World's Latest Sports Events

Olympics News, Football, Cricket, Free live cricket, Cricket live scores, Premier League football clubs, Gymnastics, Swimming, Athletics, Chelsea Football Club, Athletics, Sports, Beach Volleyball, Football Plays, Football Schedule, Car Racing, Cycling, kabadi, 2008 Beijing Olympics, Latest sports news

Monday, December 29, 2008

A memorable Olympics

It was to be China’s time to shine, a year of celebrations with the Olympic spirit touching the hearts and minds of one-fifth of the world’s population as the Olympics headed to Beijing.

Instead, months before the August 8-24 Games, human rights groups disrupted the globally televised torch-lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, setting off a chain of worldwide protests.

From Paris and London to San Francisco and Seoul, the Beijing Olympics torch relay became a target for human rights protesters as it meandered across the globe.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) faced mounting criticism and bad press for its decision to award the Games to China, given the country’s human rights record. “We are not an activist organisation,” IOC chief Jacques Rogge said, defending the decision and saying the Games would bring change to China.

The word “boycott” crept into discussions months before the Games but in the end none materialised. Even Iraq, temporarily suspended weeks before the Olympics, managed to send athletes to China. By the time the Olympics started with a record 204 teams from around the world parading in the spectacular Bird’s Nest stadium, both local organisers and the IOC were under intense media scrutiny.

Internet restrictions for foreign media, pro-Tibet protests and Beijing’s air quality grabbed the headlines in the days running up to the Games. However, the dazzling opening ceremony showcasing the might of modern China, which invested an estimated $40 billion to prepare for the Games, set the stage for memorable performances in breathtaking venues.

US swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals while Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt captured the 100 and 200 metres sprint double as well as a 4x100m relay gold in world record-breaking time.

Defending Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion Liu Xiang added drama when he hobbled off the track minutes before his first heat, stunning a capacity Bird’s Nest crowd. Team China, though, were unstoppable, topping the medals table with 51 golds, leaving the United States second with 36. Russia were third and Britain fourth .

The IOC saw record television audiences in most major markets and used the YouTube video-sharing website to post Olympic footage online, recording more than 16.5 million hits and unlocking the potential of new media to attract younger viewers. The opening ceremony alone was seen by 1.2 billion people around the world.

Doping concerns led to extensive pre-Games testing by federations and Olympic teams which rooted out some 50 cheats. An additional 5,000 tests were conducted during the Games, nabbing nine athletes, but the Games were spared the embarrassment and unwanted distraction of a major doping scandal.

The spotlight quickly switched to the 2012 Summer Games after the Beijing closing ceremony, with the British capital already struggling with its biggest project, the one-billion-pound Olympic village.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Ignace Tirkey weds woman hockey player

In a marriage between two hockey players, former India captain Ignace Tirkey tied the knot with women's team member Masira Surin at a church here on Monday.

Father M Gulab Lugun of the Lachragarh Roman Catholic Church solemnised the marriage, which was attended by Ignace's brother Prabodh, also a hockey player, and friends from sporting arena.

Both the bride and the groom, who are parts of national men's and women's hockey team respectively, were dressed in traditional attire during the ceremony.

Labels: ,

Dhoni stays atop ODI batting chart, Yuvraj at six

Team India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni extended his stay at the top of the ICC ODI Rankings for the batsmen, which has his flamboyant teammate Yuvraj Singh at the number six position.

According to the latest chart issued on Monday, Dhoni has 779 points and is closely followed by Australian Mike Hussey, who is just three points adrift of the The Jharkhand marauder.

Yuvraj has 744 rating points for his sixth place and the next best Indian in the ranking chart is Sachin Tendulkar, who stands 12th with 708 points.

Among the Indian bowlers, paceman Zaheer Khan (660) and spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh (617) feature in top 20 at 11th and 20th positions respectively.

India (119) remains third in the ODI ranking for the teams, behind table-toppers Australia (131) and South Africa (119).

Meanwhile, New Zealand can now rise to the fourth place but could slip to as low as eighth as well, depending on the outcome of their five-match series against West Indies.

Daniel Vettori's side currently sits in fifth place on 113 ratings points and a 5-0 series win will put it ahead of Pakistan in fourth place on 118 points.

However, a reversal would mean Kiwis conceding 11 ratings points to the West Indies. This will put both the teams level on 102 ratings points but Chris Gayle's side will be placed higher than the Black Caps in seventh place when ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Only winning is acceptable at Real: Juande Ramos

For Spaniard Juande Ramos, who managed to win a trophy with Tottenham Hotspurs, was sacked as manager in the middle of the next season, and then returned to top-flight football by taking charge at one of the biggest clubs in the world, it's been quite a year.

Ramos, whose team Real Madrid trail Barcelona by 12 points in the Spanish premier league, faces the daunting task of bringing the club's title ambitions back on track.

In a free-wheeling interview, he opens up on how his stint with the English side ended and the challenges of his new assignment. Excerpts:

Did you ever expect to end the year as Real Madrid coach?
I couldn’t have imagined all that I have already lived. I started the year fully dedicated to a very exciting challenge in the EPL. My goal was to gain back positions within the Championship for Spurs, to try to win a title and qualify for Europe.

Do you regard this challenge as the toughest of your career so far?
Every new project is always a big challenge. The only difference is that Real Madrid are one of the top clubs in the world and their objectives are of the highest level… Their goals are never to avoid relegation or to qualify for tournaments. At Real, historically, only winning is acceptable.

How would you sum up the year?
It’s been an exciting year. I have truly enjoyed every minute of it, even the tough moments that I have had. It’s been a year where I moved to the EPL, managed to win a trophy and then got another opportunity by being a part of Real.

Real have been conceding many goals this season despite having one of the best defence...
I’d rather look at how to solve this issue. The team is already stronger at the back… Sometimes this is simply luck but it is important to strengthen the self confidence.

Labels: , , , ,

Cheteshwar Pujara special floors Karnataka

Cheteshwar Pujara struck a significant second innings century as Saurashtra pipped fancied Karnataka by five wickets to advance into the semifinals of the Ranji Trophy. At the CCI here on Monday, the batting sensation in the domestic cricket was assisted by some timely knocks from teammates Sitanshu Kotak, Ravindra Jadeja and Jaydev Shah as the underdogs humbled the former champions in a sensational comeback.

With 315 to get in 90 overs on Day IV, Saurashtra showed character in chasing a not-so-easy target on a bowler-friendly wicket. Pujara hit a brilliant unbeaten 112 while Kotak (87), Jadeja (55) and Jaydev Shah (55 n.o.) chipped in with some handsome contributions. Saurashtra were also aided by other factors as well — Karnataka’s sloppy fielding and listless bowling.

Resuming the day at 10-2, Saurashtra lost the wicket of Bhushan Chauhan early in the day. They were reduced to 13 for 3, but from thereon, Pujara and Kotak took the game away from Karnataka. Pujara remained unbeaten, ensuring that his side was through to last four. Initially, Pujara and Kotak tried to keep wickets in tact. The duo stitched together a crucial 163-run fourth-wicket stand. After Kotak was dismissed, Jadeja and Shah opened up to ensure a facile win.

Jadeja announced his arrival with a boundary. His intentions were pretty clear that he would go after the bowling. After Jadeja’s departure, Shah took the mantle of accelerating and saw his team notching up 325 in the final session. Kotak was shown the door by Chandrasekhar Raghu. The spinner took a simple catch off his own bowling after the batsman failed to judge a slower one. His 87 came off 147 balls, which included 12 fours. But that did not change the complexion as Jadeja looked in sublime touch from the very beginning.

Labels: ,

Corruption ruined the game: Dhanraj Pillay

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I stated that 2008 has been one of the worst years for the national sport. We didn’t qualify for Olympics. It was the greatest disappointment.
The reasons for our failure are not limited to on-field performances alone. Instead, they spill over to administrative flaws. Lack of talented players in the team could be attributed to our dismal show. That in turn could be attributed to nepotism and partiality plaguing the selection committee.

Soon after this, images of the Indian Hockey Federation’s (IHF) secretary Jyothi Kumaran accepting bribes to secure spots for certain members in the squad were flashed across all television channels. That this incident marked the Black Day of Indian hockey.

This further exposed the overwhelming corruption in the IHF with KPS Gill at the helm of affairs. Gill’s 15 years of dictatorship finally came to an end. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) took over the IHF and formed an ad-hoc committee headed by Aslam Sher Khan with former players Ashok Kumar, Ajit Pal Singh and Zafar Iqbal and myself to handle the sport. Ric Charlesworth resigned and the appointment of MK Kaushik as coach was wrought with controversy and we finally narrowed down on Harender Singh as men’s coach and AK Bansal as junior team’s coach.

The only silver lining has been the performance of the junior team, which retained the Junior Asia Cup by defeating South Korea. They also won the four-match series 1-0 against Junior World Champions Argentina.

2009 is going to be a very important year for hockey. There are qualifications for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the 2010 World Cup. We hope that our efforts at clearing the mess that has plagued hockey work well in our favour.

Labels: ,

On Tennis: Federer going all out in January

Roger Federer is pumped.

No doubt wanting to make a statement early in 2009, he's playing the most he ever has in January, starting with a lucrative exhibition in Abu Dhabi this week that features two of his main rivals, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Scottish talent Andy Murray.

The majestic Swiss then hits the Qatar Open, with Nadal and Murray resurfacing, before competing in the Kooyong Classic, another exhibition and his only form of Australian Open prep in recent years.

