Supreme Sports Personality Championships: Tiger Woods v Roger Federer

December 10, 2009

Roger Federer is simply the best. He has the best Grand Slam persona. He is a Supreme Sports Personality Champion. He is the perfect role model to inspire others in how to behave decently. This view is qualified by contrasting Roger Federer with Tiger Woods.

These two supremely talented sportsmen and champions have been in society’s collective consciousness for a decade or more and have left impressions on many of us in general (not just on avid golf or tennis fans). From time to time, we have all looked in from the outside at these two great sportsmen of our time, who are both considered the greatest of their generation, and the greatest of all time (true in the case of Federer; in-waiting for Woods). I wish to blog a little about these impressions formed in society’s collective consciousness (some different, some similar) and explain why Federer is so much greater and supreme than Woods.

Talent In Their Chosen Sport
Both Federer and Woods excel in their respective sports. Federer has a record 22 consecutive Grand Slam semi-final appearances, and has won 15 Grand Slam titles. Woods has 14 Major titles. The manner of their domination is what’s interesting.

Federer has always played to his ability and let the results speak for themselves. Jimmy Connors has been quoted: “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist, or a hard court specialist … or you’re Roger Federer.” Federer does not look down on or disrespect his peers. He does not engage in any noticeable gamesmanship. In fact, he is the most likeable and popular player on tour.
In contrast, Woods dominated his peers only in the early years of his career. Between 1999 and 2002, there was simply no one near fitter, more talented or plain better than Woods. Gradually, as his peers improved and caught up to Woods’ high standards, Woods has had to modify the way he “dominates”. There is no longer a “level playing field” because Woods demands certain “conditions” from his peers, and also from his spectators. Woods is simply treated (and demands to be treated) differently than other golfers. Woods is also not the most popular amongst his peers.
Federer 1, Woods 0

Personality In Their Chosen Sport
Federer has an early childhood history of being rebellious and of smashing up his racquets on court. Fortunately, he learned to control his temper and rage and has gone on to become the greatest tennis player of all time, as well as the nicest champion of all time. He is the most likeable and popular player on tour.
Woods has a history of swearing and of gamesmanship. He growls and snarls and ignores everyone (some might say he is just “being focused”; others might say he is being arrogant and disrespectful). His attitude when he makes a bad shot or when he loses a tournament is not good for kids to see. Woods can be short with people, and condescending. He is not the most popular amongst his peers.
Federer 2, Woods 0

Personality Outside Their Chosen Sport
Woods’ “transgressions” has revealed that he is not the “clean Mr Nice Guy” that his management company would like to have everyone believe. Signs of his “dark side” surfaced during his mid-20s, when Woods hung out with The Brothers (consisting of basketball players Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley American footballer Ahmad Rashad, and baseball player Alex Rodriguez). In 2001, they travelled to the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas where Jordan gambled, placing up to $5,000 on a single card. Woods exhibited his rebellious side by bleaching his hair blond. Woods eventually married in 2004 (which is a similar age to when Federer married) but revelations have since appeared that show Tiger has been promiscuous before and after he was married.

Federer is simply a nice guy; an all round top bloke. However compared with Woods, Federer is still relatively young (he is 28 and recently married) so there is a danger that he may find himself in a situation with a mistress. In terms of age in years, Federer is about 5 years younger than Woods. However, the way Federer conducts himself, both on and off the court, demonstrates that he is a mature responsible professional and suggests that he has a good head on his shoulders and has a fantastic support group. Let’s hope Federer does not succumb to any “transgressions” in his future life.
Federer 3, Woods 0

In HKSARblog‘s humble opinion, Roger Federer is the true Supreme Sports Personality Champion.

[Read Comments Here]

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Hocus Pocus For Premiership Players

November 26, 2009

It appears some local bloggers (e.g. Ulaca and In Black and White) like to comment on football or soccer, particularly but not exclusively from England’s Premier League. I’m also a fan so I’ve been thinking about posting something about soccer but with HKSARblog’s usual skepticism about certain practices.

