Archive for ‘sports’


New rules, new dodges: Chinese football clubs are struggling with new curbs on foreign players | The Economist

MUCH grumbling accompanied the start on March 4th of this year’s season of the Chinese Super League (CSL), the uppermost tier of professional football in China. Managers of its 16 clubs have been gnashing their teeth at a change of rules which was suddenly announced just a few weeks before the first matches. Teams are now allowed to field a maximum of three foreigners.The clubs would have preferred more notice. Many of them have only just acquired even more foreign players. All now have at least four, the previous maximum per side in any CSL game. (One of them, a Brazilian called Oscar, is pictured in a CSL match—he was transferred to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea, an English club, for £60m, or about $75m, in December.)

Last year China spent more than $450m on footballers, the fifth-largest such outlay by any country.

But all this money has not improved the dismal state of Chinese football. The men’s national team ranks 82nd in the world. In October an embarrassing 1-0 defeat to war-torn Syria triggered protests by hundreds of fans in the city of Xi’an where the match was played. Local media say the Chinese Football Association announced its new rules on orders “from above”. They impose a levy on big transfers and demand that one-sixth of clubs’ spending must be on youth training.

Officials have also been trying to curb the buying of stakes in foreign clubs—Chinese investors shelled out about $2bn on them last year. The government says this is part of an economy-wide clampdown on currency outflows. But it also wants to make the point that foreign talent won’t necessarily help China’s. The government has recently scuppered several investment deals. A Chinese consortium bought AC Milan, an Italian club, for $825m in August, but has been unable to move money out of China to complete the purchase.

Rather than simply moaning about the new rules, clubs have been devising ways of dodging them. Teams must now field at least one Chinese player under 23 each week. Some coaches simply replace them early in the game with older hands.

Source: New rules, new dodges: Chinese football clubs are struggling with new curbs on foreign players | The Economist


Wayne Rooney: Man Utd captain’s agent in China to discuss potential move – BBC Sport

Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford is in China to see if he can negotiate a deal for the forward to leave Manchester United.

There are no guarantees of success and it is thought a deal remains highly unlikely before the Chinese transfer window closes on 28 February.

But the fact Stretford has travelled to China is a clear indication United boss Jose Mourinho would let Rooney, 31, go.

And if he does not leave this month it seems certain he will go in the summer.Rooney has fallen down the pecking order at United under Mourinho.

Rooney should stay – Phil Neville

Mourinho not ruling out Rooney exit

Would a China move work for Rooney?

The England captain has been made aware of interest in him from the Chinese Super League for some time, although it is not known which clubs Stretford has spoken to.

Beijing Guoan, believed to be the favourite team of Chinese President Xi, had been seen as one of the favourites to sign Rooney but sources close to the club have told BBC Sport they are not interested in signing him.

Because of new restrictions on overseas players, Jiangsu Suning and Tianjin Quanjian look like the most likely remaining options.

However, the England captain’s representatives have already spoken to Tianjin Quanjian and their coach, Fabio Cannavaro, said talks did not progress.

On Tuesday, Mourinho said he did not know whether Rooney, who has only just returned to training after a hamstring injury, would still be at Old Trafford in a week’s time.

It is not known whether this latest development will affect Rooney’s chances of being involved in Sunday’s EFL Cup final against Southampton.

They had appeared to have increased after Henrikh Mkhitaryan limped out of Wednesday’s 1-0 Europa League win against Saint-Etienne.

If Rooney follows former team-mate Carlos Tevez to the Chinese Super League, it would almost certainly cost him any chance of making the seven appearances he needs to become England’s most capped player.

Rooney’s preference is understood to be to remain with United for the rest of his contract, which expires in 2019, but a lack of time on the pitch is forcing him to consider alternatives.

Rooney is United’s record goalscorer and has won five Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy since joining them as an 18-year-old for £27m from Everton in 2004.

The forward, who has started only three games since 17 December, has said he would not play for an English club other than United or Everton.

The big difference between Chinese Super League clubs’ transfer process and their Premier League counterparts is the preparation.

