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                           | pdf edition | Sunday February 19 2012                                                Sport
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Arsène Wenger under fire as Arsenal lose
last chance of trophy
Second Cup defeat in a week for Arsenal • Roy Keane criticises
‘worst Arsenal team’ Page 2



André Villas-Boas insists he has Roman
Abramovich’s backing
Fans boo Chelsea manager during insipid FA Cup tie • Villas-Boas
believes Chelsea can advance in Europe Page 2



Harry Redknapp admits to Spurs interest
in Lille’s Eden Hazard
‘Hazard is a player who is definitely on our list’ • Rival bidders may
include Arsenal and Barcelona Page 3




Dereck Chisora makes                        Kevin Pietersen                              Football news in brief   Martin Allen sacked
Vitali Klitschko fight                      powers England to                            Page 6                   as Notts County
to retain crown Page 3                      one-day series win                                                    manager after defeat
                                            over Pakistan Page 5                         Pakistan spinner         at Hartlepool Page 7
Sir Chris Hoy                                                                            Danish Kaneria denies
capitalises on the                          David Haye and                               involvement in fixing    Said & Done Page 7
London Olympic                              Dereck Chisora in                            matches Page 6
Velodrome roar Page 4                       remarkable post-fight
                                            brawl in Munich Page 6




guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                           guardian.co.uk
Registered in England and Wales. No. 908396. Registered office: Number 1 Scott Place, Manchester M3 3GG
Page  G24 Sport                                                                    Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

                                                                       we all receive from time to time – is not particularly merited.
                                                                       That’s not the managers’ union speaking, it’s my view.
Arsène Wenger under fire as Arsenal                                        “I believe that when Arsène Wenger eventually decides
lose last chance of trophy                                             to retire he will be considered as one of the great managers. I
                                                                       personally think he’s been fantastic.”
• Second Cup defeat in a week for Arsenal                                  O’Neill pronounced himself “pleasantly surprised” with
• Roy Keane criticises ‘worst Arsenal team’                            his team’s progress since he succeeded Steve Bruce in early
                                                                       December. “Our self-belief is getting stronger, we feel we can
Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light                                  win matches and I thought we were excellent today, not just
Arsène Wenger [http://tinyurl.com/5kg6f5] was in dignified             defending but when we had the ball. I’m really, really pleased.”
yet defiant mode as he found himself caught in the eye of a
gathering storm at the end of one of his worst weeks as Arsenal
[http://tinyurl.com/3fh47r]’s manager. Three days after seeing         André Villas-Boas insists he has Roman
his side thrashed 4-0 in the first leg of a Champions League tie       Abramovich’s backing
in Milan, Wenger watched Arsenal slump out of the FA Cup
[http://tinyurl.com/czpyxc] at Sunderland [http://tinyurl.
                                                                       • Fans boo Chelsea manager during insipid
com/4h42wu] where Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s second-half
own goal sealed a 2-0 defeat.
                                                                       FA Cup tie • Villas-Boas believes Chelsea
    Afterwards Roy Keane, working for ITV as a pundit,                 can advance in Europe
described Wenger’s class of 2012 as the worst Arsenal team he          Jamie Jackson
had watched. “It’s a very harsh judgment,” said the manager.
    “People talk and criticise and analyse and destroy and it’s        A defiant André Villas-Boas [http://tinyurl.com/6984yfj]
important we face all that and show internal strength and              claimed Roman Abramovich’s support was “unconditional”
resilience. At the moment I get many lessons from many                 despite Chelsea [http://tinyurl.com/5ybu55] being held to
people. It’s very difficult tonight to say where it leaves us          an insipid 1–1 draw by Birmingham City [http://tinyurl.com/
and what we will do. We have to take criticism on board, stay          3udns8] in the FA Cup [http://tinyurl.com/czpyxc] fifth round.
together and face the critics.”                                            Chelsea’s manager, who was booed by home fans during
    Wenger, who believed his team should have been awarded             the game, added that even if his side were knocked out of
a “100%” penalty by referee Howard Webb following John                 the Champions League [http://tinyurl.com/4859on] he will
O’Shea’s perceived first-half foul on Robin van Persie, had            remain as manager, though the Portuguese contradicted this
criticised his players in midweek but here he defended                 bullishness when he conceded it was not his decision to make.
his injury-hit team to the hilt. “I think it was a committed               Chelsea face Napoli [http://tinyurl.com/4lo4d7] on Tuesday
performance, we gave everything we had left but three big              before the return leg three weeks later in west London and,
games in one week [Sunderland in the league last week, Milan           when asked if there was any result that could affect his job,
last Wednesday and the FA Cup tie] were too much.                      Villas-Boas said: “No not all.” Pushed if he believed that
    “We fought hard but the pitch was heavy and we were a bit          whatever happens in the last-16 tie he will still be head coach,
unlucky. We gave absolutely everything that was left in our            the 34-year-old said: “Yeah. But it’s not up to me to decide that
legs. Sunderland left us the ball but we didn’t create a lot due to    – you have to ask that question to the right person.”
fantastic defending from Sunderland. They defended very well               After Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat at Everton last Saturday, which
and scored with their first shot. Then we had to chase the game        meant they have won only twice in their past 10 league
and take every risk and got caught on the break for the second         outings to place them in fifth, Villas-Boas made his players
goal.”                                                                 train the following day, which had been a scheduled rest day.
    Asked about a perceived lack of leadership within his              A subsequent stand-off between some of the squad and the
squad, Wenger indicated that he intended to forge a siege              manager led him to state on Thursday that he needed only the
mentality. “We have to stand together,” he said. “We have to           support of the owner, Abramovich, not his players.
stand united and fight the critics. We have to focus on the next           Speaking to ESPN after Saturday’s match, Villas-Boas was
game [at home to Tottenham next Sunday], on finishing well             asked whether this support was unconditional or based on
in the league and fight for the small possibility of staying in the    short-term results to which he answered “unconditional”.
Champions League.”                                                         He said he would not hold another meeting on Sunday as a
    He seemed affronted to be asked about his own position.            result of the display against Birmingham. “No – we have just
“What position?” he replied. A similar straight bat was used to        have to make the reflections of the game. We don’t have a lot of
knock back an inquiry as to whether Arsenal were in crisis. “It        time in between training and our departure to Napoli. Bearing
depends what you call a crisis,” he said.                              in mind the quality of the Napoli side we’ll think of that game
    Finally, someone asked Wenger – subjected to cheeky chants         now, focus our heads on the Champions League tie that is
of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” from Sunderland fans         extremely important and hopefully do well or do much, much
– if he hoped to still be at the Emirates next season. “I think it’s   better. I think we are ready for any challenge, to be fair.”
better we finish this press conference now,” he said.                      Villas-Boas is in only his third season in club management.
    He and Martin O’Neill have not always exactly seen eye to          Asked if this was his most challenging time personally, he said:
eye but Sunderland’s manager offered his Arsenal counterpart           “It’s not about me, it’s about the club.”
unequivocal support. “Of course he’ll be disappointed,” O’Neill            Neither would he be drawn regarding whether he now
said. “But my own view is that the criticism he’s getting – which      believes the job of rebuilding Chelsea is bigger than when
                                                                       taking over last summer. “No the situation at the moment is
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                     Sunday February 19 2012              09:07 GMT

