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SportsTech Leaders’ Favorite Sports Moments

In a year like 2020, it’s important to reflect on the good. Luckily for us, we work in sports and there is certainly a lot of good in this industry. So much so, there are moments we can’t forget and ones we choose to relive again and again.

We’ve had a great time chatting with industry leaders in the SportsTech space on our podcast this year and we recorded our 100th episode while doing so. This season, we shifted from asking our guests to share their go-to productivity hacks to instead having them describe a memory that may be the very reason they are in the industry in the first place — their favorite sports moments.

It never gets old discussing the moments that gave us chills or had us screaming from the top of our lungs. And with an international group of guests who also range in age and background, including professional athletes or experts who have worked in the industry for decades, we were sure to get a great mix of moments. Now it’s time to look at them all and share them with you as a parting gift for 2020.

Football

Source: SCROLL

It didn’t come as much of a surprise that the most common sport mentioned was the world’s favorite: football (soccer to some). 14 of the 22 guests we spoke with in 2020 mentioned a moment (or several) from the world of football as being ones they treasure. Within the football memories, there were a few mentioned more than once. And with such a large bunch, getting a variety of favorites was inevitable, so it only makes sense to list them in chronological order of moments from the beautiful game.

To kick things off, Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC) President, Sebastián Lancestremère took us back to the 1986 World Cup and the ‘Goal of the Century’. The moment came when football legend Diego Maradona (RIP) scored his second goal against England (not the one with his hand). The true magic in that match came when the Argentinian traveled 68 meters, dancing past a handful of English players to strike the ball past the goalkeeper and score one of the best goals in World Cup history — amazing.

We then jump to 1994, when Sweden finished third in the World Cup, which was hosted by the U.S. that year. Patrik Olsson, Co-founder and CEO at Spiideo, mentioned how big the moment was for the country and the dramatics of the penalty kick to close the match.

Veo Co-founder and CEO, Henrik Teisbæk’s moment brought us to 1999 and the Champions League FInals where Manchester United secured a last-minute and dramatic 2–1 win over Bayern Munich. Kinexon Co-founder and Managing Director, Maximillian Schmidt also mentioned the 1999 Champions League FInals match, though for him, being born and raised in Munich, the loss was brutal and one of the first times he remembers crying as a kid. So when the 2001 Champions League FInals victory over Valencia came, it was a hard-fought and redemptive win for Munich that was certainly worth celebrating.

Another ’99 favorite came from Fielding Jamieson, Strategy Director at the Global Sports Venture Studio. Her moment came from the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the USA’s 5–4 penalty shoot-out victory against China. Fielding said what made that moment special was watching the game with her family when she was just 10 years old and seeing those around her along with the general community watch and celebrate women’s sports, which inspires her still. Oh, and of course, the iconic celebration from Brandi Chastain after scoring the game-winning penalty strike.

One moment that was mentioned by two of our Italian guests that came on the podcast: World Football Summit (WFS) Director, Jan Alessie and Deltatre Head of Innovation, Pietro Marini, came in 2006. Yes — of course, it’s Italy’s World Cup win over France. A team win that overcame the madness that was a Zidane headbutt, Italy’s bad luck in the World Cup had finally ended. Pietro also mentioned Inter Milan’s 0–2 Champion’s League win over Bayern Munich in 2010 and being in Madrid to witness the victory first-hand, and in a year like 2020, Pietro probably isn’t alone in thinking back to an experience like that.

Reely CFO, Frank Bryan shared how his last minute decision to attend the CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals match between the USA and Mexico in 2011 turned out to be one of his favorite memories. In the Rose Bowl, which was packed with 95,000 fans (hard to imagine these days) where he guessed about 80,000 of them were Mexico fans, Frank was in enemy territory but still managed to have a blast. Watching the U.S. go up 2–0 in the first half he was riding a high before Mexico would go on to score four unanswered goals in the second half to win the match and set-off an electricity throughout the stadium of majority Mexico fans. A memory he will certainly never forget.

The Coaches’ Voice Co-Founder, David Sciama’s favorite football moment was Sergio Agüero’s late goal in the 93rd minute which gave Manchester City a 3–2 win over QPR and secured the 2012 Premier League title for Man City for the first time in 44 years — all in one of the most dramatic showings ever. Some may try, but this one just can’t be forgotten.