English top-flight clubs have extensive scouting departments with links around the world. They identify players months in advance, watch many live games and base their decision on an extensive process._94799249_oscar_getty


Oscar moved to Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a £60m deal in December and scored on his debut for his new club

In CSL, the process is more agent-led. Most of the clubs are approached with recommendations for a position they are recruiting in, rather than seeking out players themselves.

Foreign players coming in on large fees are commanding three-, four-, five-year deals, even at the end of their career. They have the upper hand in negotiations and wouldn’t leave European football without long-term financial guarantees.

However, the Chinese government is concerned about capital leaving the country and it is difficult for these big transactions to exist while they are trying to crack down in other areas.

I think we will see a levelling out in fees. The £15m-£20m transfers will continue to happen for the next few years, but maybe we won’t see the likes of the £60m deal that brought Oscar to China.

Source: Wayne Rooney: Man Utd captain’s agent in China to discuss potential move – BBC Sport


Soccer Dreams in China’s Rust Belt – China Real Time Report – WSJ

China’s smog-choked northern province of Hebei is no stranger to lofty goals. For one thing, it has to shut down two-thirds of its steel factories by 2020.

Here comes another: becoming a provincial powerhouse in soccer. Perhaps understandably, it has given itself a few decades to do it.

The “Hebei Province’s Soccer Medium-to-Long Term Development Plan (2016-2050)” unveiled Thursday sets out plans for 1,000 “soccer campuses,” 3,000 amateur leagues and at least one club in the Chinese Super League, the country’s highest tier of professional soccer.

Such plans to pursue the “beautiful game,” as soccer is often called, are quite the departure for China. The world’s second-largest economy used to nurture its sport stars the Soviet way, by picking and grooming its talent from an early age. It still harvests most of its medals using this model. But in soccer, Beijing is trying a looser model perfected in the West: shopping for world-class players world-wide and hoping to spot homegrown talent via a grassroots network of soccer programs in local schools.

“By 2050, we must contribute to China’s bid to host the World Cup,” the Hebei Provincial Sports Bureau said.

At media conferences, officials spoke wistfully of “a soccer tourism route” and “a garden of sports,” a somewhat jarring image of Hebei, which currently produces more than twice the annual steel volume of all U.S. mills combined and is home to China’s smoggiest cities.

In its quest to become a leading purveyor of football talent, Hebei already faces some domestic competition. Fujian province, in China’s south, last month said it also has such plans. Earlier this month, so did the aluminum-producing province of Gansu, known more for its deserts than its dazzling dribbles.

More provinces are likely to follow. The central government last year put out a blueprint detailing bigger, broader goals to mint “two to three first-class soccer teams in Asia, that are internationally known.”

President Xi Jinping has a soft spot for the sport, and in 2011 made known his desire for China to both qualify for and host a World Cup tournament and ultimately to win one.

This has proven difficult. Back-to-back losses last fall all but derailed China’s dream of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Profligate spending to attract foreign talent led the General Administration of Sport last month to criticize Chinese teams for “burning money” on astronomical recruitment fees and wages, while “neglecting the development of homegrown players.”

Still, Hebei might have an edge. The province, where Mr. Xi spent some time early in his career as a county-level Communist Party official, won government support in a successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite having only a set of somewhat stumpy mountains with sporadic snow.

Some of the province’s residents aren’t exactly hopeful. “The economy is finished,” one of them wrote on the popular microblogging platform Weibo. “And you still have time to focus on soccer?”

Source: Soccer Dreams in China’s Rust Belt – China Real Time Report – WSJ


‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ

For two days in row, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui clambered out of the Olympic pool in Rio clueless about her breakthrough performances: breaking personal records and clinching a bronze medal.

Each time a poolside reporter had to break the news to the bubbly 20-year-old, whose vivacious epiphanies on live television have broken the Chinese internet.“I was so fast! I’m really pleased!” Ms. Fu exclaimed Monday after learning that she swam the 100-meter backstroke semifinal in 58.95 seconds, a new personal best. “I’ve already… expended my primordial powers!”

After Tuesday’s final, when told that she trailed the silver medalist by just 0.01 second, Ms. Fu replied, “Maybe it’s because my arms are too short.”

Her gleeful candor made her an overnight online sensation. Fans feted her as “Primordial Girl” in online memes and viral videos spoofing her exuberant expressions. Her Weibo microblog following swelled more than sixfold to 3.8 million users.