So how about: Desperate and Injured Premiership Players Place Faith on Placental Fluid Miracle Cure?
The media circus started when Arsenal’s star striker Robin van Persie injured his ankle a week ago when playing for Holland against Italy. The initial diagnosis was that he had a partial tear in his ankle ligaments and would be sidelined for six weeks. He then announced that he was going to Belgrade in Serbia to seek a “mysterious housewife” who apparently can help players recover quicker by using placental fluid. Initially, the media did not know much about the treatment, by first saying that the woman massaged placental fluid taken from horses on the injured area. Next, it was dripped on. And now, there are reports that injections of placental fluid are involved. No one appears to know exactly what this alternative therapy is, or who this woman is.

Despite this, it later emerged that a whole gaggle (plethora? pile? posse?) of premiership players (e.g. Liverpool’s Glen Johnson, Fabio Aurelio, Yossi Benayoun and Albert Riera; Chelsea’s Frank Lampard; Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta) and some top European players have also been treated by this “Mariana Kovacevic” who has at least three aliases and four different addresses. Why all the secrecy? Tax evasion perhaps, or something more sinister?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger (usually considered rational, relative to other Premiership managers that is) said he “recognised the psychological benefits such a treatment may have on an injured player”. Yes, Arsene may be on to something here. As with many alternative therapies, the placebo effect can sometimes be significant.

Furthermore, we are talking here about elite athletes in the prime of their lives, whose body conditioning can be significantly different compared with “normal” people (i.e. ordinary citizens who do not maintain their bodies at above-average condition on a full-time and prolonged basis). For instance, if you treat a bunch of injured people with the same therapy and divide them in to two groups (one group being young elite athletes; the other being older, unfit and overweight people), it would not be unreasonable to perhaps expect a difference between the groups in their recovery period and performance. A good example would be swine flu: there have been cases of professional football players who have caught swine flu, and none have died. Whereas in other demographics, some people have died from swine flu.

This is why proper clinical trials should always be arranged, rather than relying on testimonies; in this case testimonies from superfit elite athletes.

Still, all this Hocus Pocus malarkey in the Premiership is interesting to follow. Eventually, the truth will out.

Born To Run

November 11, 2009

Humans evolved to be long-distance endurance runners. An interesting New York Times article mentions the ability for humans to run long distances is an evolved trait. Apparently, having good stamina that allowed early human hunters to track their prey for long periods, spanning time and distance, was of great survival advantage.

Tracking prey for long periods over vast distances is necessary to tire out prey animals. This trait can be observed in wolves, animals also known for their ability to track their prey for long periods. Wolves are capable of covering several miles trotting at about a pace of 10 kmph (6.21 mph) and can reach speeds approaching 65 km/h (40.39 mph) during a chase.

Therefore from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense that humans generally are good distance runners. Humans have evolved to run over long distances, with world-class distance runners being at the extreme end of the scale. As mentioned previously, I admire world-class distance runners, who can run on average at sustained speeds* of:
22.82 kmph (14.18 mph) for a distance of 10,000 metres run in 26:17.53 (current record holder is Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia); and
20.42 kmph (12.69 mph) for a marathon (42.195 km) run in 2h03:59 (current record holder is Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia).

However, I don’t especially admire their physique (particularly female marathon runners):

[Paula Radcliffe, New York Marathon November 1, 2009]

In comparison, the world’s fastest man in terms of sprinting short distances is Jamaica’s Usain Bolt who sprints at 37.58 kmph (23.35 mph) over a distance of 100 metres. So a world-class marathon runner is able to run at a little over half of Bolt’s top speed over 100 metres … but can do so 422 times consecutively. This is simply astonishing.

