Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Predicting the score… you make us look good!

Are you a flip-flopper? A U-turner? A volte-facer? Are you the Brett Favre of football fans? If so, you're in good company, though it's not doing you much good in our predictions league.

Liverpool lost at Spurs and suddenly there were doubts about the strength of the squad, derision at the decision to sell Xabi Alonso and a general feeling the Reds were in decline. They then beat Stoke 4-0 and it was "madness to write them off". Last night, they lost again, 3-1 at home to Aston Villa, and Sky Sports News have been asking if their title challenge is over... And it's still only August 25! Phew!

So it's been with Manchester United (still blessed with the knack of getting a result from a bad performance, then desperately short of firepower in the post-Ronaldo era, and now happily enjoying the resurgence of a world class striker).

What must it be like to be a fan of Spurs? Or Burnley (with a three-point advantage over Liverpool)? Or Manchester City? Are you secretly convinced that the bubble will burst? Or are Spurs and City fans with Wenger in his view that the era of the Big Four is over?

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Premier League season needs a grand finale

The English Premier League has always reminded me of eating out at McDonalds. I always hope for something new but then end up getting the same as last time.

The new season hasn't even kicked off yet, but if the experts are right, it's already as good as over for nearly all the teams.

from FaithWorld:

Muslims angry at German soccer club over song

German Muslims have inundated one of the country's top soccer teams, Schalke 04, with complaints about a verse in the club's anthem which, they say, is disparaging towards the Prophet Mohammad.

The club has its home in Gelsenkirchen in Germany's industrial heartland and immigrants make up about a third of the town's population. Most of them have a Turkish background. Germany's biggest mosque was opened in nearby Duisburg last year and many Schalke supporters are Muslims, as chat rooms like this one point out.

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 Reuters Soccer Blog:

In defence of Giuseppe Rossi

American soccer fans aren't noted for their nastiness but the reaction to Giuseppe Rossi, New Jersey native, scoring twice for Italy against the U.S in their 3-1 Confederations Cup defeat on Monday has been surprisingly vitriolic.

What has upset U.S fans is that Rossi was born and bred in the U.S. but chose to play for another country and then -- to add insult to injury -- celebrated when he scored twice against his country of birth.

Super Bowl in London? Bring your brollies…

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Having been based in China for the last few years, I am no stranger to the giddy ambitions of visionary sports administrators trying to ”grow” their “brands” outside their heartlands.

We’ve had them all here. NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL, the Asian Cricket Council, Leicester Tigers rugby club, a string of Europe’s top soccer clubs, world snooker, both professional tennis tours and various professional golf tours – all aiming to stake a claim to a share of China’s 1.3 billion-strong market.

Winners and losers of the 2009 NFL draft

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Top NFL prospects stand together on stage before the start of the 2009 NFL Draft

Most football experts will tell you that it takes three full years to evaluate an NFL draft class, but don’t tell that to the media, who are only too happy to provide the instant gratification of a thumbs up or down analysis after less than 72 hours.

Draft guru Mel Kiper of ESPN gave the Green Bay Packers his highest grade, an A, based primarily on their top two picks of defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker Clay Matthews. While the Oakland Raiders, who selected the speedy, but unpolished wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bay with the seventh overall pick and the Dallas Cowboys, who didn’t have a pick until the third round after trading away earlier selections, both received the lowest mark of D.

A high altitude idea from China

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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.

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