China has a new sports star, and never mind that she didn’t finish first. In a country long obsessed with winning gold medals, Ms. Fu’s newfound fame seemed to signal shifting social perceptions about the meaning of sport.

“‘Primordial Girl’ and the netizens who appreciate her have taught all of us a lesson: sport is about the struggle and, especially, enjoyment, but most definitely not about spinning gold,” the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, said in a Tuesday commentary.

“The warm support from netizens,” according to the newspaper, “shows that public attitudes toward competitive sport and the Olympics have sublimated to a higher level.

”Ms. Fu’s fans, for their part, credited her “authentic” demeanor, which contrasted with the mild mien typical of Chinese Olympians. “We love your happy optimism and strong personality,” a Weibo user wrote on Ms. Fu’s microblog. “That’s what makes a true athlete.

”Winning used to be everything for China’s Olympians, virtually all of whom came through a grueling state-run sports regime that fetishized success. Athletes who strike gold can expect fame and fortune, while those who disappoint often suffer neglect or even ignominy.

Liu Xiang, a hurdler who became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold in athletics at the 2004 Athens Games, saw public adulation turn into anguish and anger at the Beijing Games four years later, when an injury forced him to withdraw just before running his first race.E

China nonetheless crowned a grandly staged Beijing Olympics by topping the gold-medal tally for the first time, with 51 in all. Their gold haul dropped to a second-place 38 at the 2012 Games in London, and some Chinese pundits expect a further slip in Rio, to between 30 and 36.

State media, for its part, has tried to manage public expectations about China’s ebbing gold rush.

“As we mature in mentality, learn how to appreciate competition, and become able to calmly applaud our rivals, we’d showcase the confidence and tolerance of a great country,” state broadcaster China Central Television said Sunday in a Weibo post after a goldless first day.

“We still need our first gold medal to boost morale, but what we really need is to challenge ourselves, surpass ourselves,” CCTV said. By Tuesday Chinese athletes had racked up eight golds, alongside three silvers and six bronzes.The message seems to be filtering through, with many Chinese fans appearing more tolerant of athletes who underperformed.

Among the beneficiaries was Ning Zetao, a swimmer who won widespread popularity at last year’s world championships with his boyish good looks—and a 100-meter freestyle gold.

After crashing out of the same event in Rio at the semifinal stage on Tuesday, the 23-year-old appeared philosophical about his failure.

“I’ve done my best,” he told a CCTV reporter.

His comments found a receptive audience among his Weibo fandom. “This is Ning Zetao’s first time participating in the Olympics,” one user wrote. “Don’t give him too much pressure!”

Source: ‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ


UPDATE 4-Olympics-India returns to the Games as IOC lifts ban | Reuters

India has returned to the Olympic fold after the IOC lifted a ban on the country’s Olympic association on Tuesday, and its athletes will now be able to march behind the Indian flag at the closing ceremony of the Sochi Winter Games.

Deutsch: Logo des IOC

The country’s athletes have been competing in Russia under the Olympic flag due to the suspension, imposed after it held a 2012 Indian Olympic Association (IOA) election in which a corruption-tainted official was voted in as secretary general.

“It is the first time in Olympic history that a suspension of a National Olympic Committee has been lifted during the Games,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told reporters.

He said the IOC had discussed the matter early on Tuesday and ruled that elections held on Sunday had fulfilled all criteria for the country’s immediate reinstatement.

“We observed the general assembly (on Sunday). We are happy with the changes,” Adams said, adding the IOC’s prerequisite to ban any tainted officials from elections had been fully met.

On Sunday, the IOA voted in a new set of officials with World Squash Federation chief N. Ramachandran elected president, paving the way for the Olympic reinstatement of the world’s second most populous nation.

All India Tennis Association chief Anil Khanna became treasurer in polls which marked the exit of corruption-tainted Abhay Singh Chautala and Lalit Bhanot from the IOA.

via UPDATE 4-Olympics-India returns to the Games as IOC lifts ban | Reuters.

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Arsenal kick Manchester United off top spot as No 1 team for fans in China | South China Morning Post

Arsenal has edged out Manchester United as China’s favourite football club, according to a recent survey.