that we don’t have enough good results. But we are still in all of      personal terms with Spurs.
these competitions [the FA Cup and Champions League] so we                  Joe Cole, who has played alongside Hazard since joining Lille
will continue to push for them.”                                        on loan from Liverpool in August, has likened him to Lionel
   Pressed if Chelsea’s season hinged on the game on Tuesday,           Messi. He has scored nine goals and created nine others for
Villas-Boas said: “No, because Napoli is the first leg of that tie      Lille this season, and the club know they stand little chance
and we will have to wait for the second leg at Stamford Bridge.         of retaining Hazard beyond the end of this season, despite his
Regarding the FA Cup we have to wait for the replay.”                   contract there running until June 2015.
   Despite not being able to defeat a Championship side in                  Redknapp, meanwhile, has reiterated that despite being
Birmingham, Villas-Boas still believes Napoli can be beaten: “ I        the firm favourite to take over from Fabio Capello, he has
think we have a possibility. Yes, Napoli are a strong team but we       no desire to leave Spurs before the end of this season and is
are a strong team.”                                                     focusing solely on their FA Cup fifth-round tie with Stevenage
   Qualification for the Champions League remains the club’s            on Sunday.
priority. “It’s important to finish fourth at least,” he said. “Third
place is 10 points away, we play the third-placed team at home
[Tottenham on 24 March]. The rest of the teams from fourth to           Dereck Chisora makes Vitali Klitschko
seventh are competing for that spot. We will continue to push           fight to retain crown
on to try to get it.”
   Chelsea fans booed the manager when he replaced Juan
Mata with Frank Lampard but he has no problem with this.
                                                                        • Dereck Chisora loses WBC heavyweight
“First, I would never criticise the fans’ reaction, our process of      title fight on points • Vitali Klitschko
thinking was that we wanted Lamps to arrive in the box, as he           pushed all the way by British fighter
does magnificently.”
                                                                        Kevin Mitchell in Munich

                                                                        Even the declaration of David Haye that he is finally willing
Harry Redknapp admits to Spurs                                          to fight Vitali Klitschko [http://tinyurl.com/37wguye] could
interest in Lille’s Eden Hazard                                         not steal the thunder of Dereck Chisora [http://tinyurl.com/
                                                                        7bgpfxz]’s brave losing effort over 12 don’t blink round rounds
                                                                        in front of 13,000 of the champion’s adoring German fans. The
• ‘Hazard is a player who is definitely on                              judges gave it to Klitschko 118-110, 118-110, 119-111 in the eighth
our list’ • Rival bidders may include Arsenal                           defence of the title and that was about right.
and Barcelona                                                               The evening ended in chaos and shame when Chisora and
                                                                        Haye, as well as their handlers, engaged in an ugly brawl [http://
Sachin Nakrani
                                                                        tinyurl.com/7kh7ptj] that left Haye’s trainer Adam Booth
Harry Redknapp has confirmed Tottenham Hotspur [http://                 with blood running from a wound in his head. Chisora further
tinyurl.com/5nwt7b]’s interest in signing Eden Hazard, the Lille        disgraced himself when he claimed that Haye has “glassed
[http://tinyurl.com/6d94a5] playmaker and one of European               him”and then made serious threats against him.
football’s most exciting prospects. The 21-year-old played an               Earlier, the loser had been as hard on himself as he
instrumental part in Lille winning the French league and cup            sometimes is on those who put faith in him when he said: “I
double last season, after which he became the youngest ever             was not proud of my performance and think I let my fans down,
winner of the Ligue 1 player-of-the-year award.                         but he did nothing that surprised me, nor did he hurt me.”
    Discussions between Redknapp and the Spurs chairman,                    I gave the challenger three rounds and a share of two others
Daniel Levy, over a move for the player began before the close          but numbers could not tell the story of his heads-down grit-
of the last transfer window and, while the club did not make a          and-hook attacks, nor of his occasional success. His promoter,
move for him then, Redknapp has revealed that he and Levy               Frank Warren, immediately demanded a rematch — or a fight
have continued to monitor Hazard’s progress and raised the              with Vitali’s brother Wladimir.
prospect of a transfer bid being lodged with Lille in the summer.           If all the parties are roughly in the same negotiating zone,
“Hazard is a player that we have spoken about,” Redknapp said.          a fight against the younger brother might make sense, if only
“He is a player who is definitely on our list.”                         because there is virtually nobody else of ticket-selling pedigree
    Any deal for Hazard is unlikely to be straightforward,              for either of these fine champions left to fight.
however. First, there remains the strong possibility that                   At least he did better against Vitali than Haye did against
Redknapp will leave Spurs before the start of next season to            Wladimir last July. Haye, who has been playing cat and mouse
take over England and, even if his replacement is still happy           with the Klitschkos, later dropped a minor bombshell when he
to sign the player, the London club may not be able to match            said: “I am ready to fight Vitali”
the asking price, which is believed to be in the region of €40m             Ultimately, Chisora fought about as well as he is capable –
(£33m), or fend off competition from rival bidders, who are             whatever his self-critique –which was a good way short of what
expected to include Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real                was needed to move the mountain in front of him. Klitschko?
Madrid.                                                                 He did again what he has done 43 times in 45 previous fights:
    Spurs will, though, have been encouraged by an interview            won with all the mechanical efficiency of a fighter comfortable
the player gave to the French television channel RTBF last              with his method. Having endured two cancellations against
week in which he stated his openness to a move to White Hart            Wladimir, Chisora was kept waiting a further quarter of an hour
Lane. “Maybe it will be Tottenham [I will join],” Hazard said.          last night when the Klitschko camp objected to his handlers
According to France Football, the Belgian has already agreed            wrapping his hands before they had arrived at his dressing
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                          guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                 Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

