China, 1-0 at AFC Asian Cup, face Qatar tonight

Wednesday, 12th January 2011 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Chinese national team head coach Gao Hongbo
Chinese national team head coach Gao Hongbo
After posting a 2-0 win over Kuwait in its first game of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011, China plays host Qatar tonight at 7:15 local time (Beijing time, 12:15 a.m. Thursday). Qatari soccer has one huge recent victory, its selection to host the 2022 World Cup; and one huge recent flop, the 2010 Asian Games' most inexcusable missed goal. The team is coached by Serbian Bora Milutinovic, who led China in its only FIFA World Cup appearance, in 2002. They come in off of a 2-0 loss to Uzbekistan.

Milutinovic is not the only former Chinese national team coach at the Asian Cup — England's Bob Houghton, who coached China from 1997 to 1999, is leading India.
The Chinese team, coached by Gao Hongbo (高洪波), is the country's youngest national team ever. Its two goals against Kuwait came from 21-year-old Zhang Linpeng and 22-year-old Deng Zhuoxiang.

China's final Group A game will be Sunday, January 16 against Uzbekistan.

Gao Hongbo image: YHNEWS.com.cn

Tags: AFC Asian Cup, football, soccer

Poor play, profanities hurt the feelings of Chinese soccer fans

Friday, 12th November 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (1)

Wang Dalei's apology press conference
Wang Dalei's apology press conference
The Asian Games officially kick off with the opening ceremonies in Guangzhou tonight, but the football (soccer) action got off to an early start with preliminaries over the past week—and for hosts China, it's been a rough start, with poor performance and a star player insulting fans on the Internet.

China lost its first game to Japan by a score of 3-0 (do I even need to explain how serious that rivalry is?), and then, against Krygyzstan, missed a few great scoring opportunities and needed two late goals to win 2-1. Now China needs at least a draw in its third preliminary game in order to make it to the knockout round. They play Malaysia Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Beijing time at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou.

The football team also had a little off-field drama this week when goalkeeper Wang Dalei lashed out at fans on a microblogging site, and was suspended and compelled to issue a public apology. "It would be flattery to call you fans," Wang wrote "You're just a bunch of dogs. I never hold back what I want to say. It's because of you bunch of SB [Chinese curse word] that Chinese football can't make any progress."

Days later, Wang apologized and begged for "another chance": "I apologize sincerely to the media and supporters of the whole nation for my unpleasant words, which damaged the image of the football team, sports and China. "It's my fault. I hope you can forgive me and give me another chance." said Wang (watch his statement on Titan24.com.

Cai Jiadong, secretary-general of China's Asian Games delegation, brought out a favorite Chinese expression for the occasion, saying Wang had been "unsportsmanlike and irrational and hurt the feelings of Chinese soccer fans."

China women's team opens play Saturday against Jordan, 7:00 p.m. at University Town Main Stadium, with higher hopes than the men.

Wang Dalei image: CNR.cn

Tags: Asian Games, football, soccer, Tianhe Stadium, Wang Dalei

Zhang chooses CBA over Cal

Friday, 29th October 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Max Zhang (Zhang Zhaoxu, 张兆旭) is leaving the NCAA for the CBA, according to has opted not to finish his last two years on the UC-Berkeley basketball team, according to reports from Sina.com (in Chinese) and Oakland Tribune reporter Jeff Faraudo, writing at Bear Talk, which follows Cal sports. Instead of returning to the Golden Bears, where he was set to be the first big man off the bench, Zhang has reportedly signed a contract with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.

The Sharks are owned by Yao Ming and coached by Bob Donewald, who also coaches the Chinese National Team. Zhang has been in China for a couple of months playing for Donewald in warm-ups for the Asian Games, and was recently selected to the country's Asian Games squad. No reports have come out about his salary with the Sharks, but Sina reported that the Xinjiang Snow Leopards, one of the league's best teams in the past few years, offered him 2 million RMB, or about $294,000.