Federer was afflicted with mono last year at this time, though he didn't know it, and it predictably affected his 2008 season. He lost in the Australian Open semis to upstart Novak Djokovic, only salvaging his campaign by claiming a fifth straight U.S. Open and doubles gold at the Olympics in China.

"Never before have I started a tennis year as early as the one ahead," Federer told his Web site. "There is such a large number of challenges lying ahead. Facing them, working hard and giving my best to succeed is precisely why I love my job so much."

Wins over Nadal and Murray prior to Melbourne, regardless of whether they're in exhibitions or not, would do Federer good: He went a miserable 1-7 against the duo the past 12 months.

NO ROOF FOR SAMPRAS: It might keep the tennis going, but Pete Sampras is no fan of Wimbledon's new retractable roof.

The roof is set to be operational by the time next year's tournament begins, which means the big stars won't be affected when the inevitable rain comes. The mere mortals on the circuit, well, will have to fend for themselves.

"I don't like it," Sampras, who won half of his 14 Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon, told the Tennis Channel. "I understand why for television and the fans this is happening, but one of the most difficult things to deal with at Wimbledon as a player are the rain delays. I feel everyone has to be on the same playing field, and (with the roof) the top guys are at a slight advantage to get their match in versus someone that might lose his day off."

That being said, Sampras said he'd consider playing in an event to test the roof in mid-May, about a month prior to the start of Wimbledon 2009. Rumor has it that John McEnroe, Tim Henman and Boris Becker might also be asked to participate.

"Going over to London is not an easy trip, but that could be a pretty cool event, so would I consider it?" the California resident said. "Absolutely."

Early in December, Sampras made his first visit to England since 2002 -- when he exited in the second round at Wimbledon -- by competing at a seniors' event. He, however, stayed away from the All England Club.

LOVE IS IN THE AIR: Ana Ivanovic is one of the world's best players and widely considered one of the most attractive, so she gets a lot of attention. The Serb is getting even more now, thanks to her relationship with another pro -- Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, no stranger to mingling with models and actresses in the past.

The two have been dating more months, and Ivanovic recently bought a house in Spain (as a base for training purposes, she insists).

How is she handling the sudden interest in her private life?

"It's something that comes with success," Ivanovic said. "It's obviously not one of the better things about being a professional tennis players, but there is no point complaining or trying to avoid it."

Ivanovic, who had a miserable second half of 2008 after winning her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in June, arrived Down Under early to ready for the Australian Open. Apart from hitting balls, she's been running up hills and along beaches.

"I'm going through the most intense training period of the season," Ivanovic said. "I have three sessions a day most days, combining both practice on the court and fitness. It's very exhausting."

SECOND SERVES: John Isner, who took his knocks in his second year on the pro circuit, earned a wild card for the Australian Open by winning a mini USTA tournament. Armed with one of the biggest serves around, the 6-foot-9 North Carolina native finished the year ranked 144th -- he was inside the top 85 in April. Christina McHale, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, won the women's event. She's never played in a top-tier match before. ... Two-time Grand Slam champion Mary Pierce, soon 34 and battling a serious knee injury, says she doesn't plan on retiring yet. The Florida-based power baseliner last played in October 2006. ....Temperamental Aussie wonder-kid Bernard Tomic, 16, will make his top-level debut at the Brisbane International in Australia next week after being handed a wild card. Tomic drew criticism for walking off the court at a third-tier tournament in Perth, Australia, in early December. His dad, upset that Tomic's opponent wasn't being called for foot faults, ordered him to quit. ....Check out the Web sites of the ATP and WTA Tours for holiday videos featuring some of their top stars. California's Sam Querrey has quite the voice.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

EHS tennis completes historic season

The Ellensburg High School girls’ tennis team completed a historic season on May 24 when it took home second place as a team at state, the best finish in program history.

It had been an exciting and ground-breaking season for both the boys’ and girls’ teams at EHS all year, and it all culminated in outstanding performances at the WIAA 2A State Tournament at the University of Washington. The girls finished with 13 points, led by a pair of singles and doubles teams.

“That second-place finish was the best Ellensburg tennis has ever done,” head coach Mark Morrill said after the tournament. “I think (the girls) represented Ellensburg High in a very fantastic way. I hope everyone’s proud of them, because they should be.”

Nadia Weiner was eliminated in singles play on the first day, but her teammates did more than enough to compensate. Katie Kelleher lost in the semifinals, but she took home third place with a win in the consolation finals, 6-3 and 6-2.

Mercedes Chandler and Amy Anderson dominated in doubles after losing in the first round. They advanced to the consolation finals, where they lost in three sets — 6-4, 6-7 and 7-6. They settled for sixth, but it was good enough to earn the girls their best finish ever.

The boys also had a great tournament, taking fifth as a team with eight points. Aaron Porter and Josiah Jackson went into the tournament as an undefeated doubles team, and they took third place, losing only to the eventual champions from WF West.

“The girls, what can you say?” Morrill said. “So much better than we had hoped. This year, three out of the four teams placed. A tremendous improvement by the kids.”

Labels: ,

Shreveport tennis club damaged by weekend fire

Fire investigators think a refrigerator could be the cause of a weekend fire at a Shreveport tennis club.

Fire crews got the call just before midnight Saturday in the 500 block of Spring Lake Drive at the Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club.

Shreveport firefighters say flames were seen coming out of the roof in the kitchen area when they arrived.

Ten fire crews battled the fire and had it under control in about 40 minutes. There were no reports of any injuries.

According to fire investigators, the club's manger said he checked the building earlier that day and eveything appeared normal. He said the last social event at the club was on Christmas Eve.

The kitchen area and the roof sustained heavy fire damage while the other areas of the building sustained minor smoke and water damage.

Labels: ,

Champs Sports Bowl Recap: Florida State Dominates the Badgers.

The Champs Sports Bowl started off just about as slow as your could imagine, with the only real excitement coming from Graham Gano's amazing punting skills. And this guy is going to be a kicker in the NFL? How about both the punter and the kicker? He got the ball inside Wisconsin's three-yard line three times in a row.

The game finally burst open on Derek Nicholsen's 75-yard punt return to give the 'Noles their first score of the game—and what ensued can only be described as a beatdown. Florida State's offense finally took charge, and Christian Ponder actually looked like a quarterback who knew how to control a game.

The 'Noles scored on three consecutive drives, giving them a 28-6 lead. The defense played amazing, and although P.J. Hill racked up 150 yards rushing, Wisconsin didn't have a prayer when it came to the passing game.

FSU's defense looked like the defense that was rated in the top five in the country. The Seminoles were relentless, and the future first round draft pick, Everette Brown, was nothing short of amazing. He was in the quarterback's face on every play it seemed.

This bowl win was exactly what FSU needed. Registering their first nine-win season in a while, the 'Noles came out ready to play. So what does this mean for the future? The 'Noles look like they should be a preseason Top 15 team.

With practically their entire offense coming back, including the youngest line in the country, the Seminoles should be able to have a 10-win season in 2009—especially with the recruiting class coming in led by Jacobi McDaniel.

Either way, this was a much needed win for the 'Noles.

Labels: , ,

South Africa Seals First Test Cricket Series Win in Australia

South Africa won the second cricket Test by nine wickets to seal its first series win in Australia and inflict the top-ranked team’s first home loss in elite contests for 16 years.

Captain Graeme Smith hit 75 and Neil McKenzie finished 59 not out as South Africa reached the target of 183 after lunch on the final day in Melbourne, securing its first series victory over Australia since 1970. The Proteas had failed to win in eight previous contests on Australian soil.

South Africa, which won the opener in Perth by six wickets, is the first team to win a Test series in Australia since the West Indies in the 1992-1993 season. The tourists can replace the Australians atop the International Cricket Council’s Test rankings by completing a 3-0 sweep.

Australia’s first back-to-back Test defeats since March 2001 leaves Ricky Ponting’s squad facing the prospect of becoming the first Australian team in 27 years to suffer a series cleansweep.

Australia, which won eight straight Test series between November 2005 and June 2008, has now lost two of its past three contests after also losing 2-0 in India.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Milan welcomes David Beckham

After saluting the fans, Beckham heads to the stands where he is joined by his wife

And the presence of the Englishman clearly inspires his new team-mates as they storm to a 5-1 win over Udinese

Wife Victoria Beckham is on hand to offer her husband support

Beckham is introduced to the San Siro crowd ahead of Sunday's Serie A clash with Udinese

Milan make the very best of their first opportunity to show off the new number 32 shirt

A third outfit for the day sees Becks scrub up nicely in a pinstripe suit

First things first as David Beckham undergoes a medical before his AC Milan unveiling on Saturday - sensibly he has wrapped up warm

'Goldenballs' might have only just arrived in Milan but the Serie A club are already making the most of Beckham's commercial worth

Beckham gets to look mean and moody in an AC Milan shirt for the first time - and pose with a football as well

And the number is 32 - AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani will be hoping to shift plenty of these beauties

A David Beckham scarf - so much better than getting a pair of socks for Christmas

Labels: , ,

Russian wildcard angers Bristow

Former world champion Eric Bristow has slated the decision by the Professional Darts Corporation to hand a wildcard to female player Anastasia Dobromyslova.

Russian Dobromyslova is the reigning BDO women's world champion and the PDC World Championships begin on Friday.

Bristow told BBC London 94.9: "There are a lot of top players who are not very happy about it.

"They are paying a lot of money to travel around the world and she's just been invited."