room. A shouting match ensued and the fighters finally reached         British athletes have left their mark on Munich: the Olympic
the ring at 11.20pm local time.                                     400msilver medallist, Lillian Board, who died here at 22 from
    Chisora’s trainer, Don Charles, then had to watch his man       bowel cancer in 1970, has a pathway to the stadium named after
like a nightclub bouncer. Chisora applauded the champion            her, and Bradford’s Richard Dunne is remembered too — if only
when Michael Buffer went into his introduction but when the         for his inept loss to Muhammad Ali in this hall in 1976.
fighters came together in the centre of the ring, Chisora spat a       The likelihood of the good burghers naming a footpath after
mouthful of water in the face of Wladimir, who was with his         Dereck Chisora are slim, but Munich will not soon forget his
brother’s entourage. The younger Klitschko brother did not          visit.
react.
    When the boxing [http://tinyurl.com/5ra7ax] got going,
Chisora made Klitschko – both taller and longer in the reach by     Sir Chris Hoy capitalises on the London
six inches – miss with his left hook and right cross, and landed    Olympic Velodrome roar
a few of his own roundhouse rights; he might even have won
an interesting first round. In his eight fights since coming out
of a four-year retirement in 2008, Klitschko has lost precisely
                                                                    • Sir Chris Hoy wins gold in keirin at
four rounds, so Chisora was at least giving him a worthwhile        Olympic test event • British rider equals his
argument. Could he sustain it? At 17st 3lb he was not only just a   highest speed in keirin
couple of pounds lighter than his opponent, but a mere pound
                                                                    William Fotheringham at the Olympic Velodrome
heavier than his own lightest weight as a professional. So, he
was in considerably better shape than when he lost to Tyson         It is impossible to top the keirin for full-blooded spectacle
Fury over 12 rounds last July.                                      – frequently in both senses of the term – and it fell, almost
    But the indiscipline he showed outside the ring in slapping     inevitably, to Sir Chris Hoy [http://tinyurl.com/3zfgls] to
Klitschko at the weigh-in surfaced in the ring as his boxing grew   produce the standout moment of the racing thus far in the
ragged and he began running into those long, chopping right         Olympic test event here. Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton
hands.                                                              produced a match of the highest quality in the women’s sprint,
    As has been noted throughout his 16 years in boxing,            but Saturday’s honours fell to the Scot, for overturning what
Klitschko does nothing spectacularly and everything efficiently.    seemed an impossibly large gap to snatch the keirin gold on the
He also hits as hard as any heavyweight since Mike Tyson – his      line. Hollywood could hardly have scripted it better.
88.89 per cent knockout rate is the best in the history of his          The Beijing triple gold medallist had already come from
division – and the uppercut he drove into Chisora’s chin in         behind in the second round, fighting his way out of the traffic
round three would have floored less willing opponents.              when he looked dangerously boxed in, but the first three
    The challenger, his mouth swelling, had a better fourth; in     riders went through, so there was not the same sense of high
the fifth he gloved up around his ears and waded into hook-         drama. In the final, however, he faced the Frenchman, Mickaël
throwing range and, while he is no Joe Frazier, he got through      Bourgain, who had shown outstanding form in winning the
a few times. The first signs of vulnerability, such as they were,   second round by a country mile.
were painted in red around Klitschko’s mouth.                           In the final, once the pacing motorbike had swung off, Hoy
    For most of his career, Klitschko has been allowed to fight     shadowed the Frenchman and bluffed him into chasing down
within himself. Not now. Not at 40 on creaking legs. He took the    a late attack from Simon Van Velthooven of New Zealand. That
seventh but under sustained pressure, and buckled Chisora’s         left him with several yards to gain on Bourgain and the German,
legs with a pin-point right cross. A fight many had predicted       René Enders, going the long way round the outside on the final
would end early in the Ukrainian’s favour was a genuine contest     banking, and the sprint for the line ended with the trio side
with five rounds left, and Chisora, able to absorb the heavy        by side, Hoy driving for the line with every ounce of energy
artillery, rattled the retreating ring mechanic in front of him,    he had. In doing so he equalled the highest speed he has ever
hooking around his drooping guard. But the eighth, Chisora’s        produced in a keirin, 48.71mph. That bodes well for a rider who
predicted finishing round, came and went.                           has yet to back off training to produce his best form.
    Klitschko found some bounce in his legs as they headed for          Hoy’s sheer joy underlined that this is more than a normal
the finish line and he rocked the Londoner with several fight-      World Cup, as he said. “It feels like a more significant race.
finishers. But, while some have criticised his manners, nobody      What a buzz, to hear that roar when you cross the line, it’s
has ever doubted Chisora’s heart.                                   phenomenal. The track is great and my form is starting to come,
    He was reduced to wild swings now, as his tormentor             but there is so much energy you get from the crowd. You have
unloaded with full force for the first time, seeking a stoppage     to use it in a positive way, not be overawed by it and become
win to go with 40 before. Del Boy, however, was not for folding.    anxious.”
He would take his licks as long as he could remember what town          As well as the crowd, the design of the velodrome came to
he was in. And that went all the way to the end of a fight worthy   his aid a little: the finish line has been placed further down
of a world title. Indeed, if he fought more of the earlier rounds   the straight than is usual by perhaps six or seven yards. It all
as he did the desperate 12th, which he took with smashing           helped.
wide hooks. he would have got a lot closer on the scorecard. He         He and his fellow blood and thunder merchants have,
gave Klitschko his toughest night since he lost to Lennox Lewis     however, been done no favours by the latest tweak to the rules
in 2003 and the champion’s cornermen even came across to            to emerge from the governing body, who, in their wisdom, have
congratulate him on his performance. So did Klitschko – and the     barred the practice known as “gapping” the pacing motorbike,
loser took it well.                                                 where the first rider leaves a space behind the Derny. “It really
                                                                    hinders the guy who gets the bike because other guys can lay off
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                     guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                    Sunday February 19 2012               09:07 GMT