The majority of the 15,586 respondents chose the London-based Gunners as their favourite club team and Germany as their preferred national team.

Coventry University’s Centre for the International Business of Sport conducted the survey between September and November on Weibo.

Head of the centre Professor Simon Chadwick said, “Arsenal was a surprise. Although given that Chinese fans like the German national team, the fact that Ozil, Podolski and Mertesacker play for Arsenal make the result rather less surprising.”

The Gunners racked up 3,785 votes, compared with Man United’s 3,210. AC Milan came third with 2,204 votes, followed by Real Madrid (1,959) and Barcelona (1,930).

Arsenal is currently sitting at the top of the English Premier League standings.

via Arsenal kick Manchester United off top spot as No 1 team for fans in China | South China Morning Post.

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500-year-old Chinese painting hints at football’s female origins –

So many of our best winter-flowering shrubs came to the UK from China. I have been following their route in reverse, thanks to the recent exhibition on Chinese painting at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This remarkable show was so popular that it became difficult to see its long scrolls under glass among the queues of so many keen spectators. On my visit, I noted the paintings which related to gardens and flowers and vowed to study them more closely with the help of the expert catalogue. The show has now ended but the catalogue, edited by Hongxing Zhang, lives on in bookshops and is an essential addition to keen gardeners’ libraries. It has increased my initial pleasure.

Court Ladies in the Inner Palace (detail), circa. 1465-1509, by Du Jin

Which will surprise readers of the Weekend FT more, the discovery that Chinese court ladies played football in the garden in the 15th century, or the discovery that a Mr Tang was painted in that same era, reclining in a rattan garden chair beneath a tree and having a “pure dream”?

I hope the ladies are more unexpected. Mr Tang is not our respected David, House & Home’s agony uncle, taking a nap. He is Tang Yin who ranked as the top scholar in his province’s exams but came to grief when he sat the national exams in Beijing. He was alleged to have given a bung to the senior examiner’s assistant in order to see the papers in advance. There was nothing left for him but to become a Buddhist, paint and write poetry. He is shown in his chair beneath the branches of a Paulownia tree, his eyes closed. “The Paulownia shadows cover the purple moss”, the accompanying poem by Tang says. “The gentleman is at leisure, feeling an intoxicated sleep, For this lifetime, he has already renounced thoughts of rank and fame, The pure sleep should not have dreams of grandeur.” There is no sign that he has taken to advising correspondents on manners and etiquette. In my garden I have two Paulownias, hanging on to life despite the cold winter of 2013. In warmer counties like Hampshire these quick-growing trees sometimes even flower. Perhaps we should set a deckchair beneath them and snooze, remembering VAT inspections of the past.

The footballing ladies are truly surprising. One of them has a dainty foot extended and a big round ball in the air above it. Soccer is an English invention, but if you thought that the English male was the first person to put foot to an inflated ball, you are hundreds of years out of date. Chinese palace ladies were already practising their passing inside the bamboo fence. The ball was lined with an animal bladder and inflated from outside. What about the problem of bound-up feet? Foot-binding was widely imposed on classy women in the Ming period. These 15th-century footballers are moving freely, probably because the painting, as so often, is evoking a much earlier era. Their game was called cuju. If it goes back another 800 years to the Tang era, female footie is inarguably a Chinese invention. Some scholars even claim examples of it in the remote sixth century BC.

via 500-year-old Chinese painting hints at football’s female origins –

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Football: Keepy uppy | The Economist

ALTHOUGH they excel at gymnastics and table tennis, the sport many Chinese really want to win at is football. And yet, mired in match-fixing scandals and with little infrastructure to encourage schoolchildren, football has struggled. In November, though, Guangzhou Evergrande beat FC Seoul to become the first Chinese team to win the Asian Champions League. Could its success have a broader impact?

The team, previously known as Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, had been relegated to the second division because of match-fixing before it was acquired in 2010 by the Evergrande Real Estate Group. Since then, it has won the Super League, China’s equivalent of England’s Premier League, three times. On December 7th it narrowly failed to clinch the “treble”, beaten in the final of the Chinese FA Cup. A revolutionary slogan (“only socialism can save China”) has been reworked on the internet to celebrate the team’s success: “only real estate can save China”.

