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Volume 6 No. 213

International Football

China has named former England captain David Beckham as its first global football ambassador to "revive the game's image which has been hit by a match-fixing scandal and an exodus of international stalwarts from the country's premier league," according to Sudipto Ganguly of REUTERS. In his new role, Beckham is "expected to help" bring Chinese Super League to the world stage and promote the game in China. Beckham said, "I am honored to have been asked to play such an important role at this special time in Chinese football history. I'm excited by the prospect of promoting the world's greatest game to Chinese sports fans as I've seen firsthand the growing interest in football there (REUTERS, 3/4). This is the first ever honor of its kind bestowed on an int'l sportsman in the country. With the rapid growth of the Chinese Super League, the country's Championship league in the past two years, it is believed that Beckham's China tour will further popularize the game in the country as well as bringing Chinese football and the CSL to the world stage (IMG).

Pakistan "is planning a major new football competition modelled on cricket’s hugely successful Indian Premier League in a bid to revitalise a sport, which has long stagnated," according to the AFP. The Pakistan Football Federation "is in talks with potential sponsors for the proposed league, which would feature six city-based teams playing each other in Lahore." Pakistan has had a "premier league" for the past nine years, but coaches and fans "complain of poor standards, awful pitches and walkovers." TV coverage "is non-existent and crowds for most matches number in the hundreds." PFF Marketing Consultant Naveed Haider Khan said that the new competition "would give football a much-needed shot of razzmatazz." Khan said, "We’re going to be giving cash incentives, we’ll look after their transportation, their accommodation, we’ll be trying to project it very heavily on television so people get the insight of what is happening in football." Khan said that the competition "is dependent on sponsors coming forward, but the PFF hopes to run it in May or September." If all goes well, there are "plans to expand the competition next year -- and even try to lure foreign players." Money "is another stumbling block." Without the mass appeal of cricket, Pakistan’s national obsession, football "struggles to attract sponsorship and the federation survives largely on grants" from FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFP, 3/4).