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
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
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
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.)
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.
* 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,