and run at the first guy with speed. It’s making it harder for the    for Alastair Cook – who made a superb 80 in a 170-run opening
man behind the bike to go from the front which basically gives        stand – the match represented a decisive coronation as one-day
five guys an advantage, which is a bit unfair I think. We knew        leader. A crushingly enacted, beautifully controlled overseas
about it this week [but] there’s never consultation.”                 series victory is a rare set of laurels for any England captain. The
    Fortunately, Hoy has worked hard on his tactics since Beijing     last away series victory against Pakistan came as long ago as
and now seems able to win from anywhere on the track. Asked           1987. As Cook noted: “Subcontinental pitches are not easy for
whether the Scot could be beaten, Bourgain had no answer              us. To sit here 3-0 up in the series is just amazing and the boys
beyond “train harder”.                                                are so happy in the dressing room.
    Hoy’s was not the only British gold medal of the night, but           “We showed a lot of character to turn that round [after the
unfortunately Jo Rowsell will not have the chance to build            Test match defeats]. The lads have picked themselves up and
on her victory of Saturday night over Alison Shanks of New            fronted up in the middle. It doesn’t mean we’ve learnt all our
Zealand in the women’s individual pursuit when August comes.          lessons in one-day cricket. But we’re certainly a few steps
This is one of the endurance events that has been dropped from        forward.”
the Olympic schedule and the only satisfaction left to Roswell            Again it was a performance of penetration and athleticism in
was that, having formed part of the winning women’s team              the field that had pegged back and ultimately hauled Pakistan
pursuit trio on Friday night, she is the first British double gold    in as they batted first for the first time in this series. Led by two
medallist here.                                                       outstanding spells by Steven Finn, England restricted the de
    Like Hoy, Rowsell had the highest praise for the crowd            facto home team to a below-par 222 all out on an even-paced
– “they really spurred me on” – and it is clear that the London       pitch. It never looked enough, even as Cook and Pietersen
roar will be a factor later this year.                                started watchfully in pursuit.
    With barely time to catch breath, Hoy returns early on                Acceleration came in the fifth over, bowled by Umar Gul,
Sunday in the match sprint, in which he resumes his battle            the first two legitimate deliveries of which went for 15, helped
with Jason Kenny for the single slot available to Great Britain in    by two no-balls and a glorious pulled six by Cook. England’s
August.                                                               openers brought up their third 50 stand of the series in the
    Kenny should be fresher having missed the keirin and              eighth over and, for the first time on tour, Pietersen was
this will not be the decider: that is likely to come at the world     ticking along, greeting the appearance of Shahid Afridi by
championships in early April. But in a contest this tight, every      stepping down the wicket with the groovy shuffle of old and
iota of psychological advantage counts.                               dumping him over long-on for his first six of the series.
    With Laura Trott still in with a shout of the women’s                 England’s hundred came up without loss and, two balls later,
omnium after winning the elimination race, Sunday’s other             Cook’s 50 arrived off just 60 balls in what was a supple innings.
climactic event should be the men’s team pursuit final between        Dropped on 45 by Azhar Ali on the midwicket fence, Pietersen
Great Britain and Australia.                                          brought up his first 50 of the tour off 53 balls, after which he
    Thanks to some bizarre scheduling, both teams have been           began to move though his personalised gears: one huge straight
twiddling their thumbs since Thursday night’s qualifier. As           six off Mohammad Hafeez was a shot of cathartic power. A
a result, they will be fresh and raring to go fast, and with the      flicked drive though wide mid-on off Gul was dreamy. Cook was
effect of a second team on the track, times will be fast.             out caught behind cutting at Saeed Ajmal, but Pietersen sailed
    After Hoy’s finale here and the latest episode in the             on in tandem with Eoin Morgan in pursuit of victory and his
Pendleton versus Meares saga, a single thought springs to mind:       own hundred. He got to the latter with a flicked two off Aizaz
if this is a test, how good will the real thing be in August?         Cheema, a dismissive century off just 93 balls celebrated with
                                                                      a profoundly felt air punch. This is the Pietersen England had
                                                                      envisaged at the top of the innings, not the scratchy platform-
Kevin Pietersen powers England to one-                                builder of the opening matches.
day series win over Pakistan                                              Earlier, it was England’s tallest, fastest bowlers who
                                                                      strangled Pakistan’s innings at both ends. The sandstorm that
                                                                      had clogged the air throughout Friday had eased into no more
• Pakistan 222 (50ov), England 226-1                                  than a sand drizzle as Pakistan batted after winning the toss and
(37.2ov) • England win by 9wkts                                       Finn was again rapid and accurate in an opening spell of three
Barney Ronay at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium               overs for nine runs that brought the wickets of Imran Farhat
                                                                      and Hafeez.
Oddly given his recent travails, in the end there was a peculiar          Stuart Broad bowled aggressively to dismiss Ali and Misbah-
theatrical inevitability about Kevin Pietersen’s first one-           Ul-Haq, and, at 50-4, a spunky start had become a fretful one.
day international hundred since November 2008. Pietersen              Umar Akmal rebuilt the innings carefully alongside Shahid
produced an innings of thrillingly controlled aggression              Afridi, who appeared to klaxon-parps of approval from the
on a humid night in the steep concrete bowl of the Dubai              relatively large Pakistani contingent, witnessing for the first
International Cricket Stadium as England beat Pakistan by eight       time on this tour Pakistan’s last remaining dasher here from the
wickets to take an unassailable 3-0 lead in the Mobilink Jazz         recent crop of mercurial grand talents.
Cup series.                                                               A partnership of 79 in 18 overs with Akmal righted the
    “I don’t have to prove any points. I just want to enjoy my        innings, applause for Afridi’s half-century providing the
cricket,” he said afterwards. “Hundreds in one-day cricket are        loudest noise of the winter so far. It took another moment of
hard. To get one here, three years after the last, and to go 3-0 up   spectacular athleticism from Samit Patel to part them, plunging
in the series is just great.”                                         forward at midwicket to pluck Akmal’s checked pull just above
    If Pietersen’s 111 not out provided a headline snatching role,
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                          guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                    Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

the turf. If not quite a gun fielder, Patel is certainly no longer a   Ghana 1-0 earlier this month in the semi-finals. He also missed
blunderbuss. Finn was tight at the death to finish with figures        a penalty in the dying seconds of extra time in Ghana’s 2010
of three for 24. To date he has 11-92 off 30 overs in the series and   World Cup quarter-final against Uruguay, which the South
has bowled better with every match. England have the look of a         Americans win in a shootout. PA
team in search of a whitewash.                                            Pep Guardiola is still putting off a decision on extending his
                                                                       Barcelona [http://tinyurl.com/3qtgm9] contract beyond the
                                                                       end of this season, saying he needs more time to decide. The 41-
David Haye and Dereck Chisora in                                       year-old said: “I know I would not be better off somewhere else,
remarkable post-fight brawl in Munich                                  but I need to feel it. I cannot work at such a demanding club if I
                                                                       don’t have strength. I don’t have it clear in my mind, that’s why
                                                                       I am not saying whether the cycle has ended or whether I will
• Fight broke out at press conference in                               extend.” AP
Germany • Chisora earlier lost to WBC
champion Vitali Klitschko
Press Association
                                                                       Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria denies
                                                                       involvement in fixing matches
Dereck Chisora [http://tinyurl.com/7bgpfxz] brawled with
British rival David Haye [http://tinyurl.com/6j27xd] in a
confrontation which left the former WBA heavyweight                    • Bowler accused of pressuring team-mates
champion’s trainer and manager with a nasty facial cut.                when at Essex • Kaneria suspended by
    After losing a brave 12-round decision to WBC champion             Pakistan Cricket Board in 2010
Vitali Klitschko [http://tinyurl.com/7pcnkzj] in Munich tonight,
                                                                       Associated Press
Chisora mocked the onlooking Haye for his poor performance
against Klitschko’s brother Wladimir last year – a fight which         Danish Kaneria has denied he has ever been involved in fixing
cost him his title.                                                    matches. In sentencing the Essex [http://tinyurl.com/d5z6s6]
    Chisora then confronted Haye during the press conference           bowler Mervyn Westfield to four months in prison on Friday
and the two men grappled around the room with onlookers and            for on-field corruption, a judge in London accused Kaneria of
entourages getting involved.                                           pressuring team-mates at the county side to fix matches.
    Haye’s trainer and manager Adam Booth, who like Haye                   “All these allegations are false,” Kaneria said. “I have
had been commentating on the fight, then appeared with                 not only been cleared by the British police, but also by the
a cut forehead, while someone held aloft a camera tripod               England and Wales Cricket Board, and the International Cricket
threateningly.                                                         Council.”
    Even by boxing [http://tinyurl.com/5ra7ax]’s often chaotic             Kaneria has been suspended from international cricket by
standards the unsavoury incident was shocking, drawing gasps           the Pakistan Cricket Board since 2010 after allegations of spot-
and cries of alarm as those involved fell about the room.              fixing during a county match first surfaced.
    Klitschko – and brother Wladimir – seemed to stay out of it,           He was named in the Test squad for the series against South
before both Booth and Haye criticised the Ukrainians’ manager          Africa in 2010, but was pulled out at the last minute after
Bernd Boente for not agreeing a fight between the Englishman           Westfield was charged with spot-fixing during a county match.
and the WBC champion.                                                  However, Kaneria has been playing in Pakistan’s domestic
    Haye, who had been working as a television pundit, was first       tournaments.
to leave the scene, shouting abuse at Chisora, while Chisora               For the past two years, Kaneria has been trying to clear his
urged Booth to check who injured him and insisted he was not           name over spot-fixing allegations and even appealed in the
at fault.                                                              Sindh High Court in Karachi against his PCB suspension. Last
                                                                       year the court dismissed Kaneria’s appeal, saying it was not
                                                                       within its jurisdiction.
Football news in brief                                                     “I have been trying my best to clear my name, but so
                                                                       far I don’t know why the PCB suspended me from playing
• Asamoah Gyan urged to reconsider                                     international cricket for Pakistan,” Kaneria said. The leg-
                                                                       spinner was an integral part of Pakistan’s Test squad, claiming
international break • Pep Guardiola’s future                           261 wickets in 61 Tests, before he was sidelined by the PCB.
at Barcelona still unclear
Asamoah Gyan has been urged by the Ghana FA to reconsider
his decision to take a break from international football
because of the “verbal abuse” he received from fans during
the Africa Cup of Nations. An FA statement said the 26-year-
old Sunderland striker, currently on loan at Al-Ain in the
United Arab Emirates, had informed them of his decision in
writing, but that they “are in talks with Mr Gyan to urge him to
                                                                         *
                                                                         From Beirut to Big Brother, Murdoch to
reconsider his decision”.                                                Millionaire,
   Gyan missed an early penalty and other chances as Zambia              discuss the hot topics in the media on
[http://tinyurl.com/yg67j6n], the eventual winners, beat                 not one, but two blogs Organ Grinder and
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page 7 G24 Sport                                                                 Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

