harm it caused. It wouldn’t have simplified things. That’s why he declined President Barack Obama’s invitation to attend the 2013 oval office signing ceremony to honor the four girls murdered on the 50th anniversary of the attack.
It would take restitution and an apology to fix things, not one or the other, but both.
From his place in the cabin, George was now listing the complaints: no one was ever charged with attempted murder for Sarah’s injuries; nobody tried to put Sarah or her family together, or the other families, as they did with all those victims of September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Forget how long ago, George was saying. Alabama “could do something special for her if they wanted to.”
“Sarah got no justice,” he continued, the voice rising above the din of the restaurant. “My baby didn’t get justice.”
“Before the Klan arrives”
Sarah stepped back onto the driveway just as dawn broke the next day to make the 25-minute trip to the predominantly white suburb of Hoover. George would prefer to leave this job to do the cleaning for a white lady, but Sarah has worked all her life, refusing to apply for disability and is not going to sit at home now.
He parked at a McDonald’s for a “seniors coffee” and, returning to his car, leaned over the hood to inspect the wiper blades. She shook her head with concern; the forecast included floods.
He crossed a street of sprawling brick houses with large arched windows and luxurious porches, then entered a large driveway and entered his employer’s home through the kitchen door.
Inside, Leah Atkins, in black pants and sweater, her gray hair parted from her broad face in a long ponytail, smiling warmly.
Atkins, 84, a Birmingham native and retired history professor, said he considered Sarah “one of my best and dearest friends”. It’s more than southern flattery, he started explaining as he sat on a green sofa in the adjoining family room. The fireplace was cut into broad bands of burnished wood; a large hot tub with gold taps was visible through the veranda door. There was a broom scratch as Sarah swept the kitchen.
Atkins grew up in relative comfort with her kind parents, she said, which allowed her to play hopscotch with black children who lived across the street and carry them around in her red wagon. Since then he has greeted African Americans with “ladies” and “ladies”, just like whites. She remembered feeling bad when she saw the ranks of black people snaking out of the Alabama Theater on Third Avenue, knowing that everyone wouldn’t fit into the interior balcony. But that’s how things went. It wasn’t one of those to protest, he said, even after hearing the news while living in Auburn of those poor girls killed in an attack on a church in his hometown.
These days, listen to how his children speak favorably about President Trump, letting them know he disagrees, but prefers to keep peace in the family. She had “felt a failure,” she said, because her children didn’t support Hillary Clinton.
However, Atkins has a healthy respect for the non-linear quality of the story and is grateful, she said, for having Sarah to talk to, because she knows that her housekeeper shares her disturbing sense of time flowing backwards.
It stopped abruptly.
“Better watch what I say before the Klan arrives and burn a cross on my backyard,” he said, for what would not have been the last time.
Sarah serves as an “example” for her, she continued, believing that her housekeeper’s public testimony to the 1963 bombing could do more than she ever could to fight racism.
“Sarah!” she called.
Sarah appeared in the doorway with her white pants and shirt on, holding a broom in her hand.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said.
Atkins’ eyes lit up.
“Remember that time you went to talk to Auburn,” he said. “Well, that professor called me and said,” Well, you told me she was good, but you didn’t tell me she was so good. “”
“I’m very proud of her. I’m a bit like a mom to her, you know.”
Sarah smiled softly at her employer, then told her that she had to leave early to beat the rain.
Two days later, in the vast auditorium of the Decatur megachurch, Sarah wrapped her testimony from her armchair on the curved stage. The audience jumped up for an ovation.
As Sarah descended the stairs, about a dozen people swarmed around her, iPhones flashed before retiring like a flood, allowing another group of admirers to take their place. He stood erect through all this, offering a shy and skilful smile, while George, in his black suit and black and white polka dot tie, moved boisterously nearby.
Minutes passed, 15, 20, 30. Soon Sarah would be escorted back to the office lined with the pastor’s books to wait for someone to drive her and George to the Hampton Inn. There he took off his heels and rested his feet. She was tired of being so long.
On March 3, 1920, a group of African American businessmen gathered for a meeting in Atlanta to talk about baseball.
Just a month earlier, Andrew “Rube” Foster, the legendary pitcher and manager of the Chicago American Giants, had made history by forming the Negro National League, a black team association designed after Major League Baseball that would become the first professional league for black baseball players, reports NBC News.
Atlanta businessmen followed suit and the Negro Southern League was formed.
This month, the Negro Southern League Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, will celebrate the league’s centennial and, remembering the league and its triumphs, the inseparable history of segregations will also re-emerge.
A woman was punched and lost consciousness after intervening to defend her Chinese friend who was accused of carrying the coronavirus.
Trainee lawyer Meera Solanki, from Solihull, had gone out with friends to celebrate her 29th birthday at the Ana Rocha Bar and Gallery in Birmingham on Frederick Street.