Five-times British Darts Organisation world title winner Bristow added: "I feel so sorry for Trina Gulliver who won the women's world title seven years in a row. The year she loses it we invite the winner over.

"If Anastasia wants to join the PDC, travel the world earning ranking points and earn her way through then we could have five women in it next year and no-one could complain.

"I don't think she's that good to be honest. People are saying she's the best woman player ever but Maureen [Flowers] would have killed her, Deta Hedman would have murdered her and Trina Gulliver has been a great ambassador."

Dobromyslova has been drawn against Remco van Eijden in the preliminary round at Alexandra Palace, Phil Taylor is odds-on favourite to win his 14th world crown.

Labels: ,

Dobromyslova falls to early exit

Anastasia Dobromyslova, the first woman to play in the PDC world championship, went out in the preliminary round with a 5-3 defeat by Remco van Eijden.

The 24-year-old Russian had several chances against her Dutch opponent and won the first leg as the fans at Alexandra Palace cheered every dart.

But Van Eijden remained composed to take a 3-1 lead before eventually wrapping up the win in the eighth leg.

Former finalist Peter Manley fell to a shock 3-2 defeat by Mensur Suljovic.

Raymond van Barneveld and Wayne Mardle sealed first-round wins.

Dutchman Van Barneveld, ranked second in the world, beat Mark Stephenson 3-0, while Mardle had little trouble in seeing off David Fatum by the same scoreline.

World number seven Andy Hamilton had earlier booked his place in the second round with a 3-0 win over Michael Barnard.

Dobromyslova's arrival at the championship had drawn plenty of attention, but the women's world champion was not able to make the headlines with a famous victory.

"I'm disappointed but I wasn't good enough on the day," said Dobromyslova.

"I felt comfortable on stage but we were both nervous in the first few legs and I felt some pressure.

"But this is just the start for me and I'll be better for the experience. I'll be travelling to all the PDC tournaments next year and hopefully I will qualify again."

Van Eijden admitted: "I've played most of the best players in the game but that was the hardest match I've ever had.

"Everyone wanted to see me lose but I settled down after the first couple of legs and got the win.

"Anastasia is a world champion and a very good player, and she can play better than this, but she was under pressure and did well."

Mark Walsh beat Jamie Caven 3-2 but missed the chance to claim the first ever nine-dart finish in the history of the championships - and a £20,000 bonus.

"On the nine-darter, I was thinking about the £20,000," said Walsh. "The double 12 attempt was nearer the treble!"

The 2005 World Championship runner-up Mark Dudbridge was pushed all the way by qualifier Nick Fullwell before taking a 3-2 win, while Denis Ovens saw off Steve Maish 3-0.

Labels: ,

Beckham worth a place - Ancelotti

David Beckham will play a significant role for AC Milan during his loan spell, says coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The Los Angeles Galaxy player joins the Italian side until March as he attempts to stay fit in the US close season.

And after the Englishman was paraded in front of the San Siro crowd on Sunday, Ancelotti made it clear that the move was more than a publicity exercise.

"Certainly there is a place for him because he is a great player," said the Milan coach.

"He is very well-prepared tactically and he can give a contribution to this team.

"He is in good condition and if he is one of the 11 names on the team sheet, then it is because he deserves to be there.

"I met with him this morning and he has been welcomed very well. We are all delighted to have him here.

"We are all happy because what we have got is a great professional."

Speaking on Saturday, Beckham said a key reason behind the loan was the relatively short length of the football season in the United States.

"I've always said I would miss playing at the highest level," said the 33-year-old.

"I'm not saying that in America they won't get to the highest level - it will take time and it will happen - but with five months off during the season I personally can't do that."

Beckham, who has 107 England caps, needs to remain fit to keep his place in England squad as he bids to surpass Bobby Moore's outfield record of 108 caps.

"I know how (England coach) Fabio Capello works," said Beckham. "If you're good enough and working hard enough, you'll be in the team no matter where you are or where you're playing.

"You should not be given England caps lightly, they're very precious. People have questioned that in the last few games I've played in which is quite unbelievable considering I'm on 107 caps.

"To be up there with Bobby Moore is an incredible thing. If I end up equalling the record, I'd be even more honoured but at the moment I take each game as it comes."

Capello - a former coach of AC Milan - said on Saturday: "I put [Beckham] in the squad when he played with LA and if he plays for AC Milan it is possible he will be in the squad.

"Beckham's record is not important for me - I decide the squad to win a game, not for the record."

And Beckham, who began Saturday's news conference by addressing the assembled media with a few words in Italian, admitted: "I needed to be able to be playing top-flight football to keep myself fit, to keep myself in contention for other things that are going on."

The first game Beckham could potentially play for Milan is their away match against Roma on 11 January.

"I wouldn't have taken this opportunity if I didn't think I could help the team," said Beckham.

"It's not about anything else apart from the football. I've come here to play with some of the best players in the world.

"To be able to step on to the training field with Kaka, (Andrea) Pirlo, (Paolo) Maldini, Ronaldinho - there's so many players that I've always watched and played against but never played with.

"There's some great players out there and I don't expect to walk in on the first day and be starting in the team, it doesn't happen like that.

"I'm going to work hard in training, I'm going to get my fitness - because I need to - and then once I'm fit, hopefully I can get some time in the team, and hopefully help.

"I know there's quite a few injuries at the moment," he added, referring to a lengthy injury list that includes the likes of Kaka, Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Mathieu Flamini.

Beckham, who will wear the number 32 shirt, is especially keen to line up alongside 40-year-old defender Maldini.

"What is great about AC Milan is the history of the club, that's what makes great clubs," said the Englishman. "Who better to represent the club than Maldini?

"He's still playing at top level. That just shows the club's amazing structure, amazing beliefs in players whether they're young or old. As long as they're talented it doesn't matter.

"I've played against him and know how good he is. Now to play with him, well it's a huge honour.

"I love the history behind great teams, I've said it before. I loved playing for Manchester United. They will always be the team that gave me my start, gave me the chance to win so many trophies.

"I fell in love with Real Madrid too and now that I've seen AC Milan, I'm already falling in love.

"It's going to be hard to leave but I'm going to have a great time here I hope."

Earlier on Saturday Milan suggested they would consider signing Beckham on loan again in 2010 if his two-month spell goes well.

"We hope Beckham leaves an indelible mark," said chief executive Adriano Galliani. "Next year we could repeat the experience, maybe for longer."

Galliani had previously hinted that Beckham may want to spend more than two months in Serie A but the chief executive played down the speculation.

"David Beckham will stay with Milan up to 9 March. The last match is Milan v Atalanta on 8 March. I don't want to delude anyone," he said.

Prior to his official unveiling Beckham had a medical at a private clinic.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Adebayor vents anger at Arbeloa

Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor has accused Liverpool defender Alvaro Arbeloa of play-acting in order to get him sent off in Sunday's 1-1 draw.

Adebayor was shown a second yellow card in the 62nd minute for a clumsy challenge but the Togo international believes the decision was harsh on him.

"I cannot say he [Arbeloa] cheated, but what he did was not fair play at all," said the 24-year-old.

"The defender threw himself on the floor as if I put a knife in him."

Manager Arsene Wenger believes the sending off cost his side victory and was furious with referee Howard Webb's decision.

"I am convinced we would have won with 11 players," said the Arsenal manager.

"We took control with 10 men, but imagine what it would have been like with 11?"

Robin van Persie had given the home side the lead with a brilliant finish after some excellent control, before Robbie Keane levelled the match with an equally good finish just before half-time.

Liverpool were on top after the interval, although chances were at a premium even before Adebayor went in high on Alvaro Arbeloa, prompting Webb to issue the striker his second yellow card.

"It was very soft," said Wenger of the second booking. "If we get red cards like that from opponents away from home then I'm very happy.

"It was not a red card, it was not a second yellow card. I don't know what it was for and I'm sure he (the referee) doesn't know.

"It's frustrating because we had a nervy first half as we were under pressure to win this game and I knew we would finish very strongly.

"We played high up in the second half and we could not take advantage of the fact we were slowly taking control of the game because we were down to 10 men."

Adebayor agreed with his manager's sentiments and believes Webb made a mistake.

"I don't think I deserved a yellow card and just want the referee to go back and watch it on TV again," he said.

"I just wanted to protect the ball. A striker like me, Robbie Keane, (Nicolas) Anelka or (Didier) Drogba always have to protect the ball and that's what happened.

"At the end of the end of the day he has made a mistake and he has to recognise that what he has done is a little mistake."

Liverpool were missing manager Rafael Benitez from the touchline after he underwent an operation to remove kidney stones during the week.

With the Spaniard at home recuperating, assistant boss Sammy Lee filled the void and revealed afterwards that Benitez had remained in regular contact.

"We have been in constant touch all week and we made sure we were in constant touch before and during the game," he said.

"He was at home and it is testimony to his professionalism because he has been in a lot of pain."

Liverpool are two points clear of Chelsea at the top with the west London club due to face Everton on Sunday and although happy with a point, Lee was disappointed not to come away from the Emirates with all three.

"This is Liverpool and we look to take three points everywhere we go," said the 49-year-old.

"The boys are disappointed but we have to accentuate the positives and we have got a good point at a very good club.

"Part of our disappointment is that we did not use our numerical advantage but credit to Arsenal, who worked hard when they were a man down."

Keane's goal was his third in the league for Liverpool this season and comes after criticism for recent below-par performances, but the 28-year-old believes he still has plenty to offer this season.

"It's always nice to score a goal as a striker," he said.