                                                                    took part in pro-democracy protests. 2012: Prepares to run for
                                                                    the presidency of the Asian Football Confederation. “I have
Martin Allen sacked as Notts County                                 great support from many parties.”
manager after defeat at Hartlepool                                      Spurs – given approval [http://tinyurl.com/7cscs5x] to drop
                                                                    all affordable housing from their new stadium plan. The original
• Manager loses his job after 10 months •                           approved scheme included 100 affordable homes; the new
County defeat was first in five league games                        scheme 285 private flats, making the project more “viable”.
                                                                    Daniel Levy says Spurs, receiving £27m of public regeneration
Press Association                                                   money, are “delighted” to be able to go ahead – bringing
Notts County [http://tinyurl.com/43jwxf] sacked their manager,      “economic uplift” to “an area with such real need”.
Martin Allen, after Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Hartlepool. County         4: Weeks before sacking Mick McCarthy that Wolves owner
made the move despite the loss being their first in five League     Steve Morgan revealed what football thinks: “I’d like to think
One games.                                                          football thinks Wolves do things our way – and our way is about
   A statement on the club’s official website said: “Notts County   long-term growth, stability and strength. We don’t have a hire-
wish to announce that Martin Allen has been relieved of his         and-fire mentality … the message is finally dropping: this club
duties with immediate effect. A further statement will follow in    is about stability. You don’t get that by chopping and changing
due course.”                                                        your manager.”
   Allen was appointed in April 2011 in controversial               • 6 Feb, Hertha general manager Michael Preetz on calls for
circumstances having only agreed to take the manager’s job at       new coach Michael Skibbe to be sacked after three defeats in
Barnet the previous month. He steered Notts County clear of         his first three games. “This is not a question. We will stand
relegation last season.                                             together, stay immune against outside influences, and keep
   The 46-year-old, who had won his previous two games              calm.” 12 Feb: Sacks him. “It was time to change.”
before the defeat at Hartlepool, leaves Meadow Lane with the        • 12 Feb, Sporting Lisbon president Godinho Lopes, asked if
team in 11th place in the table.                                    coach Domingos Paciência should be worried: “That question
                                                                    makes no sense. The results are not good, but do not reflect the
                                                                    work of the coach. I speak with Domingos every day. We are
Said & Done                                                         working for success.” 13 Feb: Sacks him.
                                                                        Brazil: Fortaleza’s Osmar Baquit – fined 100 reals (£40) for
                                                                    calling match officials “crooks, thieves, a gang of tramps, a
Tricking the fit and proper test; Spurs in the                      legion of thugs” while being restrained by military police.
community; fan of the week; plus model                              Baquit: “I know I shouldn’t act like that but I’m a passionate
news                                                                president. Maybe I’ll do it again in the next match.”
                                                                        Brazil: Corinthians director Roberto de Andrade says press
David Hills
                                                                    claims that Adriano “escaped” from confinement in the team’s
The Football League – defending their fit and proper person         hotel and turned up in a Rio nightclub are false. Andrade said
test after Vladimir Antonov’s arrest on fraud charges put           the detention of Adriano in an attempt to make him lose weight
Portsmouth [http://tinyurl.com/4bdo2j] back in administration,      was continuing: “I’m not kidding. Adriano is committed.”
eight months after they cleared him. The League say Antonov             Romania: Steaua owner Gigi Becali’s new ambition: “I want
tricked the test – designed to screen out potentially dishonest     to be prime minister, so I can be Christ’s general on earth. This
or fraudulent owners – by supplying it with “at best misleading,    country needs 5,000 Becalis – but even with 100 we’d be better
and possibly fraudulent” information. Antonov denies                than Germany or France. Becali is love – love draws me to
wrongdoing.                                                         people in need. All that I do, I do for Jesus.”
• Also passing last year: Craig Whyte – ruled fit to buy Rangers        1: Number of fans in the away end [http://tinyurl.com/
[http://tinyurl.com/3qtr4x] by the Scottish FA’s test, which        nbvspk] at Grêmio supporting Santa Cruz during their 4-1 defeat
bars previously disqualified company directors, after he “failed    (attendance 6,735). Tiago Rech: “When I got in I realised it was
to share” with them that he was a previously disqualified           just me and four police. But it was worth it. When we scored I
company director. The SFA say a new inquiry “will establish the     didn’t care I was alone. I screamed and went for it. That’s when I
clear facts”.                                                       saw the journalists looking at me. On the radio later they talked
New last week from the football family:                             of ‘the dance of the lone fan of Santa Cruz’. It was a great day.”
• Jack Warner: denying allegations that aid money for Haiti             UAE: Olaroiu coach Walter Zenga, asked in a press conference
earthquake victims disappeared via a Trinidad FA account over       why his side play defensively. “I do not want to answer that
which he had sole control. The FA say they will sue Warner,         stupid question. It’s a stupid question.” Journalist: “Thanks”.
Warner says he’ll sue “deranged and malicious persons” for          Zenga: “With pleasure. You’re finished. I enjoy myself, you’re
spreading the lie. “I am thoroughly disgusted.”                     nothing, a nobody… Bye bye, bye bye. Have fun.”
• Angel María Villar: Spain’s FA head, re-elected for a seventh         Brazil: Aguia midfielder Alexandre Carioca says using a
term after rivals failed in a legal attempt to delay the vote due   camera tripod to beat Remo defender Aldivan to the ground
to alleged irregularities in a “murky atmosphere”. Villar: “This    [http://tinyurl.com/7rx7ulx] during a brawl was “unwise”: “I
election was absolutely democratic. It’s an example to the          felt upset, so I acted the way I did. I surely won’t do it again.”
football family.”                                                   Aldivan, treated in hospital, says he won’t press charges. “He
• Plus one to watch: Bahrain FA president Sheikh Salman bin         cried and said sorry. I forgive.”
Ebrahim Al Khalifa. 2011: Backs the arrest of 150 athletes who          Brazil: Big Brother contestant Monique says her footballer-

