Amateur footballers across Australia can "dream of toppling the giants of the A-League in a meaningful competition with the introduction of a national knockout competition," the Football Federation Australia Cup, beginning in July, according to Dominic Bossi of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The tournament will "provide a definitive link between the grassroots level of the game and the elite clubs with a meaningful national and cross-tier competition." There is "a resemblance with the oldest competition in football, the FA Cup in Britain," though the first few years of the Australian version are unlikely to include "such an abundance of romantic runs of amateur clubs" (SMH, 2/25).
LARGE FIELD: In Sydney, Ray Gatt reported more than 600 teams "from all six states and Canberra will play off against each other for 22 spots and the right to join the 10 A-League clubs in the round of 32." FFA CEO David Gallop said, "This has been in the pipeline for a number of years. It is the Holy Grail for football in making a true connection between the grassroots and the professional level. I can hardly think of a better way to do that than create a cup competition like this" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 2/25).
WHO'S GOT NEXT? In Melbourne, Smithies & Davutovic reported four of Victoria’s participants -- "most likely the semi-finalists of the Dockerty Cup -- will join the A-League and interstate sides in the Round of 32, starting late July." The tournament is costing almost A$1M ($900,000) to stage, and the draw has been "deliberately engineered to give semi-professional teams who advance to its latter stages the best opportunity of embarrassing the A-League clubs." At least one minor side is "guaranteed to reach the semi-finals, with 10 games to be broadcast on Fox Sports and a modest prizemoney pool" of A$120,000 including A$40,000 for the winning team. FFA will cover the traveling and accommodation costs for "each away team from the Round of 32, and the whole tournament leads to a final in December -- held this year, like all preceding rounds, on a Tuesday" (HERALD SUN, 2/24).
After the "five-ringed circus of the Winter Olympics packs up," the next big show in town will be F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone’s F1 "extravaganza," according to Kevin Eason of the LONDON TIMES. One reason Sochi’s vast Olympic Park has so many wide open spaces "is because that is where the track for the first Russian Grand Prix will be, already marked out by the concrete kerbs." Ecclestone "has spent years attempting to stage a Russian Grand Prix." The grand prix complex is 90% finished "and the pits and paddock area has been used over the past fortnight for Olympic administration." Organizers said that "it will be completed by the time of the race in October and already Ecclestone, ever the master showman, is planning a spectacle to capture the imagination." He "wants Sochi to stage a night race against the backdrop of the Olympic Stadium and ice rinks with their floodlit roofs." Ecclestone: "I think they would go for the idea. At night the stadiums are very colorful with lots of lights and the backdrop to a race would be fantastic." Ecclestone admitted that "there is some way to go." Ecclestone: "It was a bit of dump, quite honestly. But they have spent a lot of money and there is a lot going on and the place is changing all the time" (LONDON TIMES, 2/24). In London, Kevin Garside wrote Ecclestone went from a court case in which "his character was shredded by a judge" -- straight into the arms of Putin, "offering robust support for Russia’s antediluvian legislation on homosexuality." Ecclestone "is therefore an easy target to lampoon, and for the intelligentsia something to be removed from the bottom of their shoes." That is "OK because Ecclestone has nil regard for their sort, either." Intellect, learning, academic expertise "come way down the list of attributes he most admires." The Winter Olympics "was just one part of Russia’s Sochi-led assault on the geopolitical senses." F1 is the next element of the global soft-sell program "designed to fill our heads with positivity towards the new Russia." Ecclestone "has persuaded Putin that it is just what he needs to help create the sense that Russia is up to speed and at one with the rest of the world." There "is still plenty to do." That is what "Ecclestone’s arm around Putin was all about last week, protecting his interests, massaging relations, making sure the work is done on time." Ecclestone "did not get rich by accident" (INDEPENDENT, 2/24).
North Korea "will participate in all events at the Asian Games" to be hosted in South Korea’s western port city of Incheon. South Korea has invited North Korea "to participate in the games," which will run from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4, through the Olympic Council of Asia, a body that governs all sports in Asia. But "there has been no formal confirmation of participation yet from North Korea’s rulers" (JAKARTA GLOBE, 2/24). ... Two members of the Spanish Epsilon Team "were arrested last week after police found cocaine hidden inside one of the trucks as it returned from the all-terrain race held last month in South America, police said Saturday." The cocaine was "placed inside the large radial tyres in one of the trucks that was used for logistical purposes at the Dakar Rally, which this year passed through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile" (EURO WEEKLY NEWS, 2/24). ... Kenya "has won the rights" to host the 2018 Africa Nations Championship. The Confederation of African Football confirmed in a statement on Monday that Kenya "will be the host of the tournament in four years time after being time barred in bidding to host the 2019 Africa Nations Cup (AFCON)" (XINHUA, 2/24).