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‘Special One’ makes few friends in China

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If Inter Milan were intending their trip to Beijing for last week’s Italian Super Cup to be a China charm offensive, coach Jose Mourinho was obviously not kept in the loop.

The accepted form for European club officials on pre-season trips to China is to politely praise everything local and talk up the footballing potential of the world’s most populous nation.

After Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Lazio in the traditional Italian season curtain-raiser between the Serie A champions and Cup winners, Mourinho departed from the script.

The post-match news conference got off to a bad start when the local interpreter expressed his delight at Lazio’s victory and invited Chinese media to ask Mourinho difficult questions.

from Changing China:

China’s infertile ground for (some) Western sports

Soccer is in a tight spot in China -- literally. Huge crowds roar for Manchester United but the national team is a laughing stock at 108th in FIFA world rankings. Poor coaching, lack of grassroots development, even corruption and violence are variously cited as reasons for the sport's demise. But the real reason may be more basic: the fact of physical space, or the lack thereof, in China.

If geography is a determinant of economic development, then it is fair to extrapolate that urban geography underpins the development of sports. And here's the rub for soccer, not to mention American football and baseball. With few parks, small concrete schoolyards and a dearth of quiet streets, urban China offers little of the space needed for the sprawling play that defines those sports. Soccer has deep roots in China, but playing space has been squeezed as cities sprawl and swallow land in big gulps.

from Left field:

A high altitude idea from China

Bolivia's 6-1 thrashing of Argentina in a World Cup qualifier provided a flash of inspiration for one Chinese sports columnist.

The Bolivians, ranked 56th in the world, would probably not argue that playing the match at 3,600 metres above sea level had helped them in their humiliation of the Argentines, world number six in FIFA's rankings and one of the most attractive sides around.

Germany’s political football

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Merkel talks to Loew

Germany’s general election may still be a year away, but the challengers are already battling it out for the big political prize on unlikely territory — at Euro 2008.

Both conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democratic rival, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, are going to great lengths to associate themselves with the German team.

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