September 17, 2010
Posted: 1415 GMT
As the 2010 Formula One season bids a fond farewell to Europe, heading east for the culmination of a thrilling world championship dogfight, it begs the question of whether this continental shift might be something more permanent.
With the exception of a weekend of sun and samba in Brazil, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and co will fight for global supremacy in Asia, a trend which looks set to continue into the 2011 season.
South Korea will make its grand prix debut in October, pending approval from FIA inspectors, with India set to follow suit next year with a race in Delhi. When you add this to the six Asian stops already on Formula One’s world tour, almost half of next year’s circuits will be on the continent.
August 23, 2010
Posted: 2222 GMT
In the absence of any action on the track for a month, the world of Formula One has instead been sidetracked by an unseemly spat between two of its household names.
The war of words between Ferrari and three-time world champion Niki Lauda seems all the more cheap and unnecessary given the Austrian won two of his titles with the Italian team in the 1970's and was a decade later appointed to a consultancy role by current Ferrari chairman Luca Di Montezemolo.
The controversy was sparked by the continuing fall out from the German Grand Prix, when Ferrari appeared to instruct their Brazilian driver Felipe Massa, who was leading the race, to allow teammate Fernando Alonso, in second, to overtake him.
The actual words used by Ferrari’s race engineer Rob Smedley over the radio were as follows: "Fernando is faster than you. Can you confirm you understand?" Seconds later, Massa slowed down, Alonso moved into the lead and the Spaniard went on to take the checkered flag.
Posted: 1730 GMT
In the not so distant past, the U.S. Open was dominated by American tennis legends such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and before that John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, but going into next week's final grand slam home hopes are slim at best.
Andy Roddick may have moved back into the top 10 in the world rankings and Mardy Fish pushed Roger Federer all the way in the Cincinnati final, but it's really hard to make a case for a home player to triumph at Flushing Meadows.
Strip away the Williams sisters (Serena is injured for the final grand slam of the year) and Roddick and the cupboard is worringly bare, and none of that illustrious trio is getting any younger.
The USTA, rather like their counterparts at the LTA in Britain, has come under heavy criticism for not producing the successors to the likes of Sampras and Agassi, or even Roddick, despite the huge revenues raked in by their home grand slam.
April 27, 2010
Posted: 2032 GMT
Felix Magath is now just two matches away from producing a second successive Bundesliga miracle.
Magath's Schalke side are battling it out with Champions League finalists Bayern Munich to see who will be crowned 2010 German champions.
It is a position that Bayern are accustomed to.
The most successful club in German football history are attempting to win their 22nd league title, as well as a fifth European Cup. Bayern are true European heavyweights.
Bayern should really lift the title again this season. Victories over Bochum and Hertha Berlin, two clubs who look poised for relegation, will see them crowned champions due to their vastly superior goal difference.
In contrast, Schalke have a tough match against third-placed Werder Bremen, before a final day visit to Mainz. Level on points with Bayern, Schalke need a shock to happen.
Ordinarily, I would say Schalke have no chance but their coach, Felix Magath, is no ordinary leader of men.
In two seasons he transformed unheralded Wolfsburg from also-rans to champions for the first time in their history.
A club previously famed for fighting relegation, Wolfsburg - under Magath - finished fifth in his first season, before stunning the elite to win the Bundesliga title last season.
You only have to look at Wolfsburg's league position this season to really appreciate the stunning nature of what he achieved.
This is the same Felix Magath who, in his first season as Bayern Munich coach, won the league and cup double in 2004-2005, unbelievably repeating that feat the following season, the only time in German history that a club has completed successive doubles.
Now the 56-year-old, who lifted the European Cup in 1983 when captain of Hamburg, stands on the verge of marking himself down as possibly the greatest coach in German football history.
Three times in the last decade Schalke finished as Bundesliga runners-up. In fact, the Gelsenkirchen side - who dominated German football to such an extent between 1933 and 1945 they lost only six league matches in 12 years - have not lifted the title for 52 years.
Can Magath end that unwanted statistic and win his fourth Bundesliga title in six years with his third different club?
I for one hope so. What a story that would be. What a story, what a coach, what a man.
April 15, 2010
Posted: 1603 GMT
The tennis season is nearly four months old and little appears to have changed in the established order at the top of the men's game.
