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Drogba, Anelka Put Chinese Football On The Map

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If you ever have reason to seek out a video clip of the moment Didier Drogba arrived in China, make sure you turn down the volume.

In scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania, the former Chelsea striker emerges through the sliding doors at Shanghai airport to be greeted by ear-splitting screams. He is ushered through a vast swathe of Shanghai Shenhua fans, who chant his name, wave the team’s flag and compete for a vantage point from which to snap a photo of their new hero.

Drogba is clearly a little taken aback as the crowd swells to an even greater number outside the terminal building before an increasingly flustered-looking troop of security guards bundle him into a car and away.

China’s 16 Super League teams for the 2013 season are all based in the populous east of the country

The Ivory Coast forward has teamed up with former Chelsea strike partner Nicolas Anelka at Shenhua in a league which,  thanks to the financial power of wealthy club owners , has also tempted ex-Premier League strikers Ayegbeni Yakubu and Fredi Kanoute.

It is also being touted as a possible destination for former England captain David Beckham and Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, while World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi also works there, steering Guangzhou Evergrande to their second straight title in October.

“The Chinese Super League, or at least a handful of clubs, are awash with money from club owners, who are often developers riding the huge property bubble in mainland China,” said a sports reporter at the South China Morning Post, James Porteous.

“Guangzhou Evergrande are owned by Evergrande Real Estate Group, whose chairman Xu Jiayin is mainland China’s richest man.

“Why these men want to spend their money on football is another question. Part of it is no doubt love for football and the wish to be associated with a successful team. But some believe owners are trying to curry favour with the government. Bringing new global prestige to the game may help the owners look good with the powerbrokers.”

Courting politicians comes at a price, Drogba reportedly earns £200,000 per week, with Anelka on about £170,000. In contrast, their team-mate Feng Renliang, a 24-year-old winger who plays for the China national team, was on a salary of £70,000-a-year before he joined champions Guangzhou in December.

And yet, while Drogba and Anelka have helped raise the profile of domestic football in a country obsessed with the Premier League, they have also exposed some of the enduring problems that may cause Lampard and Beckham to think twice before heading east.

During a tumultuous first season, Shenhua coach Jean Tigana turned up to a match only to be told his services were no longer required. With Tigana’s backroom staff having been sacked earlier in the week, the team were forced to play the game in front of a virtually empty home bench.

The famously introverted Anelka then had a disastrous spell as player-coach before former Argentina boss Sergio Batista was handed the reins against the Frenchman’s will.

The club, owned by internet tycoon Zhu Jun, finished a disappointing ninth in the 16-team league amid reports that Anelka and Drogba are in dispute over unpaid wages following a shareholders’ dispute at the club. Anelka has since been linked with a return to the Premier League, while Drogba is reportedly a target for Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus.

According to former Manchester City and Celtic striker Chris Killen, who has been playing in China since July 2010, their experiences are typical of an unstable and chaotic footballing infrastructure.

“A club can change hands, change owners or change names in the middle of the season,” the New Zealand international told Tidesport source.

“That is the situation at the moment with my club Chongqing. They are currently being bought out so it’s a little bit up in the air as to where I will be playing next season. A new sponsor might come in and move them to Beijing.”

Killen, who signed for Super League club Shenhzen Ruby after being released by Middlesbrough and subsequently moved to Chongqing in the division below in February, said the disorder can also affect players’ day-to-day routines.

“In the UK, I was used to getting up at nine for training at 10, but when I arrived here we would only be told the time of training the night before,” he said.

“There was a lot of money but not a lot of organisation and it kind of showed on the football field. It was free-flowing football but there was no structure.

“The majority of players over here have never learnt the basics from day one. You get talented youngsters who can go past four or five players and put it in the top corner, but come a set-piece they don’t know how to mark.”

China’s first professional football league was founded in 1994 and drew average attendances of more than 20,000 for its first few seasons. However, by the time it was replaced by the Super League in 2004, match-fixing and gambling scandals had prompted many fans to turn their backs, with attendances plummeting to about 10,000.

In 2009, Chinese authorities launched a campaign to reform the sport, leading to the arrest of dozens of referees, players, officials and coaches. The country’s most successful referee – Lu Jun – was jailed for five and a half years for match-fixing in February, while two ex-heads of the football league were handed 10-and-a-half-year sentences for corruption in June.