Miss Solanki was inside the club with her friends including Mandy Huang, 28, who was visiting from London when the group was targeted by a group of Asian men.
Trainee lawyer Meera Solanki, from Solihull (left) with her friend Mandy Huang, 28, from London (right)
Trainee lawyer Meera Solanki (pictured), from Solihull, was out with friends to celebrate his 29th birthday
Friends left the bar after Miss Solanki said she was repeatedly harassed by one of the men who later followed the three women out of the club around 2am on Sunday 9 February.
Miss Solanki said: ‘I was having a birthday drink with a group of girls and boys, including Chinese friends.
‘There was a group of Asian men inside the club – one of them kept coming to me and harassing me. She seemed to have a problem with me, being an Indian girl with a multi-racial group of friends, “she told Sunday Mercury.
Meera Solanki (left) pictured with Mandy Huang (right), 28, visiting London for Miss Solanki’s 29th birthday
Miss Solanki added: ‘We tried to ignore him, even when he tried to spit one of my friends.
‘Towards the end of the night – only three of us were left, including my Chinese friend Mandy.
He continued: “The man came again and was aggressive, so we left but he followed us.
Miss Solanki was inside the Ana Rocha Bar and Gallery in Birmingham (image file in the photo) on Frederick Street with her friends when the group was targeted by a group of Asian men
‘For some reason he really got mad at her. He started abusing her by calling her a dirty c ****.
“He said” take your fucking coronavirus and bring it home. “
Miss Solanki said she was “shocked and angry” and shouted at the man to stop while trying to push him away.
“He punched me in the head, I hit the sidewalk and was knocked unconsciously,” said Miss Solanki.
An ambulance was called to the scene and a witness said: ‘What I saw was beyond despicable. A totally fierce assault. “
Miss Solanki spent six hours at Heartlands Hospital where she was cured with concussion and was out of work for a week.
She added: ‘I was so shocked and horrified by her aggressive behavior and horrible words.
“While I was unconscious, he continued to threaten and abuse my friends before calmly leaving with his group of friends who did nothing to stop or help me.”
A member of a Birmingham-based Anglo-Chinese group said yesterday that the paranoia surrounding the disease has led to uneasiness and confrontation.
The West Midlands police have launched an appeal to find the offender responsible for the shocking violence.
There are 400,000 Chinese living in England and Wales.
News has already surfaced about the coronavirus violence in Newcastle, York and Manchester.
A spokesman for the Birmingham Chinese Society, set up to foster relations between residents of the city in western and eastern Asia, said: “There has always been abuse. The virus has provided some people with a reason for that abuse.”
He explained: ‘We wear masks to protect others from our coughing and sneezing.
Some wear them as protection against pollution. Some women wear them because they don’t want to be seen without makeup. We do it to protect others, not ourselves. ‘
An Ana Rocha Bar manager confirmed that the attack had taken place outside his home, but said he was unaware of what triggered the violence.
The popular site has CCTV of the accident.
The co-owner of the famous restaurants in Chinatown, Wing Wah and Caffe Dorian Chan, said: “I have heard of similar attacks based on people’s shocking racism after the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Fortunately, this attack was reported to the police. And it is essential that there is an adequate investigation. ‘
A West Midlands police spokeswoman said: “We are investigating a woman who was attacked after another woman was racially raped on Frederick Street, Hockley, around 2 am on Sunday 9 February.
‘A man gave racist signs to a woman and after being asked to stop he punched another woman in the face, about her 20 years.
‘He was temporarily unconscious but fled without serious injuries.
‘The attacker is described as Asian, 5 feet 8 inches tall, of large build and at the time he wore a flat cap and a hoodie.
‘Anyone with information can contact us via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk between 8:00 and midnight or call 101 at any time. Cite the crime reference number 20BW / 39330Q / 20 “.
West Midlands Ambulance Services said: ‘We were called at 2:03 am on February 9 to report an assault on an address on Frederick Street. An off-duty paramedic was already in place with the patient.
“The woman didn’t want to be brought in an accident and in an emergency, so our crews were stopped.”
It’s not just Dortmund-Paris-SG in life: a real entry into the competition for European behemoths – Paris-SG but also Barcelona, Real Madrid, English clubs – in the queen competition, the round of 16 the Champions League mark the gateway to matches of a stratospheric level, rich in adventures and reversals of situations. Overview of the other games of the week.
Atlético Madrid – Liverpool FC (Tuesday, 9 p.m.)
It would be nice if Atlético Madrid won because … Atlético Madrid is stuck in the simplest cliché: a team complicated to face and anti-good game in its most elaborate version. Namely, love-killing and pragmatism flirting with the accordion bus technique – defense first. The sworn enemy of football and gourmet mirettes. Diego Simeone, Madrid’s coach, single-handedly recounts the slide into this dark box. Five or six years ago, the Argentinian, who arrived on the Madrid bench in 2011, was still the genius of Europe. The one who turned lambs into wolves. Who made his players run 90 minutes, which gave the impression of being able to investigate 180 without problem and if necessary, 270 – with a smile to their ears. There, he is portrayed as good without more and disbelieving: if we trust the ambient rumor, he is the exact opposite of the religion of the moment, Liverpool, the model – his players also ride, but better.
