Zidane put on FIFA shortlist
Former French playmaker Zinedine Zidane, sent off in the World Cup final in Berlin, was named on a 30-man shortlist on Thursday for FIFA's World Player of the Year award. Zidane retired from soccer after France lost to Italy in the final in July, his career seemingly ending in disgrace following his head-butt on defender Marco Materazzi 10 minutes before the end of extra time. The incident ensured he missed the penalty shootout that decided the match in Italy's favor. Zidane, Barcelona's Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho and Inter Milan's Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo are the only men on the shortlist to have previously won the FIFA award. Ronaldinho is bidding to lift the trophy for the third year in a row.
S Africa unveils Cup digs
South Africa unveiled plans on Thursday to boost accommodation for the 2010 World Cup and encourage soccer fans to stay at small guest houses in sprawling city townships. "We are delivering on our promise to ensure that participants in the 2010 World Cup will be treated to a uniquely African experience," Tourist Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told an accommodation workshop. He said 170 million rand (US$22.5 million) would be spent to provide extra rooms for the 3.5 million people expected by organizers to attend the competition. "For the first time ever [in World Cup], non-hotel accommodation such as national park accommodation, lodges, guest houses and bed and breakfasts will also be contracted," Van Schalkwyk said.
Chinese to train with Bolton
Chinese striker Yang Changpeng's dream of playing English Premier League soccer could be a step closer to reality after he was invited for a month-long stint with the Bolton Wanderers. The top-flight English club confirmed Asian reports when it said Yang and team mate Zhou Liao will train with the club as part of Bolton's partnership with Chinese Super League club Wuhan FC. The pair will spend a month training with Bolton's academy, the English club said on its Web site. "We always dreamed of this moment and the wait appears to be over. It is very exciting," Singapore's Today newspaper quoted Yang yesterday as saying. "It will be a learning experience, but we will strive to perform to the best of our abilities."
Beanball coach gets jail
A youth baseball coach who offered an eight-year-old player US$25 to pitch the ball at an autistic teammate's head to put him out of the game was sentenced on Thursday to one to six years in prison. Judge Ralph Warman sentenced 29-year-old Mark Downs to consecutive sentences of six to 36 months for corruption of minors and criminal solicitation to commit simple assault. A jury convicted Downs in last month. He was acquitted on a more serious charge of criminal solicitation to commit aggravated assault. Jurors deadlocked on a charge of reckless endangerment. The judge declared a mistrial on the endangerment charge and prosecutors said they would not retry him. Authorities said Downs offered to pay one of his players US$25 to hit Harry Bowers, a nine-year-old autistic teammate, with a ball while warming up before a game last year.