Sheringham writes for BBC sport

 

Sam Sheringham

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Reps Summon Dare Over Doping Crisis At Tokyo

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The House of Representatives has begun investigation of the disqualification of Nigerian athletes at the 2020 Olympics over alleged doping, asking the Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Sunday Dare, to come and explain the preparedness of the Nigerian contingent for the sports festival.
Tidesports source gathered that the resolutions followed the unanimous adoption of a motion at the plenary on Wednesday titled, ‘Need to Investigate Activities of the Federal Ministry of Sports and Youth Development on Failed Doping Test by Nigeria Athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.’
Consequently, the House resolved to “invite the Minister of Sports and Youth Development (sic) to brief the Committee on Sports on the level of Nigeria’s compliance with extant regulations set by the International Association of Athletics Federations and the independent anti-doping arm, Athletics Integrity Unit.”
The House also urged the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development to put necessary measures in place to ensure compliance with extant regulations at both local and international competitions, while mandating the Committee on Sports to “investigate the immediate and remote cause of the failed doping test to forestall future occurrence.”
Moving the motion, Mr Babatunde Ayeni said the Nigerian delegation to the Olympic Games fared well in terms of performance, thereby raising the country’s rating in the comity of nations.
Ayeni recalled the outstanding performance of the Nigerian Football Team which bagged the historic first soccer gold medal at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta, United States of America.
The lawmaker lamented the incident of July 20, 2021, where the Athletics Integrity Unit of the International Association of Athletics Federations barred 10 Nigerian athletes, including the highly-rated Blessing Okagbare, from the Tokyo Olympics for failing to meet requirements for out-of-competition drug testing.
He recalled that the Athletics Integrity Unit alleged that Okagbare, who won the opening heat of the Women’s 100 meters, had tested positive for human growth hormone.
 “The House is also aware that the allegation further affirmed that the affected athletes failed to comply with the rules requiring those from countries deemed to be at high risk of doping to undergo three no-notice out-of-competition tests in a 10 months’ period leading up to a major event.
“The House is concerned that despite the huge funds being made available yearly for the regulatory agencies in the sports sector, adequate efforts have not been made to get Nigeria into the category where they would be deemed to have made significant improvements in anti-doping tests,” Ayeni added.

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NYG: Rivers B’Ball Team Intensifies Preparations

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Coach of the Rivers State Male Basket-ball Team, Dagogo Okumgba, has said that preparation, are in top gear for the forthcoming 2021 edition of the National Youth Games (NYG)scheduled to hold in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Coach Okumgba disclosed this yesterday during an exclusive interview with Tidesports in Port Harcourt.
According to him, the team is doing everything necessary to get a better outing in Ilorin when the chips are down, saying that the players are in high spirits and are poised to compete favourably when the competition gets underway.
The coach said his players are committed to their preparations for the task ahead and determined to do the state proud at the games come November this year.
“We are doing our part to prepare as a team and wait for a go ahead from the Sports Ministry for camping so as to further prepare and fortify on the earlier made preparation,” Okumgba added.
The team qualified from their zone at the recently concluded zonal elimi-nation for team sports ahead of “National Youth Games” coming up next month.
It would be recalled that the zonal elimination for team events which comprised Rivers, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Edo states took place in Asaba, Delta State, fortnight ago.
The date for the competition was earlier fixed for September 7 to 17 this year.

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10 Athletes To Represent Nigeria At Winter Olympics

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Following the successful completion of its inaugural Olympics Trials in Lagos last Saturday,  the Bobsled and Skeleton Federation of Nigeria has stated that 10 athletes would represent Nigeria at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Games.
Technical Director, BSFN, Dr. Seun Adigun disclosed this in Lagos.
“Ten athletes will be named for the Winter Olympics.
“We will have two athletes for Bobsled, two in the Monobob women’s team, two athletes for the Bobsled men’s team, two male Skeleton and two female Skeleton athletes for the national team,” Adigun, who played a key role in Nigeria’s debut at the last Winter Olympics Games in Pyeongchang, Sourh Korea, said.
President, BSFN, Solomon Ogba stated that the team would train on ice in Europe, ahead of the Winter Games.
“This is the first stage of the preparation for the Olympics before the athletes train on ice,” Ogba said.
History was made earlier in the year when six athletes, who were selected from the first-ever trials in Lagos, trained and participated on ice for the first time in Pyeongchang.
Tidesports source reports that after a few days of training on ice, Perpetua Nwanna and Alawode Sekinat won bronze medal in their debut competition, after finishing third in the women’s double Bobsleigh IBSFSliding Korea Cup.

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