This is exactly what the organizers would have wanted to avoid. Beckham’s first trip to China in March sparked the usual scenes of craziness seen whenever a global celebrity appears in Asia, but everything during Trip 1 seemed to go off without a hitch.
Trip 2 has seen significantly lower media interest so far, but a visit to Tongji University in Shanghai on Thursday sawseven people end up in hospital after students waiting for Beckham to appear broke through the door of the university gymnasium and rushed past a wall of security guards and police.
There are plenty of sports figures who have succumbed to both the ladies and the greenback. Soccer has a few examples, not least Sven-Goran Eriksson, the former England manager, who is now set to[UPDATE: has now] become coach of Guangzhou R&F in the Chinese Super League.
Since I submitted this week Sports Talk column yesterday evening, I’ve seen a fair amount of talk on the same issue of money ruining sports: the Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson arguing that Bayern’s UEFA Champions League win kills the dreams of many teams, and Tom Byer lamenting Bayern buying up Dortmund’s players, while Barcelona – another club that supposedly prides itself on its youth development – spends countless millions on Neymar, recently named the world’s Most Marketable athlete.
The latest penalties in China soccer’s match-fixing drama have been a long time coming – several players, officials and referees were already sent to prison last year – but as announced Monday, they were still fairly significant. In summary:
Shanghai Shenhua stripped of the 2003 league title
Two teams docked 6 points each going into next year
One team docked 3 points
Three teams fined 1 million yuan
Four teams fined 500,000 yuan
Five teams’ registration annulled
33 individuals banned for life (eight players, seven CFA officials, four refs, 14 club/league officials)
25 individuals banned for five years (seven players, three league officials, 15 assorted club officials)
A few things stand out. First, a reminder that long before the failed Drogba-Anelka experiment, Shenhua used to be quite good. Yes, they bought the title in 2003 (though quite why they had to fix a game against the now-defunct Shaanxi Guoli, a club that finished bottom of the league by eight points that year, is beyond me). But prior to 2011, the club had finished outside the top six just three times in 29 years. Their last two finishes? 11th and 9th.