Sport in 2019: Social media highlights Transylvanian cricketer, #PhiresideWithPhil, China rows

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Phil Mickelson has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram

From a Transylvanian cricketer to Phil Mickelson interviewing his mother and the Houston Rockets causing controversy in China, social media was packed with highlights throughout the year.

AFP Sport looks at some of the key moments of 2019:

Famous Florin

-- Romanian cricketer Pavel Florin shot to fame due to his unorthodox bowling technique during July's European Cricket League.

The video of the 40-year-old Transylvanian bodyguard has been watched more than 535,000 times on Twitter.

"Maybe someone says my bowling is not beautiful or not effective but I don't care, because I love cricket," he said after his style of a few gingerly-taken steps followed by gentle, optimistic lobs at batsmen became a hit.

Florin, who featured for Cluj Cricket Club during the competition, ended the year playing for Surrey Hills in Australia and registered more than 17,000 views of a video of him playing 'Down Under'.

Grandfathers Kane and LeBron

-- July also saw a flurry of athletes, teams and organisations posting images to Twitter and Instagram with FaceApp -- which aged the individuals who were photographed.

Tottenham ran an extensive thread which included a bearded Harry Kane, a wrinkle-faced Dele Alli and Son Heung-min with hints of white hair.

The NBA's LeBron James and Stephen Curry also posted photos of themselves a few decades older thanks to the application which have received more than 3.5 million likes on Instagram.

The Russian-made app was then investigated by security authorities in the EU for threats posed by the platform which might affect users' personal data.

Mischievous Mendy

-- France defender Benjamin Mendy's 1.3m Twitter followers were treated throughout the year to witty comments from the Manchester City left-back who was recovering from a knee injury.

Tweets included a joke saying he was working as Kylian Mbappe's agent and comparing Kevin De Bruyne's young son to City team-mate Oleksandr Zinchenko.

However, he was in hot water with coach Pep Guardiola in February after adding a Hong-Kong geo-location to an Instagram story when the left-back was in Paris.

"It will definitely not be okay if he is in Hong Kong," Guardiola said in February.

Later in the year, Mendy was the subject of further controversy after fellow City squad member Bernardo Silva was charged with misconduct after comparing the wing-back to a black cartoon character in a tweet.

Mickelson's fireplace stories

-- Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson gained more than 700,000 followers during his first 12 months on Instagram mainly down to his #PhiresideWithPhil video series.

Guests, normally alongside Mickelson in front of a fireplace, included actor Larry David, four-time Ryder Cup champion Padraig Harrington and Mickelson's parents on separate occasions.

His mother Mary was his first interviewee who recalled a story about the 49-year-old spending Thanksgiving as a teenager on a golf course which ended, as often is the case with the videos, with a reference to Mickelson's calf muscles.

Ozil criticises China

-- Former Germany midfielder Mesut Ozil expressed support for Uighurs in China and criticised Muslim countries for their failure to speak up for them in December to 47.5m combined followers on Twitter and Instagram.

The posts led Chinese state television to pull their broadcast of a game between Arsenal and Manchester City and Beijing accusing Ozil of being 'deceived by fake news'.

Rockets stir up Hong Kong controversy

-- China was involved in social media controversy earlier in the year as well after the Houston Rockets' general manager Daryl Morey ignited a firestorm tweeting an image captioned "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

Beijing denied it had demanded the NBA to fire Morey after local broadcasters had refused to air a pre-season friendlies between the Los Angeles Lakes and Brooklyn Nets in Shenzhen and Shanghai.

2020: TikTok's time?

-- Video-based platform TikTok has seen its user base more than double to 14.3 million since 2016 with a majority of them under 30 years old.

The NBA and MLB already have 'fans' on the most downloaded app for the first three months of 2019 which has users uploading videos of between three and 15 seconds.

Phil Mickelson has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane was one of numerous starts to be given the FaceApp 'aging' treament this year

A supporter of China's Muslim Uighur minority holds a placard of Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil during a demonstration