Roger Federer won the first grand slam of the season with a straight sets victory over Andy Murray, while Rafael Nadal is slowly working his way back to his best form and watch for him on the clay at Roland Garros.
But this was supposed to be the year when one of the young pretenders such as Murray, Juan Martin Del Potro and Novak Djokovic finally stepped up to the plate and ushered in a new era of dominance.
Murray's recent disastrous form is the most perplexing, crashing out in the quarters at Indian Wells, losing his Miami Masters crown, followed by a disastrous opening match defeat at the Monte Carlo Masters, three straight losses, his worst run since 2006.
The Scot, refreshingly honest, described his loss to Philipp Kohlschreiber as "rubbish" but instead of moving up the rankings he is going in the opposite direction.
While doubts remain over several aspects of Murray's game, noticeably his second serve, the same could be said about Djokovic, who told CNN's Open Court that he wanted to be world number one then promptly lost early at Indian Wells and Miami.
A successful defense of his Dubai Open crown is a slim return in 2010 to date and the popular Serbian has reacted by parting company with one of his coaches, Todd Martin, who was reportedly hired to remodel his service.
By a quirk of the rankings, Djokovic has risen to world number two, but has failed to add to his sole grand slam triumph at the Australian Open in 2008 after which he promised to sweep all before him.
To be fair to Del Potro, the lanky Argentine has been troubled by a wrist injury, but it could not be used as an excuse for his quarterfinal defeat to Marin Cilic at the Australian Open.
Having inflicted a rare grand slam final reverse on Roger Federer at the U.S. Open last September, the force appeared to be with him, but like all the challengers to the Swiss maestro, their efforts have petered out.
Even Nadal, who reduced Fed to tears of frustration on his way to a hat-trick of grand slams in 2008, has been halted in his tracks by nasty knee injuries which reduced him to a pale shadow of his former self.
Which leaves Federer, who now seems to care little about tournaments outside the grand slams, but reserves his best for when it really matters, like the semifinals and finals of this year's Australian Open.
With 16 grand slams and counting, he could afford to rest on his laurels, but while his challengers offer such an inconsistent threat the 28-year-old is making hay while the sun still shines.
It's just a pity that Murray and Djokovic in particular seem incapable of matching their incredible talent with grand slams while the likes of Andy Roddick have been scarred by too many defeats at the hands of super-Fed.
April 8, 2010
Posted: 1006 GMT
London, England – Shot in somber black and white and narrated by the gravelly voice of his dead father, Nike’s latest advert showcasing Tiger Woods is certainly a departure from the affirmative, high-energy missives of old.
In golf's new era of moral austerity, it appears to herald a new approach by the U.S. sportswear manufacturer, who have stood by their man as the rest of the corporate world has deserted him.
Nike has faced a nagging problem: how can you capitalize on the intense publicity garnered by your brand ambassador without appearing to condone his many indiscretions?
Sparse, yet strangely obtuse, Nike packaged Tiger and the famous Nike swoosh into 30 seconds of contrition.
But will it be enough to convince the Augusta crowd ahead of what is arguably the most anticipated round of golf in the history of the game?
The advice dispensed by his father from beyond the grave seems oddly prescient. "I want to find out what your feelings are," he asks. "And did you learn anything?" Those questions will begin to be answered when Tiger tees off this lunchtime
What do you think of the advert? Is it timely? Or does it fail to convince you? Has Nike been right to stand by Tiger Woods? Leave your comments below.
March 10, 2010
Posted: 1322 GMT
Just what is it about David Beckham that has football fans the world over worshipping him?
From Europe to the United States, Asia to Africa, Manchester to Milan via Madrid, the England midfielder is a worldwide football icon, claiming a status that appears to be out of sync with his effectiveness on the field.
It has not always been that way. Castigated by fans and English media alike following his sending-off against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup finals, for a while Beckham was public enemy number one in his home country.
He was seen as a good-looking Flash Harry, too preoccupied with fashion, hairstyles and his pop-star wife Victoria.
Beckham always attracted headlines in his younger days. Some good - for his superb free-kicks and wholehearted performances on the pitch - and some indifferent, for a sometimes petulant attitude.
But while hard-line club manager Alex Ferguson grew tired of the media circus that followed his number "7," resulting in his eventual departure from Manchester United to Spain in 2003, for England Beckham could do no wrong.
