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Volume 10 No. 25

International Football

Egypt's national football league "will resume next month, a year after more than 70 fans were killed in clashes following a game in Port Said," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. Following a meeting between the sports and interior ministers, the country's football governing body said on its website that "the Egyptian Premier League will start a new season on Feb. 2." The first round of games will be played without spectators. The Egyptian FA said that the competition "will be divided into two pools, with the winners and runners-up of each qualifying for the semifinals." It is the first time it has used the format since '76. Football matches in the country "were suspended indefinitely when Al-Masry fans attacked visiting supporters from Cairo-based Al-Ahly" in February, "a year after a mass uprising forced former President Hosni Mubarak from office." Weapons in the football violence included knives, swords, clubs, stones, bottles and fireworks (BLOOMBERG, 1/2). The AP reported "attempts to restart the league since last year failed because Al-Ahly fans demanded that perpetrators first be held to account." A verdict is due Jan. 26 in the trial of 73 security officials and fans, some facing murder charges. The last time the league "was due to resume was during the same week President Mohammed Morsi set a referendum on the country's new constitution," so the FA decided to delay it. The association said Sunday that the ministries in charge of security and sports felt restarting the league in February is "positive for the economy, the sport" and would signify stability (AP, 1/2).

Despite recent reports in English newspapers that David Beckham has been in talks with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua to make about $404,000 a week, a club insider revealed he is actually "unlikely" to be signed by the team, according to Daniel Ren of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. The source, who was briefed by club Owner Zhu Jun, added that "Shenhua never approached Beckham and has no plans" to import him. The source said, "It was sheer rumour. Shenhua has no financial strength to sign another superstar." China has "increasingly become a new magnet" for int'l football stars as the free-spending clubs, including national champions Guangzhou Evergrande, "have sought to import big-name players and coaches" (SCMP, 12/31). In Abu Dhabi, UAE, Paul Oberjuerge wrote "of late, we have heard where David Beckham will not go," however, he "will play somewhere." Despite denials two weeks ago by UAE Pro-League club Al Jazira's media communications department, him joining the club "makes at least as much sense as any destination in Europe or Africa or the Americas." It would "broaden 'Brand Beckham' by taking him to the Middle East and to the Muslim world for the first time" (THE NATIONAL, 12/31).

NOT WORTH IT: In Sydney, Michael Lynch wrote if the recent reports about Beckham going to Shanghai are correct "then the dream of Becks ending his days as Aussie Dave ... are dashed." If the rumors are true, then "of course" it would be a letdown, "definitely" a dose of reality, and "maybe" the outcome of fanciful thinking. Still, "for all that massive publicity Beckham would have brought, and the new fans he would have attracted, he would have only been a short-term marketing ploy." To build the game long term, needed "is a commitment to excellence and the development of our own young talents, players who can star on the domestic stage before the best and brightest are sold to bigger clubs overseas." Also needed "is the development of a dedicated fan culture, the kind of emotional commitment to a team and a shirt that means supporters stick with the club through thick and thin and turn up at games irrespective of conditions" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/2).