The team’s route to the top would be familiar to English fans. Evergrande, headed by Xu Jiayin, a billionaire member of the Communist Party, paid $15m for the club. In 2012, it hired Marcello Lippi, a World Cup-winning Italian coach, for $16m a year. The club also procured three South American stars and many Chinese national-team members. Rowan Simons, chairman of China ClubFootball, which promotes the game, says this is just the start of such big spending.

Evergrande’s model may not boost the sport at lower levels, however. Relatively few young people play organised football because of lack of facilities and encouragement. Parents prefer academic success to wasting time on sport.

The recent visit of Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, brought some assistance. The English Premier League agreed to support a coaching programme that aims to reach more than 1.2m Chinese students by 2016. The initiatives are a good start, says Mr Simons, but a stricter line on match-fixing and more grassroots support will be needed before Chinese football can become world class.

via Football: Keepy uppy | The Economist.

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Big Money Behind Chinese Soccer Strategy – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If money can buy success in the world of sport, then in China, it matters greatly to whom it belongs.

As China stands on the cusp of its first taste of international soccer success, with Guangzhou Evergrande taking on FC Seoul in the final of the Asian Champions League on Saturday night, it’s clear that without huge sums of money, this may never have been possible. And not just any money, but real estate money.

As preparations took place outside Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou’s business district on Saturday morning, the clout and wealth of the local team’s owner, Evergrande Real Estate Group, was plain to see. Rows of trucks bearing the name “Evergrande Music” lined up outside the stadium in preparation for huge post-match bash. With a two-goal advantage after a 2-2 draw in Seoul last month (away goals count for more), Evergrande are the favorites to win Saturday night’s match.

Guangzhou-based Evergrande is owned by Xu Jiayin, who according to the latest Hurun Report rich list has a net worth of $7.7 billion. He also has political clout, as a member of the country’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

He bought the disgraced Guangzhou Pharmaceutical club in 2010 for 100 million yuan ($16.4 million), after the team was relegated over a match-fixing scandal dating back to 2006. After that, he signed China’s national team captain Zheng Zhi, as well as three players from South America.

“There will be no chance for a state-owned company to compete against private real estate money,” said sports columnist Yan Qiang.

China’s real estate developers may not necessarily be the biggest or most profitable companies in the country, especially compared to state-owned behemoths. But the industry is a source of some of the more colorful and freewheeling businesspeople — a number of whom are willing to take risks on sports teams for the prestige they bring.

In the 2013 Chinese Super League season, state-backed Shandong Luneng Taishan placed second but lagged far behind Evergrande in points. Beijing Guoan, backed by state-owned conglomerate Citic Group, placed third. Real estate money came into play for Guizhou Renhe which ranked fourth. The team received large sums of money from developer Renhe Commercial Holdings Co. Ltd. in 2010, after the team, which was then based in Shaanxi province, flirted with relegation to the second division.

Other teams in the Super League propped up by real estate interests include Guangzhou R&F, which finished 6th this year and Hangzhou Greentown, which finished 12th.

via Big Money Behind Chinese Soccer Strategy – China Real Time Report – WSJ.


Divide Uttar Pradesh into four states, Mayawati says

As we said in our post yesterday –, India now has double the states it started with after independence. And the more sub-divisions are approved, it seems that more ethnic/language groups want their own state.  Where will it all end?

Times of India: “The Bahujan Samaj Party demanded splitting of Uttar Pradesh into four smaller states on Wednesday, a day after the Congress Working Committee (CWC) urged the government to form a separate state of Telangana.

“We have always supported smaller states,” BSP chief Mayawati said here at a press conference.

She said Uttar Pradesh should be divided into four smaller states — Purvanchal, Bundelkhand, Awadh Pradesh and Pashchim Pradesh.

English: Map of UP subregions. It has been bui...

English: Map of UP subregions. It has been built on the public domain work “Uttar Pradesh locator map.svg” in Wikipedia. This work is also public domain. Free for any and all use without any restrictions whatsoever. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“When this population is divided between four states, development will increase,” she said.

“Ministers in central government who hail from Uttar Pradesh should build pressure on the central government for formation of these states,” she added.”

via Divide Uttar Pradesh into four states, Mayawati says – The Times of India.

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