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                     guardian.co.uk
Page  G24 Sport                                                                   Sunday February 19 2012              09:07 GMT

chasing media image is unfair, based on “just one serious affair”     first after carrying the ball from inside his own half before
with Corinthians’ Douglas. “I don’t seek out footballers. It’s just   cutting inside and hitting the target from 18 yards out. The
like I’m a magnet and they are iron filings. And it’s never about     substitute Robbie Findley added the second.
their money with me: I just like thick legs.” Spokesman for               Ipswich continued their fine form with an impressive win
Douglas: “This is a lie.”                                             over promotion-chasing Cardiff. Lee Martin scored the first,
                                                                      then former Bluebird Michael Chopra confirmed the immutable
                                                                      law of the ex with the second soon after the break. Martin then
Saturday Sundae: Wayne Rooney’s                                       added his second.
singing the Blues                                                         Paul Jewell’s side have won their past four Championship
                                                                      [http://tinyurl.com/5mnjxs] matches to climb clear of
                                                                      the relegation zone and lie 11 points behind sixth-placed
Manchester United striker watches his old                             Birmingham, but the manager joked: “I knew I was going to
side Everton, while Adrian Chiles risks the                           be asked about the play-offs. We’ve been in a relegation fight
wrath of Roy Keane                                                    for a long time and we’re just trying to put as much daylight
                                                                      as possible between ourselves and the bottom of the league,
Observer Sport staff
                                                                      taking every game on its merits.”
Once a blue, always a blue? With Manchester United not in                 Another team to find some form were Crystal Palace, who
action, Wayne Rooney took the opportunity to watch his old            hammered Watford to gain their first league win of 2012 with
side Everton beat Blackpool.                                          goals from Wilfried Zaha, Chris Martin (two) and Kagisho
    Johan Djoruou and Sébastien Squillaci in the centre of            Dikgacoi.
Arsenal’s defence: spare a thought for the memory of Adams                Portsmouth’s turbulent week sunk to a new low with
and Keown. Djourou gave away the free-kick from which                 a defeat at Barnsley. Just over 24 hours after entering
Sunderland took the lead, Kieran Richardson’s shot taking a           administration for a second time in two years and dropping
vital deflection off Squillaci, who later went off injured.           into the relegation zone, debt-ridden Pompey were reduced to
    Before the Sunderland match, Adrian Chiles risked the wrath       10 men when Dave Kitson was sent off in the first half before
of Roy Keane by bringing up Manchester United’s defeat to             goals in the last 15 minutes from Jim O’Brien and Matt Done
Arsenal in the 2005 FA Cup [http://tinyurl.com/czpyxc] final.         consigned them to defeat.
“Over it yet, Roy?” chirped Chiles. “Just about,” seethed Keane,          The Peterborough manager, Darren Ferguson, praised his
glaring at his interrogator, looking for a moment as if he was        players after they beat Bristol City to record their first league
about to Saipan him.                                                  win of 2012. Lee Tomlin (two) and David Ball were on target.
    Crewe goalkeeper Steve Phillips did his bit for team spirit           Ferguson said: “The most important thing was that we were
after being booked for fighting with his own captain Dave Artell      more aggressive off the ball, with everyone sticking to the game
during his side’s 1-0 defeat at Southend United. It’s not the         plan.”
first time Phillips has rowed with his own players – as recently
as December he apologised for a bust-up with Adam Dugdale
during a draw against Crawley Town. Good to see he has                Sport news in brief
matured since then.
    There were no happy travellers in the Championship on
                                                                      • Danish Kaneria denies any involvement
Saturday, with all seven games ending in victory for the hosts
– and Doncaster were the only away side that managed to score.
                                                                      in fixing • Volvo Ocean Race suspended
They still lost to Leeds though, conceding a winner in the ninth      due to high winds
minute of stoppage time.                                              Danish Kaneria has denied he has ever been involved in fixing
Q: Will Fernando Torres ever score again?                             matches. In sentencing the Essex bowler Mervyn Westfield
   A: Don’t be silly. Of course not.                                  to four months in prison on Friday for on-field corruption, a
                                                                      judge in London accused Kaneria of pressuring team-mates at
                                                                      the county side to fix matches. “All these allegations are false,”
Championship round-up                                                 Kaneria said. “I have not only been cleared by the British police,
                                                                      but also by the England and Wales Cricket Board, and the
                                                                      International Cricket Council.”
Nottingham Forest climb out of relegation
                                                                          Kaneria has been suspended from international cricket by
zone; Paul Jewell jokes about play-offs after                         the Pakistan Cricket Board since 2010 after allegations of spot-
Ipswich march on                                                      fixing during a county match first surfaced.
Staff and agencies                                                        He was named in the Test squad for the series against
                                                                      South Africa in 2010, but was pulled out at the last minute
Nottingham Forest gained their first home win since November          after Westfield was charged with spot-fixing in a game against
against fellow strugglers Coventry, after they had scored only        Durham. However, Kaneria has been playing in Pakistan’s
one goal in their previous seven league matches at the City           domestic tournaments.
Ground. The victory lifted Forest out of the bottom three,                For the past two years, Kaneria has been trying to clear his
though that was due in part to Portsmouth [http://tinyurl.            name over spot-fixing allegations and even appealed in the
com/4bdo2j]’s 10-point deduction.                                     Sindh high court in Karachi against his PCB suspension. Last
   The long-suffering home fans had to wait until the last 20         year, the court dismissed Kaneria’s appeal, saying it was not
minutes for those elusive goals. Garath McCleary scored the
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page 9 G24 Sport                                                                 Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

