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If England’s footballers were matchplay golfers

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SOCCER-WORLD/It’s a strokeplay knockout golf tournament — let’s call it the World Cup of golf — and an English player is on the tee box of the 18th hole needing a birdie four to advance.

After struggling earlier in his round he has fought back to be level with his opponent but the best finisher will play Paul Lawrie and then Tony Jacklin in the next two rounds while the loser will take on Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

(Stick with it, he gets back to soccer in the end – ed.)

Both players hit good drives but the opponent then creams his second 250 yards, carrying a pond, on to the green, an unheard of shot on such a hole. The English golfer takes a five iron and lays-up short of the water. He duly chips on close to the hole and sinks his putt for a birdie four.

He is delirious, he runs round the green high-fiving the cheering fans. An English TV journalist, bubbling over with excitement, interviews his Italian caddy. “You must be delighted, you’re through.

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.

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