Weekly Wrap: Beckham, Pacquiao, Liverpool, Asian Cup & ATP

Pac-Man, Zou Shiming have early start in Macau

Manny Pacquiao takes on Brandon Rios in Macau at around lunchtime on Sunday China time (to ensure a prime-time Saturday evening audience in the US). There was lots of talk from the Manny camp about how this one is for the Philippines given the recent typhoon, but that will all be forgotten when the bell goes. There was also a predictably entertaining build-up with trainers from each side getting into it in the gym – in other words, typical pre-bout stuff.

ImageTop Rank promoter Bob Arum said he expects around 200 million homes in China to tune in to see the main event, which, as usual, is way, way beyond the realms of reality. Chinese double Olympic champion Zou Shiming fights on the undercard looking for his third consecutive win since turning pro, but will want to be better than his first two fights, both of which were unconvincing

Becks ditches football, grabs cash

ImageOne man in Macau to support Manny is David Beckham, ostensibly here on the third and final leg of his Chinese Super League ambassadorial role, but, as I predicted earlier this year, he has moved well away from the football and towards the business deals. He had originally been slated to manage one of the two sides in the CSL All-Star game, but when the match was cancelled due to international break commitments, it seems Beckham’s interest in the CSL – always pretty spurious to begin with – ended. He’s been doing H&M stuff in Shanghai and is also set to sign a deal with Sands Casinos in Macau, where he spoke to – but did not take questions from – reporters:

“I’m glad that there are so many business opportunities presenting in front of me and I can become a businessman now.”

Liverpool to launch official Chinese-language website

Liverpool FC is increasing the size of its footprint in China with a new Chinese-language website launching in January 2014 in conjunction with Chinese sports portal Hupu.com. The deal is part of the club’s five-year plan to establish Liverpool as China’s favourite overseas soccer club, which is a tough ask given the competition (Barca, Real Madrid, Man Utd, Bayern Munich etc.) but Liverpool’s current form (2nd in the EPL at the time of writing) is hugely improved over recent years. According to the official press release, Liverpool have 170 million potential fans in China, which is, of course, utter nonsense.

China’s Asian Cup qualifying campaign stumbles on

There was more disappointment for Chinese soccer fans this week as they watched the national team failed to qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. China could only draw 0-0 at home to Saudi Arabia, and now need at least a point to secure qualification when they play Iraq in Dubai in March, or else Iraq will qualify as Group C’s second-best team. The good news is that even if Iraq wins, China would still have a fairly good chance of qualifying as the best third-placed team, but it would be an embarrassing way to qualify nonetheless. If you think Chinese fans have it bad, though, this Guardian piece on Indonesian football (focused on Inter Milan’s new Indonesian owner Erick Thohir) shows that things could be much, much worse.

ATP adds third tournament in China for 2014

ImageChina will become the first country outside the US to host men’s tennis tournaments across all three ATP World Tour tournament categories (ATP World Tour 250, 500 and Masters 1000) following the news that the Shenzhen Open will replace the Thailand Open from 2014. It means China will host three tournaments in three successive weeks:

  • Shenzhen Open, Shenzhen, ATP World Tour 250, September 22-28
  • China Open, Beijing, ATP World Tour 500, September 29-October 5
  • Shanghai Rolex Masters, Shanghai, ATP World Tour Masters 1000, October 6-12

It’s good news for Chinese tennis, especially as the women now have five major tournaments in China each year, but it will be interesting to see if players on either tour duck any of the tournaments due to pollution concerns, given the fact that Rafa Nadal nearly refused to play the final in Beijing this year.

Tencent signs Chinese Olympic content deal

The Chinese Olympic Committee has signed an eight-year partnership with Chinese internet company Tencent to provide exclusive information for Chinese delegations at major sporting events. The COC says it will provide “exclusive” athlete interviews and other content to Tencent at the next four Olympic Games and 16 other events. If true, that could provide an interesting battle with state broadcaster CCTV – depending, of course, on exactly how exclusive those interviews are, and when they take place. But Tencent is already a force: during the 2012 London Olympics, close to 70% of China’s mobile phone users (a large and growing proportion of China’s internet users) “consistently visited Tencent’s mobile Olympic channel for updates”.

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