"We are judged on goals and not on everything else we do. It's always nice to score but what's important is that it's not about me it's about the team and not getting beat.

"I know I'll score a lot of goals for this club. It was nice to score today and I know there will be a lot more to come.

"I prefer to be judged at the end of the season and not in December."

Labels: , , , ,

Ibrahimovic 'better than Ronaldo'

Inter Milan coach Jose Mourinho insists his striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a better player than Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Ronaldo is a good player but he is certainly not the best," said Mourinho.

"He deserved the Golden Ball award because his team won the Champions League and the Premier League. But, for me, Ibrahimovic is the best."

Mourinho also said he is not chasing Chelsea's Dider Drogba, but admitted he will let striker Adriano leave Inter.

The 26-year-old Brazilian forward has been linked with a move to Chelsea or a return to his home country, and is apparently now free to leave in the January transfer window.

"(Club president) Massimo Moratti and I want him to stay," said Mourinho.

"However, if he asked me to leave I would not oppose it. He has 10 years of football left to play."

He added: "I have never hidden my special relationship with Didier but I do not need another striker as I have Hernan Crespo, Julio Cruz, Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"But Drogba is more than a player for me, he is a part of me, an extension of the coach on the pitch."

With Italian champions Inter set to face Manchester United in the last 16 of the Champions league next February, Mourinho has begun talking up his players.

And the former Chelsea boss believes his fellow Portuguese, Ronaldo, "is certainly not the best" player in the world.

"When I think how a player should be, names like Kaka, Ibrahimovic and (Lionel) Messi come to mind," said Mourinho.

"Messi is great and in two or three years' time he will win the Golden Ball (Ballon d'Or) award."

Labels: , , , , , ,

Diarra agrees to join Real Madrid

Portsmouth midfielder Lassana Diarra has agreed a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, subject to passing a medical on Monday.

The 23-year-old is set to sign a four-and-a-half-year deal at the Bernabeu.

Pompey had already accepted Real's bid - reported to be £20m - for Diarra but there was still interest from other clubs, including Manchester City.

Diarra will officially become a Real player when the transfer window reopens on 1 January.

The France international started his career with Le Havre before signing for Chelsea in 2005. He moved to the Gunners on the final day of the August 2007 transfer window but left for Pompey five months later.

"We have always said that we would only allow our players to leave if we received an exceptional bid," a Pompey spokesman told the club's website earlier in the week.

"We could not stand in the way of a move such as this for Lassana.

"It shows how far the club has come under the ownership of Alexandre Gayadamak when Real Madrid come in for one of our players.

"Should the deal be completed, we have already identified possible replacements."

Pompey boss Tony Adams said he will have all of the money from Diarra's sale to sign new players.

"It's a substantial offer. Every penny is mine, and I had money before that, so I am delighted," said Adams on Wednesday.

"Every decision at this club will be through me and when Real Madrid offers a lot of money for one of your players I have a decision to make.

"The lad wants to play for Real Madrid and it's a magnificent offer that will get me some recruitments for Portsmouth."

Diarra came on as a substitute in Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Bolton to make his first appearance since 15 November following an ankle injury.

Real are now coached by former Tottenham boss Juande Ramos and want a defensive midfielder because Mali international Mahamadou Diarra is sidelined for the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ronaldo careful to avoid Fergie "hair-dryer" in Japan

Cristiano Ronaldo studiously avoided talk of Real Madrid after Manchester United booked their place in Sunday's Club World Cup final.

Spanish media reports claiming United had agreed to sell Ronaldo to Real prompted a furious response from Alex Ferguson after his side's 5-3 win over Gamba Osaka on Thursday.

While the United manager insisted he "wouldn't sell a virus" to Real, Ronaldo kept his own counsel, perhaps mindful of Ferguson's famous "hair-dryer" treatment.

"I don't want to talk about Real Madrid," the Portuguese winger told reporters after scoring one of United's five goals in their semi-final win in Yokohama. "I am happy here."

Ronaldo admitted that United would need to play better against Ecuador's LDU in order to become the first British side to win the Club World Cup.

"LDU are a great side and the final will be much more difficult," said the Ballon d'Or winner. "The second game is always harder. It would be amazing to be world champions.

"The lads want the treble (English, European and world champions) and we're delighted to be in the final. But we know we have to play better on Sunday."


Ronaldo, wearing lime green boots, gave United a 2-0 lead with a header on the stroke of halftime but was overshadowed by substitute Wayne Rooney's late double strike.

"Wayne did brilliantly tonight," said Ronaldo, who dazzled the crowd of 67,000 with his trademark stepovers. "He was hungry to score and got two fantastic goals."

Ferguson's side won the Club World Cup's forerunner, a one-off match between the champions of Europe and South America, with a 1-0 victory over Brazil's Palmeiras in 1999.

United were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Argentine side Estudiantes in 1968 when the Intercontinental Cup was played over two legs.

Ferguson was still fuming after the game about the latest rumours from Madrid, which came after last weekend's 2-0 defeat by arch-rivals Barcelona.

"Real Madrid will blame anybody but themselves for their problems," said the Scot. "I said to (chief executive) David Gill last summer, when we sold Gabriel Heinze, you can bet your life in January it will all start up with Ronaldo again.

"We know their game. We've just got to ignore it. If we keep worrying about what Real are going to say then we're not going to concentrate on our own programme of difficult games coming up."

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Swann leads England fightback

England off spinner Graeme Swann grabbed three quick wickets to trigger an Indian batting collapse after lunch on day two of the second test on Saturday.

India were 356 for five at tea after losing four wickets for 19 runs in the afternoon. Yuvraj Singh was 12 not out with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni on six at the interval.

Swann, playing in only his second test, led England's fightback in an unchanged 14-over spell in tandem with all rounder Andrew Flintoff, who took the other wicket after giving away just three runs in his outstanding six-over spell.

Opener Gautam Gambhir struck 179 and Rahul Dravid 136, after scoring his 26th test hundred as the pair piled up a record 314 runs for the second wicket.

Swann, who took two wickets in his first over on test debut in the six-wicket defeat in Chennai, struck in the fifth over after India resumed on their lunch score of 302 for one.

He had Gambhir and Dravid caught and then trapped Sachin Tendulkar (11) leg before, then Flintoff trapped Vangipurappu Laxman leg before for duck facing 24 deliveries.

England bowlers, who finally got on top of a slow pitch affording some seam movement, almost had a sixth wicket but Yuvraj was dropped on eight when Alastair Cook spilt a simple catch at point off Flintoff.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Ecclestone says Ferrari get special treatment

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has hit back at criticism from Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo by detailing how much more money the Italian team receive from the sport than their rivals.

"Ferrari get so much more money than everyone else," the 78-year-old billionaire told Saturday's edition of the Times.

"They know exactly what they get, they are not that stupid, although they are not that bright, either. They get about $80 million (53 million pounds) more," he added.

"When they win the constructors' championship, which they did this year, they got $80 million more than if McLaren had won it."

Ferrari are the sport's most glamorous and successful team, the only ones still in Formula One who were also present at the outset of the world championship in 1950.

It has never been a secret that the Maranello team receive a greater share of the sport's revenues in recognition of their special importance but a figure has not previously been revealed.

Ecclestone's remarks followed comments by Di Montezemolo in which the Italian said Formula One was not run in a normal, transparent manner, did not need a dictator and that teams should get a greater share of the revenues.

"The only thing he has not mentioned is the extra money Ferrari get above all the other teams and all the extra things Ferrari have had for years -- the "general help' they are considered to have had in Formula One," said Ecclestone.

Ecclestone added that Ferrari benefited from agreeing a new deal with him after breaking ranks with the other manufacturers in 2003 when they were threatening a breakaway series.

Labels: , ,

English clubs handed tough task

England's chances of producing three semi-finalists in the Champions League for the third successive season were dented on Friday by a tough-looking last 16 draw.

Holders Manchester United were paired with Italian champions and Serie A leaders Inter Milan while Premier League leaders Liverpool take on nine-times champions Real Madrid after the draw made at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

Last year's runners-up Chelsea were paired with Juventus, managed by former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri, while Arsenal, finalists in 2006, play AS Roma in a third Anglo-Italian clash.

The Manchester United tie will see another former Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, returning to face Premiership opposition in his new role in charge of Inter.

"Obviously Jose has put us out of the competition before," said United's communications director Phil Townsend in reference to Mourinho's success at the same stage in 2004 with eventual European champions Porto.

"But equally we put Inter out in 1999 when we went on to win the tournament so maybe that's a good omen for us."

Real Madrid's meeting with Liverpool will mark only the second time that the Spanish nine-time European champions have met the English five-time winners in the competition.

Their only previous encounter came in the final of the 1981 European Cup with Liverpool winning through 1-0.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Garry Kasparov coming to India

Garry Kasparov, considered the greatest chess players ever, will be visiting India soon. The former world champion, who retired in 2005, after spending nearly 20 years at the helm of the world chess, will be in New Delhi in mid-March. It will be his first ever visit to India.

Kasparov, 45, will be in the capital to deliver a keynote address for a Delhi-based media organisation. The exact nature of the address is not yet known but his recent activities have been more political than sporting. A staunch critic of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Kasparov — after his retirement — had launched a political movement against Putin’s authority and has often used words like mafia when he talked about the Russian Government. He had also unsuccessfully tried to contest in 2008 elections.

The Russian is likely to take part in a simultaneous chess exhibition. As of now, he is expected to spend two days in New Delhi. However, his other programmes in India are being kept under the wraps. “I’m looking forward to the visit,” Kasparov told DNA through his agent.