It's hard to see how this is a good decision for Max Zhang. He averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds at Cal last year. The 7-foot 2-inch center clearly still has a lot to learn, and the competition and training he would get in the NCAA would make him a better player. And Zhang's earning potential as a basketball player is limited, so turning his back on a free education from a top American university seems like a bad idea.

According to Faraudo's report, Zhang's coach at Cal is very disappointed:
"He signed, he's done," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said after the team's open practice Wednesday night. "We were getting unclear messages. It's really unfortunate, but that's water under the bridge. This is our team."

Max Zhang image: Baidu

Tags: basketball, CBA, Max Zhang, NCAA, Zhang Zhaoxu

Quick Hits: Gymnastics, boxing, beach volleyball, NBA

Wednesday, 27th October 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

China's men's gymnastics, 2010 World Champions
China's men's gymnastics, 2010 World Champions

Gold for Chinese men at gymnastics worlds

China's men's gymnastics team won gold at last week's Artistic Gymnastics World Championship in Rotterdam, Netherlands, barely beating out runner-up Japan, and setting up a big showdown with their rivals at November's Asian Games. The Chinese team consisted of: Chen Yibing (rings, vault), Feng Zhe (vault, parallel bars, uneven bars), Teng Haibin (pommel horse, parallel bars, uneven bars), Yan Mingyong (pommel horse, rings), Lu Bo (floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars) and Zhang Chenglong (floor, uneven bars). Click here for complete results.

The women weren't quite as successful as the men, taking third in the team competition, behind Russia and the United States. On the team were Jiang Yuyuan (vault uneven bars, beam, floor), He Kexin (uneven bars), Sui Lu (beam, floor), Huang Qiushuang (vault, uneven bars, floor), Deng Linlin (beam) and Yang Yilin (vault). Click here for complete results.

China was the top medal winner overall at the championships, with 4 gold medals, 4 silvers and 1 bronze.

World Series of Boxing's Beijing team

The new World Series of Boxing, launched by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and set to begin November 19, includes a Chinese team, the Beijing Dragons. The team is owned by the Yeland Boxing Club, a subsidiary of a real estate company called the Yeland Group. The team is coached by Wu Xiaosong, and features 13 Chinese boxers and three internationals, from Brazil, Senegal and Ghana.

The series is divided into three conferences—Asia, Americas and Europe. Beijing's home fights take place November 27, December 18, January 15, January 29, February 19, and March 12 (schedule). The post-season runs from April through a final on May 11.

Rockets-Lakers opener

The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers will open the season against each other in LA tonight (Tuesday, October 26, 7:30 p.m. LA time; October 27, 10:30 a.m. Beijing time). It's a great matchup for the Chinese market, which has plenty of fans of both teams, and is eager to see how Yao looks after a season off rehabbing after a broken foot (Houston Chronicle: Rockets look to steal show in opener against Lakers)

Two golds for China in beach volleyball championship

China dominated the Asian Volleyball Confederation Beach Volleyball Championship in Haikou last week. Zhang Xi and Xue Chen won the women's gold (http://www.asianvolleyball.org/beach/2010-10-25/333115.html), easily beating a pair from Kazakhstan. The Chinese men had two duos in the medals—Wu Penggen and Xu Linyin won the gold, and Gao Peng and Li Jian took bronze. The next competition for Asia's beach volleyball stars is the Asian Games in Guangzhou, with the early rounds starting November 15, women's finals on the 23rd, and men's finals on the 24th.

China men's gymnastics team image: News.cnnb.com

Tags: beach volleyball, boxing, Gymnastics, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA

NJ Nets big in China? Show me the game plan

Friday, 22nd October 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (2)

The New Jersey Nets are going to be big in China—just ask the New Jersey Nets. Judging from his comments in a recent New York Times piece inspired by the Nets' trip to Russia and China, Nets CEO Brett Yormark believes the Nets are destined to build a huge fan base in China. The story is called For the Nets, a Journey Toward Becoming a Global Brand Has Just Begun

Michael Wines writes:

"Brett Yormark is talking about the incredible global marketing potential of the New Jersey Nets, a concept — New Jersey, the Nets and global marketing potential — that might seem unlikely until you hear his pitch, and remember that two years from now, they will probably be the New York Nets.

