Football (soccer for you North Americans) is my favorite sport and this past week was a treat in the European Champions League. When it comes to club leagues, I am not a real fan of any club, but I support German teams in the Champions League, which is a yearly tournament featuring the champions, and the second, third, and (for some nations) fourth best teams of most European nations. In the first leg of the semifinals last week, German teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund battered Spanish teams Barcelona and Real Madrid 4-0, and 4-1 respectively. An all-German final seems likely and I’d be very pleased. The second legs are this Tuesday and Wednesday so most likely, I’ll be waking up in the early morning to watch one of them (May 1, Labor Day, is a holiday here).
I also follow China’s football league, which has been getting some attention in recent seasons. One of the main reasons is the big money that’s being put into some of the clubs, many of which are owned by property magnates who seem to be emulating their counterparts in Europe, specifically those oil sheikhs and Russian and American billionaires who own Premier League clubs. As a result, several big-name players have moved to China in the last 2 seasons, including former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, ex-Barcelona star Seydou Keita, and others like Yakubu,Nicolas Anelka and some South American stars. German magazine Der Spiegel has an article on the Chinese football league, focusing on Lucas Barrios, one of the biggest names. Barrios moved to Guangzhou Evergrande from the German Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund last season at the peak of his career at 27, unlike Drogba and Keita who are getting on in years. The Paraguayan striker played in the 2010 World Cup for his country. Unfortunately his career at Evergrande hasn’t been so smooth and Barrios seems to be regretting coming to China. He still has a soft spot for his former club. However it’s not actually stated why he doesn’t like it at Guangzhou, except that he’s unhappy, and the article specifically says he doesn’t even mention Guangzhou. In this case, Barrios should have nobody but himself to blame, because he’s highly paid, and living comfortably.
The article gives a good overview of the major investment put into the football league, especially in Evergrande, whose coach Marcello Lippi led Italy to their 2006 World Cup. The major concern is whether this investment is sustainable and can be maintained in the future. The article also says David Beckham got US$2 million to become an ambassador for China’s football league, which saw Beckham visit China recently for a few days to make some public appearances. Beckham didn’t say he got any money so it’s notable the article states he got so much.
In the Asian Champions League, Guangzhou Evergrande is the only Chinese team to qualify for the knockout stage already, while Beijing Guoan and Guizhou Renhe still have a chance. Jiangsu Sainty unfortunately will likely not make it after a 2-0 loss left them bottom of their group with just one game to go. Asian Champions League action continues this week with the final matches of the group stage.