Five sports men and women who were heroes beyond sports in 2017.
Sportsmen and women are oftentimes judged solely on their impact on the pitch, court or wherever their genre of sports take place but these are five special heroes of the year in sports.
Recognition sportsmen with just sporting success is far from fair considering the good works some do outside the game. From activism to donations to several other acts, sportsmen and women occupy a unique position in the society that gives them the opportunity to affect lives in positive ways.
This Pulse List 2017 article highlights five of these special heroes of the year.
1. Colin Kaepernick
Colin Kaepernick was just a regular American football player in the NFL before he decided to embark on a journey that has put him in the history book.
As a way to protest the racial injustice and police brutality on African Americans, Kaepernick in 2016 refused to stand for the United States National anthem when it plays before the start of the games.
The effect of his action is still being felt in American sports which have been jolted by the national reactions and conversation it has brought. More athletes have taken up the act of not kneeling for the national anthem which has brought about a divisive conservation. Even US President Donald Trump have often criticised Kaepernick and the other athletes who have followed his lead.
Even more heroic for Kaepernick it is apparent that he has lost his job because of his act. Since opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers to become a free agent, the quarterback has not been hired and he has filed a grievance against the NFL and its owner, accusing them of colluding to not hire him.
There is nothing braver than giving up your means of livelihood for a cause you stand for and it was for this that he was given the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
2. Jermain Defoe
Premier League star Jermain Defoe warmed the hearts of many in 2017 with his friendship with Bradley Lowery, a six-year-old who lost his brave battle with childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
Bradley touched the hearts of many with his brave fight against a rare form of cancer and met Defoe during his time as a mascot for Sunderland.
From there on the two struck a friendship which saw Defoe take him to all of his away games.
In a June 2017 tribute to the Bradley, the striker said his favourite part of playing for Sunderland was walking onto the pitch with the brave youngster.
Bradley died in July 2017 and his friendship with Defoe is one of our special heroic moments of the year.
3. Francis Kone
While the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Olivier Giroud and Zinedine Zidane were getting accolades due to their on-pitch prowesses, Togolese striker Francis Kone got a special award at the 2017 FIFA Best Awards.
Kone was given a Fair Play Award at the ceremony on Monday night for saving the life of another player in a Czech league game.
In a league game between Bohemians 1905 Prague and Slovacko in February 2017, Bohemians goalkeeper Martin Berkovec collided with his teammate, defender Daniel Krch and laid on the floor motionless afterwards.
Kone was first to rush to attend to Berkovec and used his fingers to move the goalkeeper’s tongue and stopped him from suffocating.
His quick thinking saved the life of the goalkeeper, an act which has made him a special hero in sports this year.
Kone is a special person, in his football career Berkovec is the fourth player he had saved on the pitch.
What a man.
4. Odion Ighalo
While playing the game they love, most footballers amass wealth enough to last them a lifetime. While some choose to use their wealth for personal luxury, some others chose to affect lives positively with it.
Having grown up in the slum Ajegunle suburb of Lagos, Odion Ighalo knowns what life in squalor means. In 2017 he finally launched his orphanage in Lagos.
The Ighalo Orphanage Home' which is located at Kudeyindu Estate in Ijegun, Lagos finally launched hi December 2017.
5. Chapecoense Real
The football world was in 2016 thrown in mourning when a plane carrying almost the entire team of Brazilian club Chapecoense Real side crashed and killed 71 people.
Fifty players, coaches and staff from Chapecoense Real were among 71 dead leaving a club on a fairytale rise on the verge of extinction.
Chapecoense, however, picked up the pieces and even refused relegation immunity to compete in the league.
Almost a year after the tragic plane crash, Chapecoense warmed hearts again with the video of their dressing celebration after avoiding relegation in the Brazilian championship.
Only special heroes make that type of comeback.