Or the New York-London Nets. Or maybe the Newyorkmoscowlondonbeijing Nets."

Yes, the Nets have had the most international pre-season of any NBA team, with visits to Russia and China. And next spring, they will take on the Toronto Raptors in the first NBA regualr season games to be played outside of North America. And their new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, is a Russian billionaire. But when it comes to China, despite a year with a Chinese player on their roster, the Nets lack a strong following.
Like the Milwaukee Bucks before them, the Nets traded away their best link to China
Like the Milwaukee Bucks before them, the Nets traded away their best link to China

I can't comment as to the Nets' situation in the UK or Russia. But after an historically bad season in 2009-10, they traded away their best link to China, when they sent Yi Jianlian to the Washington Wizards in May. Dropping Yi will mean the team loses much of its media exposure on the mainland, where having a Chinese player on your roster means free air time—magazine features on him and his teammates, regular columns and sections in the sports newspapers dedicated to your franchise, highlights on the evening news every time he's in a game, and a higher percentage of your games broadcast. That all goes to the Washington Wizards, whose rookie John Wall is sure to sell lots of jerseys in Yi's home province, Guangdong.

The Yi trade was largely considered a move to create cap space for then-soon-to-be free agent Lebron James, which would have helped address the team's second problem in China, which is also a problem in the United States—the fact that they have never won an NBA championship.

But apparently Nets CEO Yormark thinks that the team has a unique appeal that will translate to international success. Wines quotes Yormark:

"I've been in the business now for 20-plus years, and I don't think there's a franchise in any sport right now that has the type of clarity and 'runway,' as I call it, over the course of the next couple of years, as we do."

Prokhorov not only predicts a playoff appearance this year, and a title within five. He also says: "This will be the first truly global team in the NBA, with exceptional international exposure no other team can reach." (NJ.com)

In actuality, the Nets are far from a big hit in China, and the team has revealed no plans that are likely to change that. If a visit to Beijing translated into a new fan base, you would see a lot more Nuggets and Pacers jerseys around the city (those two teams played the NBA China Games in the 2009 preseason).

The teams that are big in China, according to three years of informal polling by yours truly, are the Los Angeles Lakers (recent championship, one of the best two players in the league), Houston Rockets (Yao Ming) and Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, 90s run of championships). The Boston Celtics (recent championship) and San Antonio Spurs (recent championships, first Chinese player to win an NBA championship) are on the second tier. Even the Dallas Mavericks seem to have faded in popularity, despite being the first NBA team to welcome a Chinese player, drafting Wang Zhizhi in 1999.

In sports, as in other business, there seems to be an over exuberant belief in what a visit to China can do for your brand. Fans can be forgiven for thinking that all China needs is to see their team up close, and they'll fall in love. It's not that simple—the trip is only a first step, and will amount to nothing without a strategic, long-term approach.

If the Nets want to boost their image in China, they'll need to put the right spin on their upcoming move. I love Brooklyn, but most Chinese people do not. Every conversation I have had with Chinese friends about the borough indicates that most regard it as dirty and dangerous. It's not an image that can be changed with an ad campaign or a flashy new arena. The New York Nets would be much more palatable to Beijingers, but while you're changing the name, why not take advantage of the opportunity to call yourself something more exciting? Would Dragons or Tigers be a pathetically obvious overture to China?

Yi Jianlian Nets image: fjsen.com

Tags: Mikhail Prokhorov, NBA, New Jersey Nets, Yi Jianlian

Yao's trip to China for Rockets-Nets preseason series

Tuesday, 19th October 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

This year's annual NBA China Games was supposed to be NBA China's dream matchup—seven-time all-star Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets facing Yi Jianlian on their home soil. But after Yi was traded to the Washington Wizards, the games became all about Yao and the Rockets.