Born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in April 1963, Kasparov had scaled to an unthinkable Elo rating of 1851 at the peak of his career. He had become the youngest ever world champion in 1985 at the age of 22. He went on retain the official title till 1993 when he split the world chess and formed his own Professional Chess Association. But in an interview to DNA last year, he admitted that splitting the world chess was his biggest blunder.

The world chess finally got united after Indian Grandmaster Viwanathan Anand won the United world title in Mexico in 2007. Kasparov was, in fact, among the first few to congratulate Anand after the Indian maestro beat Vladimir Kramnik in the Bonn World Championship recently.

Labels: , , ,

Swann, Flintoff star for England, India all out for 453

Graeme Swann triggered a top order collapse and Andrew Flintoff polished off the tail to abort India's bid to bury England under a run mountain on day two of
the second and final cricket Test on Saturday.

Resuming on 179 for one, India's overnight batsmen Gautam Gambhir (179) and Rahul Dravid (136) starred in a record 314-run stand for the second wicket before Swann and Flintoff pegged back the hosts who lost wickets in a heap towards the end to be all out for 453 runs in 158.2 overs.

England openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook did walk out to begin their first innings but once they were offered light, both returned to the pavilion without facing a ball.

Interestingly, the sun came out soon after. The morning session, which yielded 123 runs from 27 overs without any wicket falling, clearly belonged to the hosts, who looked set for at least 500 runs.

Fortune, however, fluctuated in the post-lunch session, which saw just 54 runs being scored off 28 overs with four Indian wickets tumbling in quick successions.

England dominated the final session as well, claiming the lower half of the Indian batting order conceding 97 runs. On a misty morning when the ball did quite a bit, both the overnight batsmen Gambhir and Dravid scratched around for a while before some easy boundaries calmed their nerves.

Much to their bemusement, they found singles were not easy to come by even though boundaries kept flowing. Gambhir cut Andrew Flintoff for a delectable boundary to score India's first runs of the day and twice stepped out to hit Monty Panesar for a couple of fours in his only over before lunch.

Labels: , , ,

Ferguson says Ronaldo can emulate Pele and Maradona

Portuguese winger Cristiano Ronaldo has the potential to become as great a player as Pele or Diego Maradona, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said on Saturday.

"The expectations are always so high with Cristiano because of his rise in the last two or three years since we got him as a young kid," Ferguson told a news conference on the eve of his side's Club World Cup final against Ecuador's LDU .

"He scored 42 goals last season -- his goal-scoring is the one area which for a wide player Cristiano is absolutely superb.

"Pele scored in a World Cup final as a 17-year-old and Maradona played for his country at 17. Cristiano was 18 so the signs are the same."

Ferguson's lavish praise comes during the latest war of words between United and Spanish giants Real Madrid over the future of the Ballon d'Or winner.

"His ability with two feet is tremendous," purred Ferguson. "You would never associate it with a Portuguese winger but he is absolutely magnificent in the air.

"He's 23 now and still a very young lad but there's a lot of things in his favour to go on and prove himself as a legend."

Ronaldo was among the scorers in United's 5-3 win over Japan's Gamba Osaka in Thursday's Club World Cup semi-final but was overshadowed by two goals from substitute Wayne Rooney.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saina loses thrilling semifinal against Wang

Saina Nehwal played her heart out but lost to world number six Chen Wang of Hong Kong in an edge-of-the-seat semifinal of the World Super Series Masters Final on Saturday.

The world number 10 Indian used every trick from her arsenal but failed to match the experience of her third seed Hong Kong opponent and went down fighting 15-21 21-14 16-21 to bring down curtains in the prestigious tournament.

An attacking player, Wang rode on her smashes and better net play to wrest the first game as Saina huffed and puffed helplessly all across the court.

However, the 18-year-old Indian raised her game and rallied to pocket the second game 21-14. The third game was a cliff-hanger as the two rivals fought tooth and nail. At one point, Wang opened up a four point lead but Saina narrowed down the gap pocketing two quick points.

Finally, however, it was the Hong Kong girl who had the last laugh as she sealed the match in 42 minutes. Saina became the first Indian to reach the semifinals of
the World Super Series Masters Finals yesterday when she beat Hongyan Pi of France in straight games and later edged out local favourite Mew Choo Wong in a thrilling contest on a single day.

The Beijing quarterfinalist will next play in the Malaysian Super Series and the Korean Super Series in January next year.

Labels: , , ,

Fans to build Dhoni temple in Ranchi

Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni will soon be worshipped. The Dhoni Fans Club Saturday announced they would build a temple in his home town Ranchi.

The temple will have a statue of Dhoni and will be built with the money collected by his fans. Construction will begin on January 14. This is perhaps the first time that a temple will be built to worship a cricketer. In south India temples have been built to worship some film stars.

"We have decided to construct a temple to god of cricket Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Ranchi. He will be worshipped like gods are worshipped in the temple," president of Dhoni Fans Club Jitendra Singh said.

He said photographs of Dhoni will also be displayed on the walls of the proposed temple, which will come up in Hawai Nagar of Ranchi.

"Dhoni is god for us. With his entry in Indian cricket, Jharkhand was put on the international map. People here are recognised due to him. We get respect in other states. Dhoni has changed the face of Indian cricket," said Rajesh Kumar, a fan.

Labels: , ,

Babus paid more than athletes in Beijing Olympics

Indian athletes may have brought home the country’s maiden gold and two bronze medals from the Olympics, but it was the bureaucrats and politicians accompanying them who were paid more by the government during their stay in Beijing.

In a reply to a query filed by DNA under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Union youth affairs and sports ministry said that while athletes and coaches were paid $50 each as daily pocket allowance, the babus and netas who went to Beijing as part of the official delegation received $75 a day.

The pocket allowance was over and above the spending on boarding and lodging. For the sports contingent these expenses were taken care of by the Beijing Olympic Committee while for the delegation, they were borne by the Indian embassy.

Among the people who received $75 a day were minister of state for youth affairs and sports MS Gill and Lok Sabha members Vijay Bahuguna and Krishna Tirath. The other members of the official delegation were Rajya Sabha member Bhubaneshwar Kalita and several bureaucrats, including sports secretary Sudhir Nath, two joint secretaries, and Sports Authority of India director-general Sayan Chatterjee.

The ministry said Rs12.19 lakh was spent on the travel of the 13 bureaucrats and politicians and arrangements for their lodging and boarding were made by the Indian embassy at Beijing.

“We used to get an allowance of $50 a day, which is hardly anything hardly gets a few decent meals in it. The problem is much worse at the Asiad, where players get no allowance,” said Commonwealth boxer Virender Singh said.

Asiad medal-winning runner Bharat Kumar, said, “ If only players could get better allowances, they may change their lifestyle a little.”

Source :

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tendulkar is egoless, gracious god : British media

Sachin Tendulkar is god to billion Indians but he is a "gracious god" who lifts his people out of the pit of despair in the wake of Mumbai terror attacks, a leading British newspaper said, paying tribute to the champion batsman who has "not a scrap of ego".

Tendulkar offered balm to a country which was devastated by terror attacks in its finacial capital yet he remained a modest god, according to a write-up in Daily Telegraph.

"He (Tendulkar) is an unlikely-looking god. He stands there in the middle dwarfed by the gigantic Andrew Flintoff and the strapping Yuvraj Singh, a boy-like figure with a cherubic face whose Michelin man-style pads come half way up his thigh," Simon Hughes wrote.

"The poor Indian lifts his hands to Sachin Tendulkar in supplication; Give us respite, a sense of liberation; lift us up from the dark pit of our lives to well-lit places of the imagination with your skill-wrought perfection. He has not a scrap of ego. He is a gracious god. We will never see his like again".

The writer said that Tendulkar never shirked his enormous responsibility and spent considerable time preparing for a game.

"Tendulkar never shirks this enormous responsibility. He spends almost every waking hour seeking that perfection, practising, planning, preparing. He rings his brother, the man who knows his game best, every day, talking bowlers and bat angles and shot selection. He looks at the pitch and contemplates how he will make runs on it. He is thankful of his talent and dutifully delivers it to his public, the majority of whom have nothing," Hughes wrote.

A self-effacing man who keeps his emotions private, Tendulkar's inner urge to express the hurt caused to him by the audacious terror attack at the city he was born and brought up led him to dedicate his century in Chennai to the people of Mumbai and India, but he admits it was not his nature to play the role of a statesman too often.

"Sometimes I do it, but it is not my way," Tendulkar was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "Tendulkar lives in Bandra, in the north of Mumbai, Bollywoodville. But he often goes south to Colaba with family and friends, to eat in the Taj Mahal Palace hotel or the Oberoi.

"The Mumbai attacks were close to home and affected him deeply. The England players remarked on his extra patience and intensity at the crease. This time he was doubly determined to lift his people out of their pit," the article said.

Tendulkar wields a heavy bat unusual for his small frame, but he says he would not be the same batsman without his willow.

"I like a bow in it. I can't bat with anything else. I would not feel right at the crease," the master batsman said.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saina wins second game, keeps semi-final hopes alive

Saina Nehwal shrugged off her first match disappointment and thumped fourth-seed Hongyan Pi of France in straight sets to keep her hopes of making the semi-finals alive in the World Super Series Masters Finals, here on Friday.

The world No 10 Indian thrashed the French, ranked three notches higher than her, 21-18, 21-13 in a 34-minute contest.