* These times are based on men’s events

Related Blog
“Lightning” Bolt vs Duracell “Battery” Bekele

Portsmouth FC Hong Kong Connection

November 3, 2009

Portsmouth FC is now the second English Premier League club to be financially linked to another Hong Kong businessman, after of course Birmingham City FC.

[Portsmouth FC colours]

Balram Chainrai, a Hong Kong-based businessman of Nepalese extraction, has loaned £15 million to the club, which ensures that all outstanding October wages will be paid to Portsmouth FC’s employees. This has also fueled speculation of a change in ownership of the football club.

Apparently, Chainrai went to KGV (i.e. Hong Kong’s King George V School), and has a biomedical science background as well as a British passport. Naturally, the Premier League is seeking further information about Chainrai, although since he is not a director of the club and apparently does not control 30% or more of the club’s shares, Chainrai will not have to pass the Premier League’s fit and proper person test. What other “gems” will the media uncover?

Stand Out Face

October 29, 2009

The inimitable Ulaca has an interesting post about Olympic swimming champion Rebecca Adlington. Something about her looks being like “someone who’s looking at themselves in the back of a spoon“.

What’s wrong with telling things like they are? When I first saw Ms Adlington winning at the Beijing Olympics last year, my first thought was that her face looked pretty alien and therefore reminded me of a Star Trek alien called Odo.

I thought she had the appearance of a “face behind a latex mask”.

[Rebecca Adlington with OBE and Star Trek: Deep Space 9 security chief Odo with Quark]

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Carson Yawn Very Chinese

October 20, 2009

Better times will surely come to Birmingham City FC, so it was probably a very bad idea for Carson Yeung to bring along the wife, mistress, girlfriend or perhaps sister to watch his first match as the new owner of the Blues. From the looks of things, she did not appreciate being made to sit and watch the match between Birmingham and Arsenal.

[Carson Yeung and guest unimpressed and bored, respectively]

Cultural Note
When Chinese people laugh, especially Chinese girls and also many Asian women, the social norm is for them to cover their mouths with one of their hands. But when Chinese people yawn (or burp), they usually don’t bother covering their mouths. It’s quite distasteful.
Why is this? Why the inconsistency?
Perhaps bloggers from the highly irreverent Dark Side will provide their unique take on this sometime?

Former Policeman and Barrister Becomes an Executive of Birmingham City FC

October 10, 2009

What can Birmingham City FC, under the new Carson Yeung reign, possibly want with Peter Pannu, a former senior anti-triad police officer and barrister?

Edit: Phrase deleted.


[Peter Pannu has experience with undercover law enforcement as well as legal affairs in previous careers]

Carson Yeung Ka-shing is apparently making astute appointments at Birmingham City FC. It will be interesting to observe how Birmingham City FC will develop as a team in the Premiership and as a marketing strategy in Greater China.

Buyer of UK soccer club stands by choice of cleared officer (SCMP; subscription required)

Barclay Crawford
Oct 09, 2009

Grandtop International Holdings has stood by the appointment of former Hong Kong police officer Peter Pannu to a leading management position in its HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League soccer club Birmingham City.

Pannu was cleared of corruption, assault and criminal intimidation charges during his career.

A company spokesman said the former senior anti-triad officer and barrister had the legal knowledge and appropriate management experience to serve the club.

Pannu has said he will be vice-chairman of finance and executive matters, while chief operating officer Sammy Yu Wai-ying will be responsible for the soccer-playing side of the business.

In January 1993, Pannu was charged along with a colleague with accepting HK$20,000 from Sun Yee On triad boss Andely Chan Yiu-hing. Pannu was alleged to have accepted the bribe to protect the gangster, known as the “Tiger of Wan Chai”, from a police operation against him.

Pannu’s trial was halted more than three years later because of a missing witness and because Chan had by then been murdered. Pannu was also cleared of assault and criminal intimidation charges.

The court said missing witnesses could have helped Pannu’s case and without them he could not receive a fair trial.