Game 1 was in Beijing, and Houston won, 91-81. Yao played 19 minutes, scored 9 points, and grabbed 4 rebounds. The Rockets also took Game 2 in Guangzhou, and Yao notched 10 points and 5 rebounds, again in 19 minutes.

Here's a look at some of the stories about Yao and the games:

Long-time Rockets writer Jonathan Feigen at the Houston Chronicle takes a quick look at the arc of Yao's career, that the 14-year-old who watched the NBA's first live broadcast in China grew up play a key role in the league's progress and popularity in China. Some interesting facts from Feigen's piece:

Between 3 and 5 percent of NBA revenue comes from China, according to David Stern.
Rockets games average more than 30 million viewers, says Rockets CEO Tad Brown.
Most seasons, about 7 of the Rockets 85 sponsors are Chinese brands, representing 5 percent of sponsorship revenue.

Sports Illustrated Yao's struggle to return to playing form after his May 2009 foot injury, and speculates about the impact that the center, reportedly on a 24-minutes-per-game plan for the coming season, can make.

CBS Sports says Yao looked as good as could be expected in his limited minutes in Beijing

The Houston Chronicle reminds us that Yao's teammates and the Rockets franchise enjoy a share of his spoils in the Chinese market. Shane Battier, Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry all have sneaker contracts with Chinese brands. (Rockets enjoy Chinese endorsement deals due to Yao)

Tags: Houston Rockets, NBA, NBA China Games, New Jersey Nets, Yao Ming

China-Brazil brawl raises questions about basketball program

Sunday, 17th October 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (1)

Zhu Fangyu (right) was one of two Chinese players fined 30,000 yuan
Zhu Fangyu (right) was one of two Chinese players fined 30,000 yuan

What is it with China's national men's basketball team? After its throwdown with the Brazilian national team last week, the team has now been involved in three of the worst fights in international basketball this decade. There was China-Lebanon in 2001, China-Puerto Rico in 2005 (video), and now China-Brazil in 2010.

The latest came in an exhibition game in Xuchang (Henan province) to prepare the China for November's Asian Games. Here's a YouTube video of the fight, and here is a Youku video. The YouTube one captures the tantrum that China's head coach throws before the fight, and the Youku one shows the foul that set him off.

The Chinese Basketball Association has levied 290,000 yuan ($43,660) in penalties to 15 people for the melee (Chinese report). It fined head coach Bob Donewald, an American who has coached a season in the CBA, 50,000 yuan ($7,530), and suspended him from practice. Three players—Zhu Fangyu, Ding Jinhui and Su Wei—were each fined 30,000 yuan, and six other players drew 20,000-yuan fines. Team official Zhang Xiong also was suspended, and fine 30,000 yuan.

The CBA should not just be investigating this incident, but also looking for answers as to why China is building up an ugly history of fights in international play. The fact that Donewald, a former Bobby Knight protégé, blew his top, contributed to the China-Brazil mess, but this isn't out of form for China. The throwdowns with Lebanon and Puerto Rico were already some of the worst in FIBA-sanctioned play. And the domestic league, the CBA, also sees its share of fights (witness: Charles Gaines-Du Feng, 2010) often with fans getting involved by throwing objects on the court. Do officials need to learn how to keep the players and crowd under control? Is the Chinese style of play actually not physical enough, leading to frustration and anger when players come up against a little more contact? Does China's tendency toward soccer-style faking and flopping raise the level of tension? Does alleged match-fixing rob players of an outlet for their competitive emotions? Or are these guys all too roided up?

Whatever the answer, the CBA needs to be searching for it, because these incidents make China look thuggish and amateur.