within its jurisdiction.                                               Craig Whyte, who took over the majority stakeholding in
    “I have been trying my best to clear my name, but so            Rangers last May, issued a statement on Friday which stressed
far I don’t know why the PCB suspended me from playing              he was guilty of no wrongdoing or irregularity. Alastair
international cricket for Pakistan,” Kaneria said. The leg-         Johnston, who immediately preceded Whyte as club chairman,
spinner was an integral part of Pakistan’s squad, claiming 261      had earlier called for police to investigate the detail of the
wickets in 61 Tests, before he was sidelined by the PCB.AP          takeover.
    For the first time in its nearly 40-year history, the Volvo        Pressed on whether the use of taxes to run the club could
Ocean Race will suspend racing because of weather, with             represent an illegal act, Whitehouse said: “The definition is
massive sea swells and 40 knots of wind predicted. Race             when you knew or ought to have known that the company
organisers will split Leg 4 into two stages and hold the six        could not avoid insolvency. It’s a grey area.”
boats in Sanya, China, after the start of Sunday’s leg to allow        Despite the club’s troubled position and the likelihood of
dangerous conditions in the South China Sea to clear, with fears    staff cuts in the next week, Rangers still hope to sign the free
that waves of up to eight metres could wreak havoc.PA               agent Daniel Cousin. The Scottish Premier League refused to
    The Miami Heat, led by LeBron James, torched the Cleveland      endorse Cousin’s registration on Friday due to the transfer
Cavaliers 111-87 to record their fifth consecutive road win in      embargo imposed as part of the administration. Rangers can
front of an unforgiving crowd. James scored 16 of his game-         appeal against that decision.
high 28 points in the third quarter as the Heat extended their         “It’s a fine balance between getting the playing structure
lead to 34 points before he sat out the fourth. James was booed     right and the staff right,” Whitehouse said. “At the end of the
loudly again by the Cleveland fans, who have not forgiven him       day it is a football club and we have to make this business work.
for leaving the team in 2010. “It’s always special coming back      We have to be very mindful of what Ally McCoist requires to
here,” James said. “I know these fans, they know me.” Reuters       take the club forward.”



Taxman does not want to see Rangers                                 Victoria Pendleton denied medal in
shut down, say administrators                                       sprint at Olympic test event

• ‘HMRC wants to work with us to make                               • Victoria Pendleton loses to Anna Meares
sure Rangers survive’ • Administrators seek                         in semi-final • China’s Shuang Guo wins
to clarify position after talks with HMRC                           gold as tired Meares fades
Ewan Murray                                                         William Fotheringham at the Olympic Velodrome

Rangers [http://tinyurl.com/3qtr4x]’ administrators have            The evening session at “the Pringle” opened with Victoria
stressed Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has no wish to see       Pendleton [http://tinyurl.com/5zjdo7] and Anna Meares
the Ibrox club shut down.                                           meeting in the semi-final of the sprint, which felt as if an
    Rangers were plunged into administration on Tuesday after       evening’s boxing was opening with the leading heavyweight
it emerged that £9m was due to HMRC [http://tinyurl.com/            bout. It proved an enthralling contest, another twist and turn
c4u92uh] in unpaid PAYE and VAT. The result of a separate tax       or two in a rivalry that will end this August with Pendleton’s
tribunal, worth £36.5m plus interest and penalties, is yet to be    retirement.
announced.                                                              Meares had qualified in an extremely rapid 10.973sec, close
    Yet Paul Clark and David Whitehouse, who have assumed           to her personal best, with Pendleton’s 11.111sec making it
control of Rangers’ day-to-day business on behalf of the            inevitable the pair would meet before the final. The first match
administrators Duff & Phelps, moved to clarify HMRC’s position      was dominated by the Australian, who led out and simply left
after talks between the parties on Saturday morning. “There’s       Pendleton with too much to do.
been consideration in the media that HMRC has somehow got it            Pendleton needed to respond, to avoid Meares gaining
in for Rangers and wants to close the club,” Clark said. “We have   any psychological edge. In the second match, she tried to
their agreement at senior level that we can say the following:      force Meares to the front with a near-standstill along the back
that if HMRC had been looking to close Rangers then last week       straight, before the Australian surprised her with a sudden
they wouldn’t have issued an administration application,            surge off the banking as the bell beckoned. She almost brushed
they’d have issued a winding up petition because a winding up       shoulders with the Briton and then made a sudden movement
petition would have resulted in liquidation and it is liquidation   as Pendleton came past on the final banking, but not enough to
that brings the closure of a club.                                  put the Briton off.
    “The message from HMRC is that they would like to work              That left honours even, something that cannot be
with us to make sure Rangers survive and that was as far as we      overstated, as it ensured that whatever the eventual outcome,
could go on that.”                                                  Pendleton can travel to the world championships on Meares’s
    Whitehouse explained: “Before the administration it is fair     home turf in a few weeks knowing she has shaken her great
to say that HMRC were very, very supportive of the club. If you     rival twice in two days.
set aside the big tax case, they agreed several pay arrangements        After the third ride, won by Meares, both women looked
which the club didn’t meet. There’s only so long you can fund       to have left the best of their legs on the track. It was, said a
a loss-making business through non-payment of taxes. The            watching performance analyst, one of the fastest series of
position was unsustainable. There comes a point where HMRC          women’s sprints ever seen and the damage that produces to the
have to say enough is enough.”                                      muscles is massive.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                     guardian.co.uk
Page 10 G24 Sport                                                                  Sunday February 19 2012             09:07 GMT

    Doubtless as a result, there was a distinct feeling of the main   abstinence and training are combined. At the Sydney Games,
event being over when Meares fell in the final to China’s Shuang      the 70,000 supplied were insufficient and 20,000 more had to
Guo, while Pendleton went down in three rides to Wai Sze of           be procured at short notice.
Hong Kong. Coming after Friday night’s brace of world records            The BBC has revealed it will broadcast the men’s 100 metres
in the team sprint, quite what “Queen Vic’” and her Australian        final live in 3D. While it will be the only event in the format
rival will have left in the tank in Sunday’s keirin is anyone’s       shown live, the opening and closing ceremonies, and a nightly
guess.                                                                highlights show, will also be available in 3D on the BBC HD
                                                                      channel.
                                                                         Take up for 3D TV in the UK is low, only 6% of viewers
London 2012 Olympic countdown: 23                                     having a 3D-ready TV, according to a 2011 Ofcom report, and
weeks to go                                                           the decision not to show more live ensures coverage of as many
                                                                      sports as possible is not compromised.