The scenario would like that the Simeone cycle, coach as smooth as brilliant, who spent a life of player to be vomited before the games to maintain his grinta, ends as the stereotype adores: an exit in eighth and an end of championship d ‘Spain (Atlético is at the foot of the podium) is struggling. Then a resignation or a dismissal. Then a debate on a talk show to imply that the guy and his philosophy are dead and buried. May the picture go to hell! The Matelassiers disrupted and broke the alternation (Barça and Real Madrid) so exhausting in Spain (a title in 2014) and failed to sit on the roof of Europe twice (2014 and 2016). The Atlético has ten years of sabotage of big, medium and small clubs in the legs. We are right in what makes this striped jersey team dangerous: the habit of big battles, patience and mischief.
Except that Liverpool will qualify because … The club of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané is European champion. The mojo is lost, it’s true. But rarely in eighthfinal.
Read also Champions League: at PSG, the cross and the barriers
Atalanta Bergamo – FC Valencia (Wednesday, 9 p.m.)
It would be nice if Bergamo won because … Ephemeral coach of Inter Milan in 2011 (five competitive games, four defeats), Gian Piero Gasperini is the man of a revolution in Italy since 2013 that he coaches Atalanta Bergamo: it matters what the Transalpine call with a touch of distrust the “continental game”, that is to say a different rhythm, superior to the ordinary of Calcio. This is the story of the biggest dwarf in the world (a normal type, therefore) of the Monthy Pythons: Luis Muriel and others do not play at the supersonic speed of a Liverpool or a Manchester City, but on a scale Italian, Bergamo is a textbook case, which earned Gasperini to be elected best coach of Calcio at the end of the 2018-2019 season. Who says rhythm says risk-taking, loss of balls, defenders having to manage in one against one against opposing attackers: in the realm of placed play and defensive systems belts and suspenders, it is not nothing.
Except that Valencia will qualify because … The force of habit, the superior technical skill (Rodrigo, Daniel Parejo), this hardness in the effort that inhabits the top Spanish player – Valencia is 6e de Liga – and a slow rise that saw them destroy FC Barcelona (2-0) three weeks ago, playing three times faster than the Catalans that day. The wind blew at the start of the season when the Singaporean owner dismissed coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, fresh winner of the King’s Cup, for sporting differences: he had the full support of both players and supporters. Former international player who passed through Bordeaux and coach in the Spanish youth teams (-16 years old, -17, Hopes), Albert Celades took the time to slip into his shoes and things got back to normal, with victories at Chelsea or Amsterdam during the round of pool. It’s as if the deep quality of the team speaks no matter who the coach is.
Tottenham Hotspur – RB Leipzig (Wednesday, 9 p.m.)
It would be nice if Leipzig wins because … Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann is both a fool and a symbol. Bad because his teams attack like beatniks, in flip flops, in all weathers and on all terrains, whatever the balance of power, and too bad if striker Timo Werner (supposedly the star) is what the English commonly called a “rabbit killer”, unable to score against strong teams. A symbol because German football has the wind in its back, embodying a kind of daring modernity that flourished until Paris-SG (Thomas Tuchel, ex from Dortmund) and Liverpool (Jürgen Klopp, ex from Dortmund too). This winter, Nagelsmann admitted to having been approached by Real Madrid… two years ago. To succeed Zinedine Zidane. At 32 years old. It’s very simple: at its best (or worst), Leipzig seems to be playing to play, forgetting to make it happen on the scoreboard as if by distraction. “It’s starting to be enough”, thundered Nagelsmann after a 2-2 victory in Lyon in December when his team should have won 5-0. In the meantime: it’s funny.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Portuguese coach José Mourinho before the match against Aston Villa in Birmingham on February 16. Photo Justin Tallis. AFP
Except that Tottenham will qualify because … The last finalists in the Champions League are indestructible and there is a vague feeling that they did not finish their work, which consisted last spring of leaving the formations (Ajax, Manchester City) much better armed. Hugo Lloris is back for these knockout stages, it’s good and it’s time to remember that the captain of the world champions had been the best player of his formation in the Champions League last season, the striker Harry Kane (injured last year) having the stature of the one who will permanently mark the competition. Trained by Mauro Pochettino yesterday or by José Mourinho today, we feel the Spurs harder, more winning than their opponents in these eighths. Mourinho knows the Champions League like the mouse behind a Swiss cheese. Leipzig has time. Not the Soft. If we talk about football, it is clear that Tottenham will suffer. But if we talk about sport, that is to say mental, we bet on them.