His dismissal against Argentina, which prompted such vitriol and hate, gradually became nothing but a distant memory as Beckham began to turn jeers into cheers with some dynamic performances while wearing the "Three Lions" shirt.
This culminated in perhaps the finest moment of his career, when a pumped-up, super-charged Beckham dragged a struggling England team up by its bootlaces to secure a last-gasp draw over Greece and ensure qualification for the 2002 World Cup.
Without the intervention of Beckham's stunning 93rd-minute free-kick, England were staring at World Cup humiliation. The fact that the match was being played at Old Trafford only added to the theatre.
And that was it... the nation was hooked, a hero was born. In fact, in such high regard is Beckham held that he is now viewed by the English as a national treasure, sporting royalty, a very public figurehead for England's World Cup bid of 2018 ... which, with delicious irony, falls exactly 20 years from the date a perceived arrogant mop-haired young pup kicked out at Diego Simeone to get sent off in St Etienne.
Supporters are not stupid. They can see when a player is trying his hardest, putting in that extra shift, working tirelessly for the cause and Beckham has done this throughout his career.
At Real Madrid he fitted in perfectly with the "Galactico" era. Although the club were not successful on the pitch, Beckham was adored by the Los Meringues faithful for his all action style and dead-ball expertise.
The same at the San Siro, where his appearances from the substitutes bench still create a murmur from the Milan "Tifosi."
And although Beckham's initial spell with the LA Galaxy did not get off to a perfect start, he won those fans over too, helping the club reach the MLS final. Beckham's popularity is unique because it straddles different time zones for different reasons.
In England, it is for his whole hearted performances for the national team, which has seen him win more caps than any other outfield player. In Italy and Spain, for his displays and attitude with two of the biggest club sides in the world.
And in south-east Asia, where he adorns many teenage girl's bedroom wall, it could be argued that his model good looks have propelled him to god-like status.
Rare is a man who has a fan base throughout the world that envelops young and old, male and female, black and white... but David Beckham has it. Hard work, charm, good looks, politeness that help make the both man and the persona.
But, you know what, giving 100 percent every time you step out onto the field of play is the real key.
As I said earlier... fans aren't stupid.
January 18, 2010
Posted: 1036 GMT
So the new tennis season is underway and on the eve of the Australian Open there is so much to be excited about! Unlike last year, the women’s game has a chance to take centre stage thanks to the returning Belgians. Kim Clijsters is a delight to watch and her unbelievable US Open victory helped bring back Justine Henin too.
Henin’s coach, Carlos Rodriguez, recently told us that Justine would take more time than Kim to experience success. I think he’s right. Justine has a lot more to her game than her compatriot – therefore there’s more that can go wrong. Henin is also a lot smaller and much less powerful so hitting hard from the baseline is not something she can fall back on.
On the other hand, there’s an awful lot that can go very, very right, and so, with more matches under her belt, perhaps the French Open is a more realistic target.
Justine’s goal though is Wimbledon, the one Slam missing from her impressive C.V. For her it’s winnable – she has all the tools, especially in the head department, which is arguably the most important department in tennis!
On the men’s side, every Major win for Roger Federer is a bonus from now on but he won’t see it that way, he cherishes each Grand Slam. Every time he steps on court he aims to win – only when Roger is no longer competing for Grand Slam victories will he quit and happily I don’t see that happening for quite a few years.
The problem for the Swiss maestro is that a few pretenders are now contenders. I now see the Aussie Open men’s winner coming from a pool of eight – Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, del Porto, Murray, Davydenko, Soderling and Tsonga.
The main thing that amazes me about Federer (quite a lot amazes me, but I don’t have time to write them all down) is how calm he is about everything.
Saturday was media day at the Australian Open, it is always a complete frenzy, and though I’m not there I can imagine he’s taking it all in his stride.
From my experience, despite the fact he has traveled with his wife and twin girls, he’ll answer every question thrown at him, no matter how stupid, and do it all in a very nice way with very little sarcasm.
That’s why (the calmness, not the sarcasm!) I think he’ll win at least another two Slams this year and for us, the fans, it will never get old. The question is: will he beat the pack to win in Melbourne?
I say yes!
Women’s winner: Kim Clijsters
What do you think?