National champion Saina will next face sixth-seed and world No 11 Mew Choo Wong of Malaysia later today.

The eighteen-year-old shuttler rallied well to leave her opponent huffing and puffing all over the court and indulged in some sharp smashes to gallop her way to sealing the first set 21-18.

In the next game, Hongyan displayed some powerful strokes and matched Saina's smashes well but the Indian ace was in no mood to give an inch. She played close to the nets and raced away with the game 21-13.

Labels: , ,

Gambhir and Dravid guide India to a comfortable position

In-form Gautam Gambhir cracked his third century in four matches and Rahul Dravid marked his return to form as India recoverd from a shaky start to put themselves on course for a huge first innings total in the second cricket Test against England here on Friday.

Gambhir (106 not out) traded belligerence for maturity while born-again Dravid (65 not out) exorcised the demons to star in a bailout act as India reached a comfortable 179 for one at close on a truncated opening day.

Virender Sehwag's scoreless exit in only the second over of the day denied India a flying start they are so used to these days.

To their credit, Gambhir and Dravid gamely hung on and eventually stitched together an unbeaten 173-run stand that not only pre-empted the fear of a batting collapse but also propped up the hosts on a chilly, gloomy day.

Gambhir, who took the cudgel on himself to guide India to safety after Sehwags early dismissal, remained not out on 106 off 229 balls, a knock garnished with 12 fours and a huge six off Graeme Swann.

This was his third century in four matches, underlining the magical year he has had. Dravid, on his part, finally got a huge monkey off his back with an unbeaten 205-ball 65 that included seven fours and spoke volume of his grit and gumption.

Only 72 overs could be bowled today before bad light dropped early curtains on the proceedings 45 minutes before scheduled close.

After poor light delayed the start of the match by 20 minutes, a laden sky and a gushing wind made it pretty much home conditions for the visitors and MS Dhoni's decision to bat first looked doomed as India saw Sehwag back in the pavilion with the scoreboard reading just six.

After poking at the first two balls he received from Broad, Sehwag ran out of luck and nicked the third and it was pretty much a routine catch for Matt Prior behind the stumps.

The early setback, besides Dravids initial struggle at the other end, prompted Gambhir to mothball his natural attacking game and focus more on surviving the treacherous morning session.

Naturally, the run rate took a nosedive and it was rather an unusual sight to see India crawl to 15 in the first 10 overs.

Gambhir got off the mark by sending the second ball of the innings to the boundary ropes but India had to wait another 11 overs before the next boundary came, highlighting their initial toiling.

Dravid, at the other end, looked in all sort of troubles as he struggled to middle the ball. On one occasion, his fluffed pull looped up and landed in the no mans land between the square and fine leg and when he pulled James Anderson to get into double figures, it turned out to be his first boundary in the last five innings.

Gambhir bloomed at the other end and stepped out to hit Monty Panesar for two boundaries in his first over.

Post-lunch session, Dravid too grew in confidence and looked more at home against the English attack and ran down Broad through the vacant third slip for a boundary and then took a couple off Andrew Flintoff to reach his first fifty in nine innings.

Gambhir slammed Anderson for back-to-back boundaries but was lucky when Paul Collingwood, otherwise safest of the English catchers, spilled a difficult chance off Swann in the lone slip when the left-hander was on 70.

The Delhi opener returned after tea to hoick the off-spinner over long on for a massive six and a couple off Anderson took him to his fourth Test ton.

Overall, it was a day of hard toil for the England attack, which managed just one wicket in three sessions.

Labels: , ,

Garforth agree deal to sign Cafu

Former AC Milan and Brazil right-back Cafu has been lined up to play for Unibond Northern League team Garforth Town next year.

The club's manager, Simon Clifford, has played down talk of a move in January but has persuaded the 38-year-old to join before the end of the season.

"He's likely to be coming in April to just play a few games," said Clifford.

"It's an honour to have someone like him lining up in our shirt and I think he'll add something on the field."

Clifford runs the Brazilian Soccer Schools coaching organisation and has built up a number of contacts in the game.

In 2004 he attracted Brazil legends Socrates and Careca to play for the club and the addition of Cafu is another major coup for the West Yorkshire town.

Just last season the World Cup winner was plying his trade with AC Milan but was without a club having being released in the summer after five years at the San Siro.

He is Brazil's most capped player of all time having played 142 times for his country and has won the World Cup twice - in 1994 and 2002.

Labels: , ,

India pull out of Pakistan tour

India have pulled out of next year's planned cricket tour of Pakistan in the wake of November's attacks in Mumbai after receiving government advice.

They were due to arrive in Pakistan on 4 January for three Tests, five one-day games and a Twenty20 international but the Indian government stepped in.

Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Salim Altaf conceded: "It was a decision neither in their nor in our hands."

Meanwhile, the PCB has invited Sri Lanka to tour in India's place.

This new tour would involve three Test matches, three one-day internationals and one Twenty20 game.

Altaf said: "We hope they will agree to it and come after 20 January, shortly after hosting Bangladesh."

India's tour had been in jeopardy since last month's attacks, which India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Pakistan has denied involvement after the attacks left more than 170 dead.

It is the third major cricket tour to Pakistan this year to be cancelled on security grounds.

Australia pulled out of their scheduled visit in March, while the International Cricket Council also postponed the Champions Trophy one-day tournament in September.

As a result, Pakistan have played no Test cricket this year and just 21 one-day internationals, mostly against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

The Pakistan Cricket Board fears this latest decision could cost it £13m.

PCB's Altaf said: "If there is no India series we gain nothing from our new television deal and lose out on other sources of income as well."

The PCB recently signed a new television rights deal worth approximately £90m with the Dubai-based organisation Ten Sports, but it includes a clause which stipulates that if a series is cancelled, nothing will be paid.

Indian sports minister MS Gill made the final call on cancelling the tour, with the government's Ministry of External Affairs having already refused permission for a junior hockey team to travel to Pakistan.

"We received a communication from the government stating that in the present circumstances, it is not feasible to tour Pakistan," said Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) official Ratnakar Shetty.

But Shetty has not ruled out the possibility of playing the games at a neutral venue, with the PCB having previously floated the idea of moving the fixtures to the United Arab Emirates.

"No decision has been made on playing Pakistan at a neutral venue," said Shetty.

Meanwhile, he denied that the decision could damage the next Cricket World Cup, which is meant to be jointly hosted by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

"It will not affect the 2011 World Cup as that is a different tournament," he said.

Shetty also believes that relations between the respective cricket boards would not be harmed and Altaf agrees.

He added: "We are still on normal terms with BCCI because it was a decision neither in their nor in our hands."

"They have also said that if the situation gets normal in the future it would send its team to Pakistan.

"We still maintain sport should not be mixed with politics.

"We believe cricket can help improve relations between the two nations."

Former PCB chief Shahryar Khan said he was not shocked by the Indian government's decision.

"It is a disappointment, but it does not come as a surprise," he said.

"We all hope that it can be rescheduled later.

"I know that the Pakistan Board is already making alternative arrangements."

It was to have been the fifth series between the two countries since 2004, when cricket ties resumed after a 15-year gap caused by cross-border tensions.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sri Lanka agree to tour Pakistan

Sri Lanka will tour Pakistan next year following the withdrawal of India, the Pakistan Cricket Board has confirmed.

India pulled out on Thursday after receiving government advice in the wake of November's attacks in Mumbai.

Sri Lanka, currently in Bangladesh for two Tests and a one-day series, will play three Tests, three one-dayers and a Twenty20 game in Pakistan.

"Sri Lanka have agreed to tour Pakistan," PCB chief operating officer Saleem Altaf confirmed.

"We are working on the dates and other details. Sri Lanka will travel to Pakistan straight from Bangladesh where their tour ends in the third week of January."

Sri Lanka are due to arrive in Karachi on 19 January and play the Twenty20 game and the first one-day match there.

The proposed schedule would then see the tourists travel to Lahore for back-to-back one-day games and the first Test.

Multan would host the second Test and Sri Lanka would return to Karachi for the final Test before returning home.

The PCB will also hold a meeting to review the participation of Pakistani players in the two Twenty20 competitions in India.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sachin Tendulkar offers Mumbai tribute

Sachin Tendulkar dedicated his century to the families of those killed in the Mumbai terror attacks following India's six-wicket win over England in Chennai.

"This hundred will give a certain amount of happiness to people but what happened in Mumbai, it's very hard to recover from that," he said.

"Cricket is a lesser thing compared to what has happened.

"Whatever we can contribute, we've been able to do that. We're right with the people who have lost their dear ones."

The two-match series against England was in serious doubt following the attacks in Mumbai, Tendulkar's home city, on 29 November, in which more than 170 people were killed.

The England squad flew home, but agreed to return last weekend after being promised unprecedented levels of security by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

They were in the driving seat for much of the game in Chennai but Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 103 on the final day as he and Yuvraj Singh guided India to their target of 387.

Tendulkar described it as a "special victory".

He continued: "The gameplan was to wait for opportunities to score runs because you can't afford to get bogged down.

"It was the kind of wicket where the bounce meant you could always play shots, we looked to put the bad balls away."

Despite his magnificent innings, the Man of the Match award went to team-mate Virender Sehwag, who wrested the initiative from England on the fourth evening with a sparkling innings of 83 off 68 balls.

"We weren't brilliant on the field for the first three days, so it was important to play the last two days with a lot of intensity," said captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

"Sehwag was the playmaker. Without his innings we would have been defending this Test match, but Sachin and Yuvraj really performed when it was really needed for the side."