Former Hong Kong police detective David Fernyhough, who now heads the Hong Kong office of corporate-risk investigation firm Hill and Associates, said investigations into Pannu stemmed from a far wider investigation into the Sun Yee On’s lucrative stranglehold on the entertainment industry in Tsim Sha Tsui East in the early 1990s.

During the years he was suspended from the force on full pay, Pannu completed a law degree.

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Bar Association said Pannu was admitted as a barrister of the High Court of Hong Kong in 1997. He resigned from the police force in 2000 and finished practising as a barrister in the middle of last month.

The Grandtop spokesman said the company had no comment on previous connections between Grandtop and Carson Yeung Ka-shing, the former hairstylist turned businessman who has been the public face of the takeover.

Referring to Pannu, he said: “We have taken advantage of his knowledge and experience … at this stage, Peter has no formal status within the club or exact position.”

Carson Yeung Failed Hairstylist

October 6, 2009

Judging by his haircut, it’s little wonder Carson Yeung turned his back on being a hairstylist and became a typical Hong Kong tycoon instead. His company controls English Premier League club Birmingham City Football Club.

Kinda makes one wonder why his successful company is called Grandtop International Holdings!

[Carson Yeung was a hairstylist in a previous career.]

Budding tycoon sets sights on big league (SCMP; subscription required)

Former hairstylist has goals for Birmingham City
Neil Gough and Ben Kwok
Oct 05, 2009

Ten years ago, Carson Yeung Ka-shing was a struggling Kowloon hairstylist fending off lawsuits from credit card companies.

But as he arrived last week to meet the press in a conference room at the swanky Island Shangri-La hotel, dressed to the nines in a tailored white suit and a white shirt accented with silver buttons and a collar bar, Yeung, 49, looked every bit the budding billionaire.

Indeed, as his HK$731 million takeover of English Premier League football club Birmingham City nears completion, the once low-profile Yeung appears to have been catapulted firmly into the limelight.

Speculation and rumour about Yeung’s background and plans for Birmingham City have abounded since his firm, Grandtop International Holdings, first bought a 29.9 per cent stake in the football club two years ago.

Until now he has held his cards close to his chest, and repeatedly declined to be interviewed for this article. However, a closer examination of Yeung’s track record, Birmingham City’s business prospects and previous statements by Grandtop executives yields a picture of an ambitious if expensive gamble on China’s appetite for football and a test of Yeung’s own talent as an entrepreneur.

Not much is known about Yeung’s background before he entered the professional football business. Hong Kong companies registry filings dating back to 1991 show him living in a Tsuen Wan flat and list his occupation as a hairstylist. For several years in the 1990s, Yeung operated a hair salon in Tsim Sha Tsui East’s Royal Garden Hotel, according to corporate filings and press reports.

Following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, however, Yeung appears to have run into financial trouble. In late 1998 and early 1999, several credit card companies and banks, including American Express and Hang Seng Bank (SEHK: 0011, announcements, news) , filed lawsuits seeking to enforce their claims against a modest Mid-Levels flat Yeung bought for HK$5.35 million in 1996, according to Land Registry filings.

The lawsuits appear to have been either settled out of court or dismissed since no judgments were entered into the judiciary’s database.

Fast forward 10 years and Yeung today shows every sign of being a wealthy man with an increasingly diversified portfolio of investments. In addition to Grandtop’s bid for Birmingham City, Yeung emerged last year as a white knight investor in ailing SMI Publishing Group.

SMI, which publishes the Chinese-language Sing Pao Daily News, was having trouble paying rent and salaries until Yeung stepped in with a HK$60 million bailout loan in April last year that gave him an option to acquire up to a 62 per cent stake in the group.

Yeung, who according to press reports now lives on the Peak and is transported around town in a Maybach, is also listed in companies registry filings as a director of Universal Energy Resources Holdings, Universal Management Consultancy, Universal Properties Group Holdings and Super Promise International. However, little or no additional information is available about these privately held firms.

