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Volume 6 No. 213

International Football

Chinese petrochemical tycoon Ai Yakang's daughter, Ai Ru, "wanted a football team," according to Leo Lewis of THE AUSTRALIAN. So, the 25-year-old actress and model "has been granted her wish by her doting father." The youngest exec in the Chinese football league by many years, Ai is the president, spokesperson, manager and ambassador of third division side Sichuan Leaders FC, which has played only two professional games (won one, lost one) since being founded in February. By her father's definition, Ai "is a businesswoman from a new Chinese mould." On the eve of her team's first home game, she said that her energies "would be devoted towards getting her squad to play as a team, building the players' confidence and creating a decent-sized fan base that she wants to run eventually into the tens of thousands." Ultimately, "she wants the team to enter the Super League." She is "also working out how to have her team's matches," which will not be broadcast on TV, streamed on to the Internet, a move that "could revolutionise the way that small teams with small budgets build support." Ai is "not daunted by the challenges that face her." She said, "China is at a time when great things are happening all the time. I think it is clear that football is going to become a big part of the way Chinese people entertain themselves" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 4/23). In London, Leo Lewis reported Sichuan Leaders FC "is hoping to list its shares in London." The initial public offering, if successful, "would be the first by a Chinese football club on an exhcange outside its homeland." Sources involved in preparations for the listing said that an IPO of a Chinese football club in London "was critical for the sport’s development in the world’s second-biggest economy" (LONDON TIMES, 4/22).

The Indian Super League's backers "include some of the biggest names in Indian sport, business and Bollywood," according to the AFP. But the ISL, "which promises to lure a galaxy of former stars out of retirement, is already facing scepticism and even downright hostility from within the game some five months ahead of kick-off." Valanka Alemao, CEO of Churchill Brothers, ex-champions of India’s current domestic league, said, "It’s going to kill the sleeping giant without allowing it a chance to wake up and get out of bed. This is such a weak-structured tournament that it’s bound to fail." The sleeping giant tag was first coined by FIFA President Sepp Blatter on a visit to India in '07, but with even war-torn Syria and Afghanistan now ranked higher, "some wags have said the snooze has become a coma." Nita Ambani, chair of the joint venture IMG-Reliance marketing group which conceived the idea of the league, said, “Football, with its largely untapped potential in the country, has the opportunity to grow to an unrivalled commercial success quite unlike any other sport." A "more measured assessment" came from former national cricket captain and Kolkata co-Owner Sourav Ganguly. Ganguly: "It’s the start of something good. Hopefully, somewhere down the line, things will improve" (AFP, 4/22).

The presence of La Liga sides Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League will "change the life of the city for the next week: security forces are making special preparations for two games that UEFA is considering high-risk," according to F. Javier Barroso of EL PAIS. The city was "expected to welcome 7,000 fans from England and Germany" -- Atlético and Chelsea played to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday -- and Real Madrid is scheduled to play Bayern Munich on Wednesday. For the Atlético-Chelsea match at the Vicente Calderón, more than 900 "officials were available, including 350 national police officers." Another "70 agents monitored the traffic near the stadium, among other responsibilities." The remaining 504 people "included 40 healthcare workers from Madrid's SAMUR emergency service and 36 from the Red Cross." The "same amount of employees from both SAMUR and the Red Cross were scheduled to be available for Wednesday's game" (EL PAIS, 4/21). MARCA reported "a total of more than 2,200 police officers, security guards and emergency healthcare workers will be available on Tuesday and Wednesday in Madrid before, during and after the Champions League matches." For the Real-Bayern match on Wednesday, "1,306 personnel were expected, including 350 national police officers and 80 local police officers." Madrid is "expecting 3,500 fans supporting Bayern Munich, including some ultras." Madrid Government Delegate Cristina Cifuentes "pointed out that both matches were considered 'high-risk.'" Cifuentes added that there would be "enough personnel to supervise whatever situation, and if necessary, to act" (MARCA, 4/22).