Top 10 sports stories of 2015

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As 2015 nears an end, Yahoo Singapore looks back at the year’s top sporting headlines.

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Singapore swimmers Joseph Schooling, Clement Lim Yong'En, Quah Zheng Wen and Lionel Khoo Chien Yin celebrate winning the gold medal for Swimming - Men’s 4 x 100 medley relay at the SEA Games 2015. Image: Team Singapore/ Facebook

10. LionsXII out of Malaysian Super League
Singapore’s LionsXII team won the hearts of local football fans by clinching its first ever Malaysian FA Cup title in May.

Barely months later, it was game over. On 25 November, the Singapore football club was unexpectedly booted out of the Malaysia Super League (MSL). The Football Association of Malaysia’s executive committee “unanimously voted against renewing the club’s stay in MSL”.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has since disbanded the LionsXII, with most of the players now signed to other teams in the S-League and elsewhere.

9. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao
It was billed as the fight of the century that captured the attention of even non-boxing fans.

The 2 May bout was the highest grossing pay-per-view cable event in history.

Despite the hype, critics deemed the 12-round fight disappointing. Pacquiao’s weak offensive was easily neutralised by Mayweather’s boring defensive tactics, analysts said.

Mayweather’s unbeaten record remained intact after he defeated Pacquiao by unanimous decision.

“I did my best. But my best wasn’t good enough,” Pacquiao said.

The Filipino can comfort himself with his paycheck of over US$100 million from the match.

8. Kobe Bryant retires

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Image: Kobe Bryant/ Facebook

On 29 November, basketball icon and LA Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant announced that he was retiring.

One of the most successful National Basketball Association players ever, the 37-year-old was the all-time leading scorer in the Lakers franchise history. Since his second year in the league, Bryant has been selected to start every All-Star Game.

“I played through the sweat and hurt not because challenge called me but because YOU called me,” Bryant wrote in a letter announcing his retirement. “I did everything for YOU because that’s what you do when someone makes you feel as alive as you’ve made me feel.”

According to Forbes, Bryant will retire with US$680 million in career earnings along with an estimated US$465 million in endorsements and salary. Talk about going out on a high.

7. Golden State Warriors beat Los Angeles Lakers to set NBA record
Stephen Curry – considered by many to be the best shooter in the game – scored 24 points as the Golden State Warriors set a new record for the longest unbeaten start to an NBA season on 24 November.

A sell-out crowd at Oakland’s Oracle Arena came to see the NBA champions make history. The outcome never looked in doubt from the outset against a Los Angeles Lakers side, which slumped to a 111-77 loss to the Warriors.

“To start the season 16-0 and do something that’s never been done before in NBA history, it’s pretty cool,” Curry told AFP.

The Warriors eventually extended their unbeaten run in an NBA season to 24 games before losing 108-95 to Milwaukee Bucks on 12 December.

6. FIFA corruption scandal
One is a French football legend. The other is the president of football’s governing body FIFA.

Both men made the news in October after they were suspended following charges of corruption. On 21 December, they were banned from all football activities for eight years by the governing body’s ethics committee.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was under probe for allegedly making payments of up to £1.35 million to UEFA boss and former Juventus midfielder Michel Platini in 2011.

Blatter was also accused of sanctioning a TV rights deal that helped former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner to profit from it by millions of dollars.

Both Blatter and Platini have said they believed their verbal contract was legal under Swiss law and have vowed to fight the ban.

5. Japan beats South Africa in the Rugby World Cup
It’s been called one of the biggest upsets in rugby history.

On 18 September, Japan shocked former world champions South Africa by winning 34-32 in a 2015 World Cup match in England with a late try that thrilled the rugby world.

The Brave Blossoms went on to beat Samoa and the United States in the tournament. Although they failed to quality for the quarter-finals, they won the hearts of millions of fans with their gutsy performance.

“It was amazing at the end, I think even Springbok fans were supporting us … maybe not,” said Japan’s coach Eddie Jones.

Japan had only ever won one match before the tournament, beating Zimbabwe in a 1991 World Cup match.

4. Death of Jonah Lomu
The New Zealander has been described as rugby’s first superstar, a 1.96-metre man mountain who inspired equal amounts of respect and fear from fans and opponents alike.

But on 18 November, the former All Blacks superstar died unexpectedly at the age of 40 years in Auckland from a heart attack linked to his kidney disease.

Tributes to Lomu came from around the world. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key was among those expressing condolence to Lomu’s family, reported The Guardian.

On 16 December, The Independent reported that The New Zealand Rugby Players Association has set up a fund for Lomu’s children after it emerged that he was mired in debt following a string of failed businesses and bad investments.

3. Singapore F1 track invaded

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Image: Formula 1/ Twitter

German racing driver Sebastian Vettel may have won the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

However, the world’s media attention was focused on an unlikely “participant”: British national Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia.

The 27-year-old electrician made headlines after he found his way onto the track at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on 20 September.

Dhokia, who was on holiday in Singapore, was charged for committing a rash act that “endangered the personal safety of the drivers”.

According to the BBC, TV footage showed Dhokia entering the track through a gap in the Marina Bay circuit’s fencing while the drivers sped by.

Vettel was reportedly the first racer to catch sight of Dhokia. He told reporters, “I saw him taking a picture. I hope it was a good one at least, I hope it was in focus.”

On 3 November, Dhokia was jailed six weeks for the offence.

2. 28th South East Asian (SEA) Games
The SEA Games returned to Singapore in June after 22 years with Team Singapore getting a record medal haul of 84 golds, 73 silvers and 102 bronzes.

Swimming contributed the most with 42 medals: 23 gold, 12 silver and seven bronze medals. National swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen won a medal in every event that they competed in. Schooling, who is currently studying at the University Of Texas At Austin, won nine gold medals and also broke nine Games records in the process.

But the event was not without controversy. During the closing ceremony at the National Stadium on 16 June, many ticket holders were shuffled from gate to gate and were not allowed to enter to watch the proceedings. Some of them were told that the stadium was full.

The Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee later offered a full refund to the ticket holders.

1. José Mourinho booted out of Chelsea
He may have guided Chelsea to the Premier League title in May this year.

But the club’s top executives were not living on past glory and they unexpectedly sacked José Mourinho on 17 December, following Chelsea’s nine league defeats in sixteen games.

“His three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells make him the most successful manager in our 110-year history,” the club said in a statement about the 52-year-old Portuguese manager.

“The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea.”

According to the Daily Mail, Mourinho is paid £250,000 per week up to a maximum of £10 million until he gets a new job.

While fans question the dismissal, Mourinho has indicated that he does not intend to take a sabbatical and is looking for another top management job, rumoured to be Manchester United.

Mourinho first left Chelsea in 2007 following a three-year stint as manager. He returned in 2013.

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