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from Breakingviews:

Manchester United’s crisis has silver lining

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By Olaf Storbeck

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Manchester United fans won’t like this, but the club’s crisis is exactly what the soccer business, and United itself, needs. A manager ditched after 10 months, a lowly seventh place in the league, an enforced absence from European football: this is the kind of drama that keeps the sport exciting and secures future revenue streams. Nothing is more boring than a league dominated by an overwhelming team.

United was close to becoming England’s uber-club, winning five of the last seven Premier Leagues. The club has won more league titles than anyone else. This spell was only broken by the retirement of star manager Alex Ferguson, the boss since 1986. That’s an almost impossible act to follow. Successor David Moyes made some bad transfer picks, lost some key players to injuries, and presided over the club’s worst league performance in nearly a quarter-century.

Missing out on the Champions League, Europe’s top tournament, is humiliating but financially manageable. Last season this brought in 35.5 million euros ($49 million), or just 8 percent of United’s annual revenue. That is dwarfed by lucrative long-term sponsorship deals, like the $559 million General Motors is paying over seven years to appear on team shirts.

from Photographers' Blog:

Where the wild things race

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Nome, Alaska

By Nathaniel Wilder

The Iditarod is a nearly 1,000-mile-long sled-dog race that pits mushers against each other and the elements as they cross much of Alaska to become the first team to Nome, on the shores of the Bering Sea.

It’s Alaska’s biggest sporting event and brings thousands of spectators, volunteers, handlers, media and mushers – as dog sled racers are known – to downtown Anchorage for the “ceremonial start” of the race.

from Breakingviews:

From soccer pitch, lessons on Chinese tycoon risks

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By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Chinese investors are setting their sights on trophy assets in the West, and soccer teams look like fair game. The case of English football club Birmingham City, whose main shareholder and former president just sold a stake to an obscure Chinese company, offers a cautionary tale. Big personalities make risky shareholders, but China brings extra anxieties.

from India Insight:

Catching them young to revive India’s glorious hockey past

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It’s just after sunrise on a foggy winter morning in north India. Most people are snuggled up in quilts, but a group of teenagers with hockey sticks is out on the field. The ragtag bunch chasing a ball in Khera Garhi village, about 20 kilometres from central Delhi, shares a dream -- to play in India’s field hockey team.

It’s an unusual dream in a country obsessed with cricket, but one that former national player Rajesh Chauhan hopes to foster among youngsters across India. Chauhan, 37, played for India during the second half of the 1990's and set up the Jai Bharat Hockey Academy in 2011 to try to restore Indian hockey to its former glory.

from India Insight:

Tendulkar exits, Anand slips during emotional 2013

Sachin Tendulkar bid a teary-eyed farewell to cricket while contemporary Viswanathan Anand lost his world chess crown in an emotional year for Indians in sports.

Forty-year-old Tendulkar, statistically the greatest batsman ever, walked into the sunset in November after his 200th test at his home Wankhede Stadium brought the cricket-crazy nation to a standstill.

from Breakingviews:

Germany will lift the soccer World Cup

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By Robert Cole

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Germany is going to win the soccer World Cup. The football-mad Brazilian hosts have won five times, more than any other country. But using a Breakingviews calculator based on the hard numbers – the players’ transfer value, population, participation and public engagement – Teutonic power will squash the romantic dream of a sixth win for Brazil.

from Photographers' Blog:

NBA goes up in smoke in Mexico

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Mexico City, Mexico

By Edgard Garrido

I was to photograph an extraordinary basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the San Antonio Spurs as part of the NBA Global Games schedule for the 2013-14 season.

The day before, the players met with children from the indigenous Triquis tribe and played a game barefoot in the tradition of the young Triquis’ team. It was a fantastic moment and I have no doubt that the journalists and everyone present, enjoyed it as much as the young Triqui players. It was a delightful opening to a grand game to be played the next day.

from Photographers' Blog:

Colombian yellow is back

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Barranquilla, Colombia

By Jose Miguel Gomez

An entire stadium with over 40,000 fans dressed in yellow awaited the key match between Colombia and Chile. Only a couple of thousand wore Chilean red. We photographers arrived early to set up on the field in the 40C (104F) heat and 80% humidity. Every slight movement in the sun caused a burst of sweat.

Colombia only needed a draw to qualify for Brazil 2014. It was 16 years since we last qualified for the World Cup, and the fans inside the stadium and out were in a state of triumphal optimism. This was a whole new generation of players, and those who played for European clubs carried the biggest burden of setting the stage for a nationwide fiesta.

from Breakingviews:

Fund managers could learn from hometown Red Sox

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Fund managers could learn from the hometown Red Sox. The team is a win away from being baseball’s champions. Its success hinges on the disposal of concentrated long-term bets in favor of liquidity, early-stage backing and steadier assets. Such diversification is a good reminder for the Boston-based investment industry, where the likes of Fidelity and Putnam are based, and beyond.

from Jack Shafer:

Move over Bezos, ESPN can do news better than you

The pompous slogan, "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," actually undersells ESPN's ultimate potential.

If the Bristol behemoth were a stand-alone company instead of a Walt Disney Co./Hearst Corporation co-venture, it would be the most valuable media property in the world, worth $40 billion against annual revenues of $10.3 billion, according to one estimate. Wherever sports happens or is discussed -- cable, broadcast TV, radio, online, mobile and print -- one ESPN tentacle can be found wrapped tight around it, squeezing out revenue, and the others probing for fresh sucking places. It speaks four languages in more than 61 countries and has a larger standing army than Canada. I made up that army fact, but if ESPN had one it would be the world's most predatory, profitable and entertaining.

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