Asked at last week’s press conference about his business interests and background, Yeung said he had several successful investments on the mainland in areas including property, resources, coal mining, gold and water supply.

“Our businesses have gone very well in China,” he said. “I’m a work-hard man [sic].”

Part of Yeung’s rapid rise from struggling salon stylist to media-to-mining industrialist can be explained by a keen participation in the local stock market.

In 2004, his dealings attracted a reprimand from the Securities and Futures Commission for failing to disclose a holding in Cedar Base Electronic (Group), now known as China Water Affairs Group.

The securities watchdog found that he held 25 per cent of Cedar Base on June 1, 2001, and on four other occasions had interests consisting of more than 20 per cent of the firm.

He pleaded guilty and was fined HK$43,000 and ordered to pay the SFC’s investigation costs.

Yeung has also been linked to investments in small-cap Macau casino firms. Sources said he made a significant profit dealing in shares of A-Max Holdings, which bought a 49.9 per cent stake in Macau’s Greek Mythology casino in March 2006.

In 2007, he also bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent in Kanstar Environmental Paper Products in the space of three months and later that same year he bought and sold a stake of more than 5 per cent stake in Macau casino operator Golden Resorts Group, controlled by Pollyanna Chu Yuet-wah.

Chu’s Kingston Securities and Kingston Corporate Finance acted as the underwriter and financial adviser to Grandtop on its deal to raise funds for the purchase of Birmingham City.

Last year’s purchase of the stake in troubled SMI appears to have been a break from Yeung’s previous investments, several of which followed relatively quick buy-hold-sell patterns.

SMI’s shares, which are listed on the Growth Enterprise Market, have been suspended from trading since 2005. The company booked a loss of HK$14.29 million in the final quarter of last year and has delayed reporting results since.

But the acquisition yielded other non-financial returns: Yeung’s takeover bid for Birmingham City received prominent coverage in Sing Pao, including a series of glowing articles following last week’s press conference that took up the first four pages of the newspaper.

One long-time Sing Pao staffer said Yeung was a frequent sight around the paper’s Shau Kei Wan offices and was a “pretty hands-on guy”.

Yeung sometimes sits in on editorial meetings and tells senior staff the kind of things that he likes to see in the paper, but overall he is regarded as a good boss by most of the employees. “At least he pays us on time,” said the staffer.

It is not clear how Birmingham City will fit into Yeung’s burgeoning empire. He is no newcomer to the football scene, having served as chairman of Hong Kong’s Rangers football club from 2005 to early 2007.

But a Premier League club is a business of a different calibre entirely, and Grandtop executives have hinted at several potential plans for growing the business and tapping new revenue streams.

Birmingham City booked £49.84 million (HK$612.02 million) in revenue last year and reported a net profit of £2.59 million. However, in the six months to February, the club swung to a net loss of £2.79 million on turnover of £15.61 million.

Like most big football clubs, Birmingham City’s business is supported by three main revenue streams: ticket sales, television broadcasting income and sponsorships and merchandising.

Last year, ticket sales accounted for about 42 per cent of total revenue, broadcasting accounted for 38 per cent, and sponsorships and merchandising made up only 20 per cent.

That division of revenue is much more heavily weighted towards the sponsorship and merchandising side at leading clubs such as Manchester United.

Grandtop executives say they aim to bolster Birmingham City’s performance in this area, mainly by tapping into the mainland’s growing appetite for the “beautiful game”.

Signing new players is a stated goal, and observers wonder if some top Chinese players might soon be donning Blues’ jerseys.

“With the concept of Greater China in mind, I think that next year significant profit will be brought to the group, and we are not just talking about football,” Grandtop chief executive Vico Hui said last month.

“I’m sure that the income from entertainment and other segments will be very significant and I will give you good news next year.”

Moreover, Birmingham City’s healthy balance sheet and physical presence in England’s second-largest city may offer other profit potential – perhaps as a property play.