In case you haven't seen the brawl:
Numerous videos posted online indicate that emotions got hot when coach Bob Donewald lost his temper at officials for a missed moving screen call in the first minute of the game. Donewald cursed and screamed at referees, pounded his fist on the scorer's table, and was removed from the game with two technical fouls. The team claims that guard Zhang Qingpeng, who received the screen, suffered a concussion from it, although it certainly didn't look like Zhang's head hit anything. Media reports show Zhang in a neck brace.

After another 30 seconds of very physical play, Chinese veteran guard and one-time CBA MVP Zhu Fangyu blatantly hip-checked to the floor a Brazilian who was already bent over and getting his footing. What followed was a bench-clearing brawl that made the Malice at the Palace look mild—Brazilian players threw some punches, but for the most part, they were trying to get out of the way, while Chinese players were taking cheap shots and kicking their opponents while they were down.

As for the Chinese players with substantial playing experience in the United States, Wang Zhizhi (Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, Miami Heat) seems to have stayed out of the brawl; Sun Yue (LA Lakers) got some cheap kicks in; and Max Zhang (Cal-Berkeley) threw and received some punches.

Image: Chinasmack

Tags: basketball, Bob Donewald, CBA, Max Zhang, Sun Yue, Wang Zhizhi, Zhu Fangyu

Feng Renliang: New hope for Chinese football?

Tuesday, 14th September 2010 ~ Maggie ~ Link ~ Comments (0)

Today's post comes courtesy of Cameron Wilson, a longtime CST contributor and one of the precious few foreigners writing about Chinese football/soccer. Wilson recently launched a blog, Wild East Football, a must-read during the Chinese Super League season.

Feng Ren Liang (冯仁亮) first caught the eye of your correspondent, and those of everyone else present one April evening in Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai. The occasion was Shanghai Shenhua's first home game of the season against Hangzhou Greentown. The 21-year-old winger, making his home debut, stood out that day, not only for scoring a well-placed long range goal, but also for his deft first touch, pace and excellent close control. In a league lacking quality, one might argue that even players of modest flair might stand out. But it was clear Feng was at least a cut above the average Chinese CSL player.

Joining Shenhua during the close season from 3rd tier Tianjin Locomotive, he's already cemented his place in Shenhua's first team, and it was no surprise to see him start his first game for the Chinese national team last Tuesday night against Paraguay, in a match which ended 1-1. The video clip doesn't show all that much of Feng in action but it does show his pinpoint cross for former Shanghai Shenhua striker Gao Lin to head in the equalizer, some neat footwork, and Feng testing the Paraguayan keeper with a shot from outside the box. It also features an interview with Feng himself, plus Chinese NT national coach Gao Hongbo who says Feng "has brought Chinese football some new hope". Feng made his international debut as a substitute in China's 1-1 draw with Bahrain last month.

It is of course early days for Feng. Your correspondent was tempted to highlight him earlier in the season, but thought better of it – false dawns and Shanghai Shenhua go together like Laurel and Hardy. However, with him elevated to the Chinese national team after playing just half a season of professional football, the future is looking bright for Feng, and possibly for Chinese football, if they can produce more players of his quality. Your correspondent doesn't like to make predictions, but a successful career at a big club in Europe beckons for Feng if he can sustain this level of progression for the next season or two. Time will tell. But he is one of the most exciting prospects to come out of China in quite some time. It would probably be in his best interests to spend another couple of seasons at Shenhua to get more pro experience, right now he is a little raw and his crossing and shooting could use a little tightening up.

Feng also appeared for China in last Friday's 2-0 defeat at home to west Asian powerhouse Iran, coming off the bench to earn his second cap. Most Chinese fans seemed to regard the defeat as yet another shambolic result. Seeing as it was at home, it's hard to argue. But it wasn't a disaster. Anyway, after Tuesday night's draw with Paraguay and Feng's sparkling display, the Chinese football world is looking up again, for the time being at least, building on victories over South Korea (for the first time ever) and France earlier this year.

Feng Ren Liang – remember the name.

Tags: Cameron Wilson, CSL, Feng Renliang, football, soccer


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