Sehwag struck four sixes and 11 fours and he said: "I always back myself. If the ball pitches in my area, I'll go after it - it doesn't matter whether it's turning or not."

The second Test begins in Mohali on Friday with India looking to complete back-to-back series victories after defeating Australia 2-0 in a four-match series last month.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

On Tennis: Nadal-Federer topped a year of great matches

The 2008 tennis season didn't disappoint. Au contraire. It was one of the most memorable in years.

Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer's reign at the top, the two gave fans probably the best match of all time, women's great Justine Henin unexpectedly quit, and the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, rekindled their rivalry with four dramatic encounters. They each played all four majors, too, the first time in seven years that happened.

To boot, Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic became Grand Slam champions, while Jelena Jankovic capped Serbia's emergence by ending the campaign as the women's No. 1. Andy Roddick endured a frustrating time thanks to injuries, though his U.S. Open performance and stellar spring brought respite.

Here's a closer look at some of the finest matches, and moments, of 2008:

That classic: Nadal's five-set win over Federer in a pulsating five hours in the Wimbledon final fascinated on numerous fronts.

Wary of his opponent's forehand, Nadal almost exclusively served to Federer's backhand in the first three sets; Federer went 1-for-13 on break points, with most chances squandered early; and for the first time in memory, Nadal choked briefly, delivering a feeble double fault leading 5-2 in the fourth-set tiebreak.

There was so much more. A few points after Nadal delivered a stunning forehand pass down the line to set up a match point in the fourth-set tiebreak, Federer went one better by saving a second match point with an outrageous backhand down the line. Undaunted, Nadal kept it together in the fifth, serving second, cleverly springing his first serve-and-volley in the final game. Adding to the drama were two rain delays that stretched proceedings into the evening; if Nadal hadn't ended matters in the 16th game of the fifth amid fading light, a Monday resumption beckoned.

The other Wimbledon final: Due to Nadal and Federer showing off, many forgot about the women's final at the All England Club between Venus and Serena Williams. That was, however, also a spectacle.

The pre-match hype intensified courtesy of losing semifinalist Elena Dementieva, who, not for the first time, suggested the winner was predetermined. "For sure it's going to be a family decision," Dementieva uttered when asked about the finale. Prodded by the women's tour, she later changed her opinion.

In any case, it didn't take long to figure out there was no fix and sisterly love was on hold. Early in the first set with Venus a lame duck at the net, Serena hammered a passing shot straight at her. She didn't apologize, either.

Serena tossed her racket to the ground in disgust and refused to give her victorious opponent too much credit afterward.

"For me there's nothing to be satisfied about," a glum looking Serena said in her postmatch news conference.

Serena got her revenge in the U.S. Open quarterfinals.

A-Rod's spring: Cutting ties with coach Jimmy Connors, Roddick played like a man unburdened at the Dubai Tennis Championships in March. In a strategy sadly gone missing since, Roddick let rip from the baseline -- rather than relying on defense -- and downed Nadal and Djokovic on back-to-back days. The big serve also came in handy.

About a month later, things got even better.

Roddick ended his 11-match losing streak to Federer, dating to 2003, at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami.

"I came in knowing that no one has beaten me 12 times in a row," Roddick deadpanned. "I figured I was due. He hadn't missed a ball in a crucial moment for about six years against me."

An ankle injury forced Roddick to skip their rematch at the Masters Cup last month.

The late, late show: Late endings at the U.S. Open aren't unusual, with matches routinely finishing past midnight.

Lleyton Hewitt's third-round win over engaging Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open beat that by a mile. They only stepped on court about midnight, thanks to a backlog created by Federer's unexpected marathon against Janko Tipsarevic, an enigmatic Serb.

And wouldn't you know, Hewitt and Baghdatis went five exhilarating sets. Carrying the hopes of a nation on his small shoulders, Hewitt took a two sets-to-one lead by overturning a 5-3 deficit in the third; in the fourth, Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, smiled his way back from 5-1 down to force a fifth.

Hewitt finally prevailed at 4:33 a.m., the latest finish in Grand Slam history.

"It wasn't easy for both of us," Hewitt said. "It was tough for everybody, but we just tried to put this behind us on court."

Spain's miracle: No one gave Spain a chance against Argentina in the Davis Cup final, which made sense given Nadal couldn't play because of a bad knee and the South Americans were hosting the series.

Here's what happened next: Underachieving lefties Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco surprisingly won their singles matches and combined to take the doubles, helped by an injury to Argentine No. 1 Juan Martin Del Potro and the antics of teammate David Nalbandian. Nalbandian, according to reports in South America, was a major problem in the dressing room.

The last three matches of Spain's 3-1 victory had tons of drama, especially the doubles. The turning point of the series came when Lopez and Verdasco rallied from 5-1 down in the third-set tiebreak after blowing a 5-1 lead in the set. They clinched it in four.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Tendulkar, Yuvraj Lift India Closer to Record Cricket Target

Sachin Tendulkar scored an unbeaten 65 to lift India to 304-4 at tea against England -- 83 runs short of the highest successful run chase in a Test in India.

Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh, on 45 not out, boosted the home team in an 80-run stand on the final day of the first cricket Test in Chennai. Graeme Swann had earlier removed VVS Laxman to reduce India to 224-4 chasing 387 to win.

The Indians, who last lost a home Test series to England in 1985, have a minimum 40 overs for what would be the highest fourth-innings total to win a Test in India. The West Indies successfully chased 276 runs at Delhi in 1987.

India started the final day needing another 256 runs after opener Virender Sehwag blasted 83 off 68 balls late yesterday. Centuries by Andrew Strauss -- his second of the match -- and Paul Collingwood had lifted England to 311-9 declared in its second innings.

India added 10 runs to its overnight total today before Rahul Dravid edged an Andrew Flintoff delivery to wicketkeeper Matt Prior. With the score on 183, Collingwood took a diving catch at gully to dismiss Gautam Gambhir (66) off James Anderson’s bowling.

Laxman fell for 26 shortly after the lunch interval, caught at short leg by Ian Bell, to leave England needing six more wickets. Tendulkar then passed 50 for a world record-extending 92nd time to wrest the initiative. Yuvraj smashed a six and four fours in 68 balls to move within runs five of a half-century.

A series win would lift India above South Africa into second place in the International Cricket Council’s Test Championship. England would move above Sri Lanka into fourth with a 2-0 win.

The best-of-two contest had been in doubt when England cut short its one-day series following the Nov. 26 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. England’s players agreed to return to India at the start of the month after receiving security assurances.

The second Test is scheduled to start Dec. 19 in Mohali.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Arena Football League 'suspends' 2009 season

The Arena Football League yesterday announced it will "suspend" its 2009 season, five days after it put off such a move in the face of a divided group of owners.

The decision, reached in a conference call Sunday night, is pending "the agreement and cooperation" of the league's players association, which still was discussing its next move yesterday.

Dragons president Shanna Silva and managing partner Steven Silva, her husband, declined to comment until the union makes its decision and the matter officially is resolved.

The Silvas are part of a management group that purchased the team from Islanders owner Charles Wang over the summer in a deal believed to be worth about $16 million.

They are among a minority of the 16 teams' owners who support playing the '09 season even as the AFL tries to develop "a long-term plan to improve its economic model," as a news release put it.

That minority is believed to have dwindled from six teams to four by Sunday - the others being San Jose, Arizona and Tampa Bay - not enough for the one-third vote required to avoid a shutdown.

(Gridiron Enterprises, which held the patent on the AFL's field design, also had one of the 17 votes and favored playing.)

The league's statement did not promise it will return in 2010. It also did not quote any owners who favored playing in 2009, referencing only several high-profile ones in favor of a suspension: Jon Bon Jovi of Philadelphia, Jerry Jones of Dallas, Arthur Blank of Georgia and John Elway of Colorado.

"These are trying economic times," Bon Jovi said. "The revamping will ensure that the AFL continues to provide value to its fans and not only survives but thrives in the years to come."

Ed Policy, acting commissioner since the abrupt resignation of David Baker in July, also cited economic conditions for the move, a factor others in the league downplayed.

The 22-year-old AFL will explore new procedures, perhaps including a less centralized league office. It was bleeding money in recent months and owed millions more.

Wang had been open to selling the Dragons for several years. They moved from Iowa to Long Island in 2001. The team unveiled a new logo and colors in September.

NBC televised the AFL until ESPN stepped in in 2007 and acquired a minority equity stake in the league, a move owners hoped would give it greater promotion and a wider following.

Labels: ,

On football: 'Nothing is possible' Lions on road to nowhere

These are heady times for the Detroit Lions, currently on the Road to XVI. What started as an absurd and pathetic dream has morphed into … well, it's still an absurd and pathetic dream. We like to think that's appropriate. We're not real big on progress around here.

In just 12 days, we will find out if our heroes will reach the mountaintop, then turn around and realize they are actually in a valley and were walking on their hands.

THE HUDDLE: Rookie says he's an exception to 0-14
LIONS TRACKER: The path to 0-16
PHOTOS: A decade of losing in Detroit

Our motto is "Nothing is Possible," so of course we believe. The Lions are 87.5% of the way down the Road to XVI, and as I always told my parents in high school, an 88 is a solid A grade. Nonetheless, this is not a Road to LXXXVII.V%.

We're all about perfect imperfection here. And, as the Lions get ready to play their final two games, we must ask: Where are they most likely to mess this up?

At home against New Orleans?

Or in Green Bay?