2014 brings another World Cup memory from Andreas Kitzing, CEO and Founder at Sponsoo. This time it’s the semi-finals game between Germany and Brazil, which took place in Brazil of course. Germany’s 7–1 beatdown is one of the largest World Cup victories of all time which was surely a hard pill to swallow for the hosts, but knowing that Germany went on to win the final should be a nice buffer, right? When Andreas needs a little extra motivation, he reviews the best moments from the match and it never gets old.

Another repeated favorite was the 2013–14 Champions League final match between Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in the first final in history that both teams were from the same city. Both Jan Alessie and Julien Piwowar from Real Madrid Next mentioned the match as a favorite and it’s not hard to imagine why. Sergio Ramos’ 93rd-minute header would force the match to extra time where Real Madrid would score three unanswered goals to take the 4–1 victory and the title.

Getting closer to the present, Gudjon Gudjonsson, CEO at OZ Sports, reflected on the 2016 European Championship and the shock felt across the world after Iceland beat England, 2–1. The small country proved itself on the international stage and earned much buzz around the rise of football in Iceland.

Being French, Creative Bot (now Drop) Co-Founder and CEO, Benjamin Benichou’s favorite moment came recently when France won the 2018 World Cup in a 4–2 win over Croatia. Benjamin said the experience was particularly unique because he was living in Los Angeles at the time, so he watched the team’s journey along the local French community at different locations throughout the city.

American Football

Source: ROB CARR/GETTY IMAGES

The other sport mentioned most was also football, but this time it was of the American variety. Four of our guests spoke about a gridiron moment they cherish and within the sport, the moments and games were a mix of college, professional and personal experiences.

First, and probably most unique, was former NFL player and Beyond the Game Network Founder, Andre Fluellen’s personal experience from the last game he ever played in the league. Andre’s final year was interesting indeed, starting 2015 not being on any team but hoping to play with the Detroit Lions as they were set to play three regular-season games at Wembley Stadium in London that season. The hope was one that Andre wrote down specifically, “I want to play with the Lions and I want to play in London”. After a short stint with the Buffalo Bills (who were also headed to London that season), Andre and his wife tuned-in to the Lions vs. the Seattle Seahawks game and saw a Lions player go down with an injury. In that moment, his wife predicted the future and told him to start packing because she knew they’d call. Sure enough, a call from the Lions head coach came moments later where he invited him to join the squad and to make sure to bring his passport because they were headed to London the following week to play the Kansas City Chiefs. The game would be his final pro experience, but it was one he had written down in hopes of getting and he got to see it to fruition — ending his career exactly how he wanted to. This is one memory that is definitely worth taking another listen to so you can hear the emotion behind his recount of this experience.

Kinexon’s Maximilian Schmidt’s second of two moments he shared was Super Bowl XLIX and the back-and-forth, exciting game in which the Seattle Seahawks were expected to win. In a shocking twist of events, Seattle would ultimately fall to Tom Brady’s New England Patriots, 28–24 and it was all due to an interception in the end zone by Patriot cornerback Malcolm Butler with just 20 seconds left on the clock. A moment that no one saw coming and left all jaws on the floor and one Maximillian says he recalls often.

Next, the 2011 Tostitos BCS National Championship Game was Matthew Gunnin’s most memorable. The Esports One CEO is an Auburn Tiger himself, so Auburn’s National TItle match-up with Oregan with a field goal winning end was one he will never forget, especially because he got to experience it with his dad in the stadium. A close second was another Auburn win, this time though it was the Kick Six play in the 2013 game against long time rival and defending National Champion, Alabama in which the teams were both ranked in the top-5. Gunnin got to share both experiences with his dad, the man that taught him all about football, and these days Gunnin teaches his dad about Esports. We love a family connection and a shared love of sports.

Last for the American Football mentions was from Techstars Sports Accelerator Managing Director, Jordan Fliegel. The Boston-native listed the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory in 2017 as one of his favorites where Bill Belichick led his team to come back from a 28–3 deficit earlier in the game and ultimately beat the Atlanta Falcons 34–28 in what was the largest comeback in Super Bowl history. Just another notch in the winning tally for Tom Brady and the Pats.

Variety Pack

Source: USA TODAY

While most of our guests had a favorite moment they shared that belonged to the sport of football (both kinds), there were still several other sports mentioned that created a distinct memory or moment in time for a lot of the SportsTech leaders we had on the show. From basketball to rugby and even a great advertisement, this mix of moments covers all the bases (pun intended).

