Resource Logo
New York Times

At Chelsea, Success Isn't a Satisfying Answer




 

The coach of Chelsea, the Israeli Avram Grant, has been bombarded by many more than the four questions of Passover the past week from the news media, which have often been hostile during his tumultuous eight-month reign with the English Premier League club.

Grant is a friend of Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich. When he took over as the coach at Stamford Bridge in London last September, the change was abrupt and surprising. The loquacious Portuguese coach Jos� Mourinho, with well-recognized tactical acumen, was replaced by the often lugubrious Grant, who had a limited r�sum� of having led only Israeli teams in a minor league. He was slapped with the label of a technical nitwit by the skeptical and contentious British news media.

But Grant, whose job is far from guaranteed past next month, stands on the cusp of taking Chelsea to its first significant continental final in the club's 103-year history. Chelsea has gone north for Tuesday's first leg of its matchup with Liverpool in the semifinals of the European Champions League. (Barcelona hosts a third English club, Manchester United, in the other semifinal Wednesday.)

Grant cannot seem to win for winning. In addition to Chelsea's run in the Champions League, a tournament that only seemed to frustrate Mourinho when he was in England (he took Porto to the title in 2003-4), Grant has kept the club in contention in the Premier League. On Saturday, league-leading Manchester United is scheduled to play at Stamford Bridge, holding a precarious 3-point lead over Chelsea with three games to play.

The combative relationship between Grant and the news media reached an apparent nadir after Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Everton last Thursday. The Daily Telegraph called the postgame news conference "5 minutes 39 seconds of farce." Grant had one-word responses to questions, most of which could be called banal and oh-so-clever.

Perhaps the facts are too hard to acknowledge: Led by Grant, Chelsea has lost only 5 of 48 games in all competitions, is one round away from the Champions League final and could tie Manchester United with a victory Saturday. (In a tie after 38 games, United would win the Premier League because of its vastly superior goal difference.)

The Survivor

Ethan Zohn won "Survivor: Africa" and $1 million in 2002. He was "the soccer guy" on the CBS show. But unlike so many of today's pseudostars of reality television, Zohn put his relative celebrity to a laudable use: he cofounded Grassroots Soccer, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to educating African children about AIDS.

"I played professionally in Zimbabwe and saw so many of my friends get sick and die," Zohn , 34, said in a telephone interview last week before departing for China, where he is taking part in a walk on the Great Wall with the Australian pop star Olivia Newton-John to support breast cancer research.

"After I won 'Survivor,' I found myself in a unique position," he said. "All of a sudden people wanted to talk with me and be in the same room. I saw a unique opportunity, a perfect platform to get a message across for something I'm passionate about."

This summer Zohn will be raising money with Dribble 2008, dribbling a soccer ball from New England beginning on Aug. 20 and ending in Washington on Dec. 1, which is World AIDS Day.

"It's part of a youth movement to help end HIV/AIDS in Africa," Zohn said. "I'll dribble about 10 miles a day and try to raise money by visiting youth clubs, doing clinics, appearing at M.L.S. games and hoping to unite the soccer-playing youth around the world with African friends and clubs."

The Grassroots Soccer and Dribble 2008 sponsors Puma, which outfits nine African national teams, and Eurosport will take the top 11 individual fund-raisers on a trip to Cape Town in 2009.

Notes

* U.S. Soccer has already sold 32,000 tickets to the match between the United States and Argentina at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on June 8. Tickets have been on sale publicly for only one week.

* The Mexico-China friendly match in Seattle last Wednesday received strong ratings on the Spanish-language channel Telemundo, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research. The game was the No. 1 show in Los Angeles among men ages 18-54 and all adults 18-49. It was also the top show in its time period among adults 18-49 in New York, Houston, Chicago and Dallas. ... GolTV, the all-soccer cable network, has acquired rights in the United States and Canada to Italy's home World Cup qualifying matches against Georgia (Sept. 10), Montenegro (Oct. 15), Ireland (April 1, 2009), Bulgaria (Sept. 9, 2009) and Cyprus (Oct. 14, 2009).



 


Copyright © 2008 -New York Times, Publisher. All rights reserved to New York Times company. All New York Times articles contained on the AEGiS web site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of The New York Times Company. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. However, you may download articles (one machine readable copy and one print copy per page) for your personal, noncommercial use only.

Information in this article was accurate in April 22, 2008. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.