There have been a couple of fantastic, long-form articles written in recent days about sport in this part of the world. The first comes from Brook Larmer, author of the 2005 book Operation Yao Ming which details the rise of China’s most famous sporting son. Writing in the New York Times, Larmer turns his attention to golf, describing a fascinating picture of the wealthy, driven parents of kids as young as eight essentially creating their own mini versions of the state-backed sports schools that have been so successful in churning out Olympians. Here’s an extract:
My article for Beijing Cream about the soccer match-fixing penalties handed out in China this week:
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.
Link to radio feature on China’s soccer match-fixing punishments by the London-based Voice of Russia, featuring comments from yours truly.
Huddersfield Town in China farce
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.
Here’s my weekly Sports Talk column from the Global Times, entitled “Star exits don’t matter in bigger picture”
With all the negative headlines surrounding the recent departures of Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, it is important to keep some perspective about where this leaves Chinese soccer.
Was it disappointing? Yes, but their exits came as no surprise. The pair had long been rumored to be on their way out, and they are hardly the first foreign players to have left before fulfilling their contracts.
It is far more embarrassing, though, for the club and its flamboyant owner, Zhu Jun, an Internet entrepreneur whose ambitions appear to have wildly outsized his bank balance.
Mafia bosses, triads, kungfu gangs, invisible ninjas, Samurai swordsmen. Presumably that’s what Europol meant it said “ringleaders of Asian origin” had conspired to fix nearly 700 soccer matches for illegal betting gains. Europe’s police unit was woefully light on details when it announced the news this week so we can only speculate about what exactly has taken place.
Singapore’s Dan Tan, for whom Interpol has issued an arrest warrant, appears to be the major villain of the piece, but Singaporean police have said he’s as good as innocent, so don’t hold your breath.
Is anyone shocked by the match-fixing charges? The biggest surprise to me is that only 2 million euros in corrupt payments were alleged to have been made. Sure, that’s not an insignificant amount of money, but spread out over 680 matches, it’s an average of 2,940 euros per fixed game. Each game has at least one lead actor, but in many cases, two, three, four or more players will be ‘on the take’ and that doesn’t leave a whole load of euros to go around.