Australian Rules Football

Sam Robertson, Professor of Sports Analytics at Victoria University and Techstars SportsTech Melbourne Accelerator partner, spoke about his experience working during the Australian Football League 2016 Grand Final in a stadium packed with 100,000 fans and getting to see a handful of young players then go on to be successful.

Baseball

For Wayne Kimmel, Managing Partner at SeventySix Capital, the 2009 World Series game between the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the New York Yankees takes the cake for him. Having been able to attend other big sporting events with his brother and his dad, this one was particularly special because it was an experience he shared with his son who had just turned six-years-old. Likely to be an experience that they both will remember fondly.

Basketball

Jordan Fliegel’s Boston roots wouldn’t let him avoid mentioning the Boston Celtics’ 24-point comeback and NBA Finals Championship victory in 2008 over the Los Angeles Lakers. Along with his New England sports memories, Jordan has gotten to work with Steph Curry from the Golden State Warriors (over on the other coast). So seeing Curry crowned as the unanimous MVP in 2016 was another great moment for him.

On the other hand, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2016 NBA Championship win was Reely’s Cullen Gallagher’s favorite moment. The dramatic comeback from a 3–1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors to take game seven and win their first championship title in franchise history was LeBron James’ gift to the city of Cleveland, one he had promised to give. Cullen told us he thinks about the game daily and re-watches the game at least once a month. As a Cleveland native, can you blame him?

Russia on the World Stage

Petr Zhukov from Indigo Capital Partners had a tough time narrowing his favorite sports memory to just one moment. For him, Russia’s performance and hosting in several sports was what he remembers well and with pride. Starting in 2008, which was a landmark sports year for Russia as the global economy was suffering greatly, Russia defeated long time rival Canada in Ice Hockey during the IIHF World Championships, 5–4. Shortly after, Russia defeated The Netherlands in football during the Euro quarter-finals producing what Petr says might be the single most successful month for Russia national teams in his lifetime. Fast forward to a decade later, Russia hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup which was an opportunity to showcase sports, friendship and kindness in which Petr said the event was incredibly organized and very well done, making it one he’ll always remember.

Sailing

Henrik Teisbæk’s other favorite sports moment comes from his competitive sailing background in which he won multiple medals and races. Standing on top of the podium, especially after coming back from a deficit are moments he’s unlikely to forget.

UFC

Matthew Gunnin also mentioned the wild 13-second ride that was the Connor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo UFC fight as being another favorite of his. McGregor quickly ended an 18-fight winning streak for Aldo that had lasted over a decade. It can all really flash right before your eyes, can’t it?

Water Polo

Milos Ribic, Director of Corporate Ventures at adidas, grew up playing water polo in Serbia and played in college in the U.S. So naturally, his favorite moment came from the sport. Watching the Serbian water polo team win gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics was his favorite sports memory. Being friends with several players on the team and seeing the win come after they had suffered several losses was understandably a great moment for him.

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Last, but certainly not least, is a unique mention on the show. Lennardt Hachmeister from Sport Technology Systems had the most recent favorite which happened to be an advertisement from Nike that came out in June of this year. With an inspirational message of “You Can’t Stop Us,” during the times of Corona, it definitely hits a nerve.

It’s all about the experience

Going through the moments that this group of leaders in SportsTech listed, there are a few things that are clear: The first being that lived experiences just can’t be replaced. There’s nothing quite like watching your favorite team win a championship right before your own eyes and the location of the moment was often mentioned with the same importance as the moment itself. Along with location, the people you are with while watching or experiencing these exciting and historical moments is also something that will clearly stick with you for a long time. Even if it’s huddling around a TV with family, or streaming a game on your mobile app while at the office, there is more to a sports moment that sticks with you than just the action on the court or field.

The sports world has faced unique challenges this year and it will be interesting to see the new favorite moments that come from 2020 considering the circumstances in which many sports were played. One thing’s for certain, no matter where they’re viewed, sports have an important role to play and next year is sure to have many more fantastic moments in store.

Happy holidays and see you in 2021!

Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of Berlin based SportsTechX — Data & insights about SportsTech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.

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Benjamin Penkert

Benjamin Penkert

Founder of @sportstechx. All about #sportstech and #startups.