Holly Bleasdale ready to hit new heights,
the great condom giveaway and the 100                                 Ryo Ishikawa escapes tyranny of hype
metres in 3D                                                          to follow Rory McIlroy’s US lead
Giles Richards

Great Britain pole vaulter Holly Bleasdale took another step          The young Japanese has taken a PGA Tour
forward on Saturday, winning after clearing 4.70m at the indoor       card after recognising his ambitions were
Aviva Grand Prix in Birmingham. It is perfect timing for the 20-      unlikely to be fulfilled at home
year-old, who has hit real form ahead of the London Games.
                                                                      Lawrence Donegan
    In January she cleared 4.87m in Lyon, the third-highest
indoor jump ever and one that would have won her all but one          It turns out there is more than one way to measure the stature
of the previous women’s world championships. The title that           of a professional golfer. The scorecard matters most of all but in
would have been denied her is held by Yelena Isinbayeva, a            this era of sporting celebrity it is always worth paying attention
double Olympic gold-medallist and five times world champion,          to the camera count.
who is acknowledged as the greatest female pole vaulter of all            Take the case of Ryo Ishikawa, the talented and charismatic
time. Yet two weeks ago, in Poland, Bleasdale matched her in          Japanese teenager who arrived in Los Angeles three years ago
height and was only beaten on countback – Isinbayeva needing          to play in the Northern Trust Open, his first event on the PGA
just two attempts to Bleasdale’s three.                               Tour. Such was the interest back home and such was appetite
    As a youngster, Bleasdale had tried many sports, looking          for any titbit, a group of Japanese photographers took pictures
for one in which to excel, when a pole-vaulting test brought it       of a television set in a press centre for no better reason than it
all together – not that it was an obvious choice. “I remember it      was showing the golfer being interviewed on a American sports
being quite scary and a bit daunting. Running up and swinging         channel.
yourself over a bar with a massive pole,” she explained. But              What a difference three years makes. Ishikawa is back in
practise brought confidence and, with the exception of a poor         Los Angeles this week and he is accompanied by a handful of
showing at the World Championships in Korea last year, the            Japanese journalists. But their numbers are greatly diminished
results followed. “This year is about gaining consistency,” she       and the photographers have their lenses trained elsewhere.
said. “I know I’ve got a big jump within me, I just need to build         This probably comes as something of a relief for the golfer,
my confidence up and, when I’m in the right situation and the         whose unfailing politeness in his dealings with the press has
right competition, that big jump will come.”                          cost him countless hours of practice time over the course of
    For which the Olympics seem tailor made. Even the spectre         his short career. But perhaps his agent will be more than a little
of Isinbayeva no longer concerns Bleasdale. “The first time           concerned that his client, once the hottest young property in
competing against her, I was a bit nervous,” she admitted. But        golf [http://tinyurl.com/6dyxf8], is now just another contender
having now matched her in the heat of competition, she has            – popular in Japan but viewed with indifference in other corners
“grown more confident. I go in and show everyone I am just as         of the golfing world.
good as her and I can beat her”.                                          The principal reason for that is as obvious as the halfway
    Bleasdale must still qualify (in June), but current form makes    leaderboard at Riviera Country Club which showed Ishikawa on
her a favourite to do so. Young, fully fit and growing into her       one under par, tied for 39th place and adjusting his ambitions
talent in a technically demanding sport, she may have more to         for the week. A top-10 finish would be a fine performance but it
come. “I can improve my technique so much,” she said. “My             is not the stuff of banner headlines, not even in Japan.
technique is quite good, but I look at the videos and there’s so          So much for the hype of 2009, when the sages and marketing
many things I need to improve, which is really good. There’s a        men were falling over themselves to promote the 21st-century
lot of scope for me to go much higher.”                               version of the “Big Three”. For Palmer, Player and Nicklaus,
    Organisers have announced that Durex will be the supplier         read Rory McIlroy [http://tinyurl.com/dh65dc], Danny Lee and
of free condoms to athletes during the Games and, although the        Ishikawa.
amount has yet to be confirmed, it is understood to be around             Of that triumvirate only McIlroy, winner of last year’s US
100,000 prophylactics.                                                Open, has matched expectations. After winning a European
    With 20,000 competitors, it’s five per person. Not, as it         Tour event as an amateur, Lee spent a couple of years playing
transpires, that many, given what happens when highly-toned           his way on to the US Tour, finally earning his card at the end of
bodies, testosterone and the desire to finally let off steam after    last year.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                                                        guardian.co.uk
Page 11 G24 Sport                                                      Sunday February 19 2012   09:07 GMT

    Ishikawa continued to spend most of his time on the Japan
Tour, winning seven times over the course of 2009 and 2010, a
remarkable streak that dried up last year when he racked up a
number of top-10, including three runner-up, finishes but failed
to secure a victory. When he did venture abroad for the biggest
events, he made little impression. A brief appearance near the
top of the leaderboard halfway through the 2010 US Open at
Pebble Beach was his most notable performance.
    Yet if it is possible to view Ishikawa’s progress over this time
as a disappointment, the temptation should be resisted or at
least qualified by a recognition that expectations were too high
in the first place.
    The success of Tiger Woods so early in his career – he won
his first major at the age of 21 – has permanently skewed
perceptions of what constitutes fulfilling potential in golf.
Once upon a time, players were not expected to reach a peak
until their early 30s. These days, an exceptional young golfer
is declared the next big thing by the age of 20 and if he has not
come up to the mark within a couple of years he is written off.
    Sure, McIlroy has passed this impossible test, but the
young Northern Irishman was always a different animal from
Ishikawa, blessed with a more powerful game suited to the
challenges of modern major championship golf. McIlroy
also had cultural advantages. Having spent his nascent years
competing in Europe and the United States his transition to the
life of a top-class professional golfer was much easier. Japanese
golfers have always had a harder time adjusting when they
played abroad.
    Ishikawa was no different, although this season he has
committed himself to becoming a more “international” player.
For the past couple of years the PGA Tour hierarchy has set its
mind on rebranding itself as young and more international.
McIlroy and Ishikawa were central to that ambition and were
courted heavily by tour officials. McIlroy was first to take his
card and this season Ishikawa, to the surprise of many, has
followed suit – a recognition by the Japanese golfer that his
major championship ambitions were unlikely to be fulfilled
were he to continue to play mostly at home.
    This week marks his third appearance in the US this season
– he missed the cut in his first event in Hawaii and had a top-10
finish in San Diego – and he will spend the next two months on
the PGA Tour in an attempt to improve his world ranking of 53.
    “Each tournament will be very important for me,” Ishikawa
said. “I’ll try to not only make the Masters but also improve
my game to be able to put myself in contention in majors in
the future.”
    As a declaration of intent this may not make much
impression on the marketing gurus or the headline writers,
but it is classic Ishikawa in its quiet understatement and the
recognition of reality.
    His celebrity may be diminished but his incredible record
(nine victories on the Japan Tour as a teenager) and undoubted
talent remains. Now that he has been freed from the tyranny of
hype expect that talent to be fulfilled over the coming years.




guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007                                              guardian.co.uk

				
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posted:2/19/2012
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