Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

The enigma of the Champions Trophy


Before I was based here in Italy, I reported on quite a lot of cricket including the 2004 Champions Trophy and the 2007 World Cup.

Being out here, where Italian friends often confuse cricket with hockey or golf, means I completely missed the start of this year’s Champions Trophy.

It passed me by mainly because it is a very incongruous tournament — a bit like soccer’s Confederations Cup. It has all the big teams but pales in comparison with the World Cup and after a few weeks you often can’t remember the winner. 

With the success of Twenty20, many in the blogosphere had questioned whether the 50-over Champions Trophy should be scrapped altogether. What’s the point in having a 50-over World Cup, a 50-over Champions Trophy and a T20 World Cup?

Soccer trumps rugby in Florence


It had long been decided that Italy’s rugby team would host world champions South Africa in Florence on Saturday Nov. 21.

Then soccer got in the way. Fiorentina, who use Florence’s only big stadium the Stadio Franchi, were due to play Parma at home on the 22nd but when they were drawn to play at home on Tuesday Nov. 24 against Olympique Lyon in the Champions League, the Parma game was moved to the 21st.

Tri-Nations waves goodbye to tedious kick-and-chase



Australia’s shock win over South Africa in Saturday’s Tri-Nations breathed new life into a series that was in real danger of fizzling out.

The Wallabies’ 21-6 win not only stalled South Africa’s seemingly unstoppable march to this year’s title but also provided some much needed entertainment.

IAAF would do well to leave Semenya alone


semenyaAll eyes were on Caster Semenya when the South African lined up for the start of her 800m final on Wednesday, but for all the wrong reasons.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said on Wednesday, hours before Semenya was due to run, that the procedure for a gender test had started following her rapid performance improvement in the past year.

from Africa News blog:

South African fury at sex test for track star

Eighteen-year-old Mokgadi ‘Caster’ Semenya is being celebrated as a national hero in South Africa after winning the 800 metres at the World Athletics Championships, but the decision by international athletics officials to order a gender verification test has stirred deep anger – and brought accusations of prejudice against the country and the continent.

Many in South Africa feel a victory by their talented young athlete is being tarnished by bad losers and a world all too  ready to mock. Sensitivities to prejudice are never far from the surface in the country where apartheid white minority rule ended just 15 years ago.

Rugby is tough enough without eye-gouging


Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has a hard enough time as it is trying to convince the South African media that he knows what he is talking about but his utterances on Schalk Burger have undermined any credibility he has earned from overseeing a series win over the British and Irish Lions.

Saturday’s decisive second test, won 28-25 by the Boks, was one of the most brutal seen for many years, both in terms of legal and illegal contact from both sides.

Last-gasp Springboks tame Lions again to take series


It was a close one but South Africa have won the series after replacement flyhalf Morne Steyne landed a 55-metre penalty in the last minute to give them a 28-25 victory over the British and Irish Lions in the second test.

The Springboks took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

Home flanker Schalk Burger was sin-binned in the first minute for gouging Luke Fitzgerald and the Lions, with a try by Mike Phillips, scored 10 points in his absence and deservedly led 16-8 at the break in contrast to the first test.

Rugby-mad South Africa not so mad about the Lions


Tough economic times and possibly just too much rugby have combined to produce the unthinkable in South Africa — empty seats for test matches against the British and Irish Lions.

After the early provincial games were played in half-full stadiums, local officials were forced to give away tickets in a bid to bump up the numbers and build a bit of atmosphere.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

A great win over Spain … now can the U.S surprise some more?

The Confederations Cup, effectively a warm-up tournament for the World Cup, rarely captures the imagination but fans in the United States aren't lacking enthusiasm for the tournament after their team produced a major upset by defeating European champions Spain 2-0.

Goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey ended Spain's world record run of 15 successive victories and their 35-match unbeaten sequence, a world record streak they share with Brazil. That run has taken Spain to world number one in FIFA's global rankings.

How did the Beast destroy the Raging Bull?


Phil Vickery

The “dark arts’ of rugby’s front row have long-suppposed to be a mystery for all bar the hulking props and hookers who face off in the “trenches” but it didn’t take an expert to figure out something significant was happening in the first half of South Africa’s defeat of the British and Irish Lions last weekend.

England World Cup winner and former captain Phil “Raging Bull” Vickery was taken apart by Springbok prop Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira, a novice 10 years his junior and not previously noted for his scrummaging prowess.