January 15, 2010
Posted: 1257 GMT
Like everyone else, sportsmen and women have watched in horror and disbelief as the tragedy of the Haiti earthquake has continued to unfold. In the cosseted world of professional sport, where mental focus is everything, it would be easy to switch off to the reality of world events in favor of concentrating on your next match or race. But athletes are famed for responding to tragedies like the one in Haiti with compassion and generosity.
When the Tsunami struck Asia in December 2004, the response of the sporting world was almost universal. In cricket, Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, led an All-Star charity line-up in a match to raise funds for the relief effort, while players and officials from India, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe were among those to make donations.
Tennis players also responded, with superstars like Roger Federer and Andy Roddick lending their support to UNICEF’s disaster fund-raising program.
In Formula One, seven-time champion, Michael Schumacher, made a $10 million personal donation to the relief fund. While footballers, who are often maligned for being self-centered and materialistic, made a mockery of that assumption by staging "Football for Hope", a FIFA sanctioned match in Barcelona, Spain featuring the likes of David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko, and Ronaldinho.
And so it continues. The Hurricane Katrina disaster of 2005, which devastated the USA’s Gulf Coast, brought swift reaction from American sport. Aside from visits to the stricken region by stars from the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League baseball, there were also generous donations from men like Baron Davis of the Golden State Warriors, who put $50,000 of his own money into the relief fund; and Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who, through his family foundation, donated $200,000 to help Katrina evacuees in Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and Ohio.
And the commitment of sport to the relief effort did not wane, with the NFL organizing the "NFL Hurricane Relief Weekend" late in 2005, which included a telethon involving more than 30 current and former NFL stars who raised money for the Katrina cause.
But it is not just the glitterati of sport who channel their compassion into tangible help for disaster victims. In 2008, track and field athletes who competed in the NCAA collegiate championships pitched in to help with the flood relief effort in Iowa. While going way back, runners of every age and ability joined forces in the global event that was “Run the World” in 1986, in which some 20 million people in 76 countries took to the streets in a mass jog as part of Sport Aid, which raised millions for famine relief in Africa.
I could go on, but as you see, sportsmen and women have rallied round in the past, and will surely do so again to help the victims in Haiti. Sport has a conscience. And, while that fact can often get lost amid all the drama and scandal that surrounds the sporting industry, it should not be forgotten.
January 8, 2010
Posted: 1744 GMT
Before I go any further, I have to stress that, in my opinion, Patrick Vieira is, was and always will be a total footballing god.
Many a time I have seen with my own eyes the power and influence that the Frenchman can have on a game of football.
Vieira captained Arsenal's 'Invincibles' of 2003-2004; he has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three Serie A titles, a World Cup and European Championship.
In fact, since scoring the winning penalty against Manchester United in the 2005 FA Cup final, his final match for Arsenal, the Gunners have not won a single trophy.
That was Vieira's influence.
I chose the word 'was' carefully. Maybe Arsene Wenger did sell Vieira a year too early for Gunners' fans' liking, but he had become injury-prone and his all-action style of play was taking a toll on his body.
The slower nature of Italian football was always going to suit him more in his later years and Vieira has cleaned up in a less competitive league.
Yet Vieira's influence at Inter Milan has been getting less and less with the wily Jose Mourinho no longer reliant on his old war-horse.
So, with old Inter coach Roberto Mancini now at Manchester City, we see the return of Vieira Mark II.
Don't forget, City are the richest-club in Britain, possibly the world. They were willing to pay Kaka whatever he wanted to come to Manchester. They already have Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong, Vincent Kompany and Stephen Ireland battling for a midfield place.
They can sign whoever they like, for whatever fee they want, yet Mancini swoops for a 33-year-old, deemed past his best by both Wenger and Mourinho (who incidentally have won five Premier League titles between them), on a measly six-month contract on a free transfer.
If rumors are to be believed Mancini was also sniffing around Juan Veron, another veteran who crashed and burned at both Manchester United and Chelsea.
Why is a multi-millionaire shopping at flea markets?
As I said before, 'Paddy' is a god and I will always love him for what he did at my beloved Arsenal, but he has had his day and the immovable colossus that he used to be, has gone.
Good luck Paddy, it's a great move for you. But all you City fans should be asking serious questions as to why the club who can get any player they want....can't.