It comes down to a philosophical question. Are the Lions more likely to win on the road, where everybody wants them to lose, or at home, where nobody wants them to win?

I think the atmosphere at Ford Field has been depressing, morgue-like and downright eerie, but most people don't think of it as fondly as I do. The atmosphere might explain why the Lions have played significantly worse at home than on the road.

In fact, if they get outscored by six points Sunday, they will be the worst home team in the history of the NFL.

Meanwhile, they haven't won in Wisconsin since President Bush's first term. Wait, I typed that wrong: They haven't won there since the first President Bush's term. That was 1991. Their annual trip to Green Bay is always a loss, though the trips have had their high points. Three years ago, Shaun Rogers got a great deal on a 22-pound wheel of cheddar, which he finished on the flight home.

Seventeen years! It is fair to wonder how a man can withstand that many years of failure. After all, until this year, the Lions were trying to win. How does William Clay Ford Sr. handle it?

Monday afternoon, somebody asked Head Man Rod Marinelli what Ford Sr. is actually like. Most reporters don't really know Ford Sr. Generally speaking, franchise owners only show up for trophy presentations and championship parades, so we'll get to know Ford better in a couple of weeks.

This was Marinelli's answer:

"Obviously he's a great person. We all know that. He does a great job of listening. Great listener. That's the sign of a leader. He knows the questions he wants to ask and he asks them. … He'll ask the questions until he gets the answers he wants."

That last sentence, like the work of James Joyce, needs to be re-read several times to be fully appreciated. He'll ask the questions until he gets the answers he wants. That sounded to me like Ford Sr. likes having Yes Men around, so I asked Marinelli what that meant.

"I just think the questions are very good," Marinelli said. "He knows how to ask good questions, I guess you could say. He's very good at that. That's why he's been so successful."

That's so nice that the owner asks good questions. Maybe he'll help me out at Rod's next press conference.

I wonder if Ford Sr. is studying the schedule, wondering if his team has a better chance to win at home or on the road. After all, with just one win, the Lions will be off the Road to XVI.

"We're trying to win two games here," running back Kevin Smith said Monday, and though I wasn't there when he said it, reliable sources swear he had a straight face. "Not one. We're trying to win two. We're 0-14. Oh, my God."

I plugged "Oh, my God" into the Rod Marinelli Translator, and you know what I got? "Oh, my God." Amazing.

XIV down, just II to go. "Nothing is Possible," and with the next game at home, this week the Lions are literally going nowhere. Just like we always suspected.

Labels: ,

Football Passes Survivor in TV Ratings

The two-hour conclusion of “Survivor: Gabon” on Sunday, on which Bob Crowley, a 57-year-old physics teacher, won the reality competition, attracted 13.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen’s estimates. That was enough to lift CBS to second place in the ratings for the night, behind NBC.

CBS drew considerably higher ratings earlier in the night: roughly 18.7 million viewers tuned in for CBS’s “60 Minutes” after an overrun of afternoon football coverage. NBC led the night over all with the highest-rated “Sunday Night Football” broadcast this season.

The Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game exceeded the 22.2 million viewers who tuned in to the Cowboys-Green Bay Packers game on Sept. 21. Final numbers were expected Tuesday.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nascar’s Sponsors, Hit by Sticker Shock

AT the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July, the parking lot was filled with excited Nascar fans chugging beer, roasting pigs and exchanging drivers’ statistics.

But in an office inside the racetrack, the scene was far from celebratory. Executives of the Big Three Detroit automakers told Brian France, the Nascar chief executive and chairman, that they planned to cut their investments in the sport sharply in the 2009 racing season.

Since then, Chevrolet has said it is cutting back on advertising and sponsorship deals with 12 tracks. Ford is trimming Nascar spending by 20 percent, and Chrysler by 30 percent.

The economic crisis is hitting industries around the globe, and the pain is beginning to filter down into professional sports. Many sports may face smaller crowds and shrinking player salaries, with, of course, exceptions for stars like the Yankees pitcher C. C. Sabathia.

General Motors said in September that it wouldn’t buy any advertising time for the Super Bowl in February; earlier this year, it withdrew Cadillac’s sponsorship of the Masters golf tournament. It has also terminated its $7 million-a-year endorsement deal with Tiger Woods.

The National Basketball Association and the National Football League recently announced staff layoffs, and the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants and Jets of the N.F.L. are still trying to find companies willing to pay to put their names on stadiums under construction. Honda said recently that it was dropping out of Formula One and selling its team.

“The economic crisis is going to hit all sports. Every team should operate under the worst-case-scenario assumption,” says Michael E. Rapkoch, founder of Sports Value Consulting, based in Dallas. “Many sponsors’ contracts that are up for renewal this year or next probably won’t be renewed. For the long-term contracts, I won’t be surprised if they try to get out of them through bankruptcy or some other way.”

Nascar, which relies on corporate sponsorships more than other sports, is particularly vulnerable. In the 2008 racing season, 400 companies put up more than $1.5 billion to sponsor races, cars and drivers. About a third of that was provided by auto companies, which are now struggling with the economic downturn, if not possible bankruptcy.

Automakers aren’t the only ones pulling out. Longtime sponsors — including Kodak, Texaco and Domino’s Pizza — are abandoning Nascar. Even Craftsman, the Sears brand that has been the title sponsor of the truck series since it started in 1995, is cutting its ties.

And this summer, Chip Ganassi Racing shut down the team of Dario Franchitti, the 2007 winner of the Indianapolis 500, after being unable to find a sponsor for his car following his switch to Nascar.

“Many of the major sponsors pulling back have been involved in our sport for decades,” Mr. France says. “They’re making cuts, and we’re affected.”

It’s a big comedown for Nascar, which has had sizzling growth over the past decade. A multibillion-dollar TV deal in 2001 helped propel it from a regional sport that drew most of its revenue from sales of tickets and merchandise into a popular franchise with a national following.

Its top-level Sprint Cup series of 36 races draws an average of 7.8 million television viewers a race, making Nascar the second-most-watched sport, behind professional football. It can attract crowds — more than 200,000 for the Daytona 500 and Talladega — that exceed those for a Super Bowl, a World Series game and an N.B.A. finals game combined. Over all, Nascar sanctions more than 1,200 races at 100 tracks in the United States and abroad.

This year, revenue was approximately $3 billion, a 50 percent increase from 2001. That’s better than the N.F.L., the N.B.A. and the National Hockey League in the same period. Only Major League Baseball grew faster. “If you go back to 1998, there is no question Nascar has shown the biggest growth,” says David Broughton, research director of SportsBusiness Journal.

But the sport will not see those kinds of impressive numbers next season.

TV viewership has slipped in the past year or so, and so has attendance. The truck series’ official sponsor is now Camping World, the largest retailer of recreational vehicle equipment. Nascar gave the retailer a substantial discount: Camping World will pay approximately $2 million a year, half of what Craftsman is estimated to have paid. While it is gaining as well as losing sponsors, Nascar expects its take from title sponsorships to drop 20 percent next year, to about $150 million.

“We told them what we could afford,” says Marcus Lemonis, chief executive of Camping World. “They were very sensitive to us and offered an appropriate price for the market conditions.”

This kind of cost-cutting has forced the three separate entities of the sport — teams, racetracks and the privately held Nascar company — to lay off about 600 employees. Storied teams with revered family names like Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Petty Enterprises have no choice but to merge with other teams. Some teams unable to land a season’s worth of sponsors, like Doug Yates and the Wood Brothers, can afford to participate in only a handful of races.

The boom years made drivers a little spoiled, with many flying in private planes and riding in luxury motor coaches, says the longtime racer Jeff Burton. But, he added, “this is our wake-up call.”

Labels: , ,

Hewitt training six hours a day to crack tennis top 10: reports

Australia's former world number one Lleyton Hewitt is training six hours a day as he bids to recover from hip surgery and make a surprise return to the top 10, according to reports.

The Wimbledon and US Open champion has slumped to 67 in the ATP rankings after an injury-ravaged year and faces a make-or-break 2009 season, starting with next month's Australian Open in Melbourne.

The 27-year-old had surgery for a long-standing hip complaint in August after being knocked out of the Beijing Olympics by Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

"I want to have a crack at trying to get top-10 and get in the Masters Cup for the end of next year," Hewitt told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"But you've got to play a lot of tournaments to be able to do that and that's where it comes back to the hip holding up, and every other body part."

Hewitt said he has been swimming, running, cycling, climbing stairs and stretching, all before picking up his racquet, which he did two weeks ago.

Australia's leading player said he has no doubt his tennis remains competitive provided he can remain injury-free. To do that he is training up to six hours a day, half of that time on court.

"I actually enjoy it. If you're fit you're playing most weeks on tour," he said. "So this is a good opportunity for me not just to look at the Australian summer, but also the 2009 calendar.

"Hopefully, I can get my body in as good a shape as possible to see me right through next year."

Hewitt was restricted to 11 tournaments this year and the hip surgery forced him to skip the US Open, the first major he has missed through injury since the 2005 French Open.

"I tried to go out this year and play the grand slams probably at 70 percent really," Hewitt said.

"It's tough to come back from any kind of surgery and especially with my style of game, with a lot of running, scrambling and getting a lot of balls back.

"I'm trying to strengthen the muscles around the hip again. The last couple of weeks have been getting better and better each day."

Hewitt's first tournament in the new year will be the mixed-teams Hopman Cup in Perth, starting on January 3, followed by the Sydney International ahead of the January 19-February 1 Australian Open.

Labels: , , ,