Sporting Debuts- The Best and Worst

Tom Hardwick, Rory Ewart, Josh Gregory and Rebecca Johnson look at some of the most impressive, disastrous and strange sporting debuts.

Tom Hardwick
15th October 2018
Sergio Aguero made a huge impact on his debut for Manchester City. Image- Flickr

Eric ‘The Eel’ Moussambani- Rory Ewart

For most Olympic athletes; years of training, hyped up expectation and the pressure of the world watching you bring the typical ‘pre-match’ nerves to a whole new level. For Eric Moussambani however, he had the small problem of competing in the 100m freestyle, having never swum in an Olympic swimming pool before. As remarkable as this may sound, given the contexts of Moussambani’s homeland, Equatorial Guinea, it is unsurprising. Situated on the west coast of Africa, the majority of residents there live in poverty, with infant mortality sitting at a grim 20% currently. Competitive swimming, therefore, is of limited relevance, but this did not deter plucky Eric.

On the morning of 19 September 2000 in Sydney, Australia, Moussambani arrived at the aquatics centre with no coach or swimming trunks (thankfully these were eventually supplied). Originally, there were two other athletes competing in the same race, however, this was quickly dashed as both were disqualified with false starts, leaving Eric all of sudden to race on his own. Eric went on to complete the race in a farcical one minute 52 seconds, to put that into context, the next slowest time was over 50 seconds faster than this. Result aside; Eric became an instant hit with the Australian fans, receiving a standing ovation as he completed his final length in a national record time.

As debuts go, Moussambani’s is up there with some of worst, however, looking at the bigger picture, his legacy lives on to this day. Since competing, ‘the eel’ has been promoting swimming in his home country. Thanks to his efforts, Equatorial Guinea now boasts two 50m swimming pools, something that simply didn’t exist beforehand, and Eric himself now coaches the national swimming team.

Sergio Aguero- Josh Gregory

[pullquote]Aguero capped a perfect debut performance by firing in a 25-yard screamer, wrapping up the game in stunning fashion.[/pullquote]

In terms of starting how you mean to go on, you need look no further than Sergio Aguero’s competitive debut for Manchester City.

Aguero joined up with the squad just 10 days before City opened their Premier League campaign against Swansea; however concerns for match fitness, as well as strong competition for a place in the starting line-up meant Sergio got his first glimpse of English football from the bench of the Etihad.

After a stale, goalless first half, the home crowd was itching to see their record signing make his first appearance for the club. On the 60th minute mark, moments after Edin Dzeko put the Blues ahead, Kun made his bow; and it didn’t take long for him to make his mark.

Having spent just 8 minutes on the pitch, Sergio wasted no time scoring with a simple tap in at the back post from a Micah Richards cross. Fans were barely back in their seats before he was at it again, this time flicking the ball over the onrushing Swansea keeper before cutting it back for David Silva to finish. Aguero capped a perfect debut performance by firing in a 25-yard screamer, wrapping up the game in stunning fashion.

Aguero went on to score 30 goals for city that season, the last of them being THAT goal against QPR, sealing City’s first top flight title win in 44 years, instantly securing his club legend status among the Man City faithful and announcing himself as one of the most prolific strikers the league has ever seen. Cue you sign Phil Jones, we sign Kun Aguero chant.

Jonathan Woodgate- Tom Hardwick

Jonathan Woodgate endured a somewhat unfortunate career, with his considerable promise being curtailed by constant battles with injury. His debut for Real Madrid, which should have been a chance to announce himself at one of the biggest football teams in the world, was instead a horror show that encapsulated the misfortune that plagued his career.

Woodgate moved to Madrid from Newcastle for a fee of £13.4 million, but his injury issues meant that he had to wait over a year to make his debut. When the chance came to prove that the wait for his debut had been worthwhile, Woodgate instead succeeded in scoring an own goal before the end of the first half. He attempted to head away a shot from Joesba Exteberria, but his header only diverted the ball beyond the helpless Iker Casillas.

His misery was compounded when, having received a yellow card in the first half, Woodgate was judged to have unfairly used his arm to block Exteberria. Despite the incredulous protests of his teammates, Woodgate was given his second yellow card, capping what had been a humiliating first game for his new club. Woodgate was unable to improve his standing after this game, and he was soon deemed surplus to requirements before being sold to Middlesbrough. Ultimately, it was this disastrous debut that remains the defining moment of his brief spell in Spain, with an own goal and a red card in sixty-six minutes exemplifying just how luckless Woodgate was throughout his injury-ridden career.

Alistair Cook- Rebecca Johnson

Arguably one of the greats to play the game, Alastair Cook recently finished his test cricket career on a high, scoring 71 in his first innings and 147 in the second innings against India. However, Cookie was always going to end on a high after an extraordinary debut for England. Before his extraordinary debut in senior test cricket, Cook was the U19 England team captain and a bright spark in youth cricket. His senior debut for England came when he was 21 after being called up for the tour of India. Cookie’s debut just indicates how special a player he was destined to be, and ultimately became.

In his first ever innings of senior test cricket, Cook hit an impressive 60 before being bowled out. His second innings was even more extraordinary, as he smashed a gigantic 104 not out. This made Cook the sixteenth Englishman to score a ton on their test debut. In addition to Cook’s fantastic debut, what’s even more brilliant is how he finished the game- he is the fifth batsman to ever score 100 on both his test debut and farewell matches. It’s fair to say that Cookie’s remarkable debut was just the beginning of a fantastic test cricket career.


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