It used to be that sports were run by sportsmen and women. But then, as is often the case, money got in the way and sports became more “professional”, so “professionals” were hired to run the sports.
For example, the head of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) used to be former star Chinese player Xu Yinsheng, until he was replaced in 1999 by a “professional”, an electrical engineer called Adham Sharara. The Egyptian-born Canadian also played on the national team for three years, but his biography makes it clear he is a career administrator who played, rather than top player-turned-administrator.
I’ve just spent a few days in Korea, where the country’s female golfers are perhaps as dominant on the world stage as any team in sports today. Comparing different teams in different sports brings to mind apples and oranges, but 35 of the world top 100 players are from a country with a population of under 50 million. South Koreans have won six of the past eight major championships, and came second in the other two.
What do they get for this? “Boring”, “faceless”, “robots”, “predictable” etc. Inbee Park has won three majors this year and gets fewer column inches than Hunter Mahan’s new baby. Today’s Sports Talk column looks at why sports stars might be better off striving for one level below perfection: become perfect and the fans and media will turn on you – or worse – just ignore you.
In this week’s round-up, Taiwan takes centre stage on the world sporting map, golfing teen sensation Guan Tianlang explores America, the most ludicrous claim you’ll hear this decade and a hot sporting WAG.
Citizenship is always an issue in China, or more specifically, changing your citizenship. For one thing, you tend to need a lot of money. Chinese movie stars have taken up residence in other countries and faced accusations of being a traitor, but crossing borders in the sports world can be even more controversial.
In recent years, Japan and China have had a, shall we say, “strained” relationship, but the Japanese may have just pulled one over their rivals in the most unlikeliest of places – table tennis, currently China’s most watched sport.
China has won 24 of a possible 28 gold medals in Olympic ping pong history, adding another 15 silver and 8 bronze. Japan, in contrast, has won a solitary silver medal in seven attempts since the sport was first included in the Olympics in 1988.
May 2 could be a significant day in the Chinese football calendar. The Asian Football Confederation, or AFC, will elect a full-time president, and current interim boss, China’s Zhang Jilong, is among the favorites. Zhang has been head of the AFC since Mohamed Bin Hamann was suspended by FIFA in May 2011.
This is just ridiculous. English football club Huddersfield Town has announced plans to “make its first foray into China as part of the Club’s wider International Development plan.”
From what I can work out from their convoluted press release, the club, who currently sit 18th in the Championship (i.e. near the bottom of English football’s second tier) are taking a delegation of businessmen to China for a week in April to explore opportunities because, you know, everyone loves football.
It’s normally Myanmar’s politics that get the international spotlight, but this week it has been their bizarre sporting choices. The new Burmese capital Naypyidaw will host the 27th Southeast Asian Games later this year and, perhaps fittingly, they’ve chosen some new sports. Vovinam, tarungderajat, kempo and chinlone are all on the agenda and if you haven’t heard of them, you’re not alone.