“First, this football club is free of debt,” Yeung said last week after being asked why he pursued the acquisition. “Secondly, the football club owns its own stadium, so in the future we can incorporate some commercial elements.”

Still, the details of how Yeung plans to go about selling Birmingham City to the Chinese market remain largely unknown except to him and his top executives.

And for now, no one is giving away anything more than vague clues.

“Regarding the plans for Greater China, it’s too early to confirm every little bit now,” chief operating officer Sammy Yu said last month.

“Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool – all these successful teams have given us a very good example. We will learn from them. We are not geniuses but we will learn.”

Roger Federer says ‘Hotdog’ was his greatest shot ever. Huh?

September 23, 2009

Roger Federer’s hotdog ‘tween the legs was nothing special. It appeared to be an amazing shot only because it was a winner that set up match point in the semi-final of the 2009 US Open. However, the real reason why it appears amazing is due to the laziness or casualness of his opponent, Novak Djokovic rather than to Federer’s lucky exhibition-style trick shot which, for the record, should in no way define his tennis brilliance. I am a fan of Federer’s skill, grace and athleticism on the tennis court.

Anyone who knows anything about tennis understands where Djokovic’s prime position should have been. Djokovic was in an advantageous attacking position that had his opponent under pressure and scurrying back to the baseline. He should have been right up by the net waiting to clean up the point with a volley. Instead, Djokovic was casually waiting near the “T” zone, which is basically “no man’s land”.

Even the British tennis public, generally not known for their following of tennis around the world, can use their specific knowledge of Wimbledon to confirm that Djokovic should have been standing by the net ready to intercept the ball.

Federer said this about ‘hotdogs’:

“I do practice them a lot actually but they never work. That’s why I guess it was the greatest shot I ever hit in my life.”

Doesn’t sound rational. What about all the classic shots (i.e. backhand, forehand, volleys, overheads, etc) that he practices daily and which have been proven to work extremely well? Why attribute a high-risk low-percentage shot as the greatest shot in his life? What about the numerous amazing points he has shared against Rafa Nadal and other top players, which has seen some truly incredible rallies and wonderful winners? (Some examples here)

Therefore, it was Federer’s greatest ever luckiest shot, but not his greatest ever shot.
Roger Federer’s place in tennis history does not deserve to be cheapened by a lucky shot.

Note: Apologies for my slow turnaround times. I know the US Open finished over a week ago.

Birmingham FC Chief Displays Lucid Rationality

September 2, 2009

Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung’s planned but prolonged takeover of club Birmingham City FC has further fueled Hong Kong’s already huge interest and following in the English Premier League and in the England national football team.

[Birmingham City colours]

Therefore, I couldn’t help notice a news story about the president of the Croatian Football Federation Vlatko Markovic fabricating a fantastic theory that Birmingham City were deliberately taking out Croatian national team players. Two Croatian players (Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspurs and Eduardo da Silva of Arsenal) have recently been injured while playing for their club teams, and those matches coincidently involved Birmingham City. Injuries are “part and parcel” of the game, but Markovic is crying foul and appears to be up to mischief. Either that, or he’s just plain silly to claim: “I can only ask whether someone did it deliberately on the eve of the game with England. I can only ask myself whether it is a coincidence or not.

England play Croatia in a key World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday 09/09/09.

Despite the cheekiness of all this, the Birmingham chairman David Gold was unperturbed and instead of reciprocating like-with-like with an appeal to emotion and to ignorance, simply said: “To say such things is little short of incredible. For a man of such stature and position in the game to come out with such rubbish is pathetic. His remarks border on paranoia and I struggle not to take it personally when they two incidents he talks about involve my club. To lay such stuff at Birmingham’s door is appalling. It’s emotive and doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Gold was also culturally sensitive too: “We should make light of it – maybe the problem is the statement has been completely lost in translation, maybe he meant to say something different.

Such cogent rational comments are rare these days and stand out like a beacon relative to the usual soundbites and quotes that come through the media.