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Sep 12, 2007

World Cup sparks interest in women's soccer in China

WUHAN, China -- The World Cup has sparked some interest in women's soccer in China, where the sport is generally thought of as a game for boys.

Dozens of Chinese came to watch a New Zealand training session this week, pedaling up in bicycles and pushing babies in strollers. They stood quietly along a chain-link fence ringing the practice field as the team worked on long passes and crossing.

The crowd broke into applause when a player scored a goal during a full-field scrimmage.

"They have a lot of energy, a lot of artistry," said Zhang Jianping, 19.

It was the first time he had ever seen women play soccer, he said. But Zhang was so impressed by the performance that he planned to buy a ticket to one of the two doubleheaders in Wuhan, a central city spread across both banks of the Yangtze River.

"I haven't gotten paid yet, but once I do I'll definitely get a ticket. It's a really special event, a rare event," he said of the World Cup being held in five Chinese cities.

Zhang is from rural central China and works in Wuhan at a factory that produces industrial gases. He works six days a week and makes $160 a month.

He said he could only afford the cheapest ticket, which costs $8 for a doubleheader.

More Goals

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, has decided to credit German players with the first and last goals in Monday's opening game of the World Cup, in which Germany trounced Argentina 11-0.

Originally they were listed as own-goals by goalkeeper Vanina Correa, who knocked two corner kicks into her net.

The change seems generous, especially since the first corner kick would have missed the goal completely had Correa not punched the ball into her net.

Melanie Behringer was credited with the first goal and Renate Lingor with the second, giving each two for the game.

Nothing Positive

FIFA says 24 unannounced doping tests have come back negative at the women's World Cup.

FIFA said random urine samples were taken from defending champion Germany, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

"The number of pre-competition tests for the FIFA Women's World Cup was determined using international standards,'' said FIFA's chief medical officer, Jiri Dvorak. "Furthermore, FIFA will continue to base its anti-doping strategy not only on testing, but also on comprehensive educational and prevention initiatives."

He said there would be no blood testing of players in the women's World Cup.

David Howman, director general of WADA -- the World Anti-Doping Agency -- said FIFA and his group were working on plans for more comprehensive tests.

"Together with FIFA, we are now working on developing a so-called athletic passport to be able to collect this personal hormone profile and other blood parameters to enhance testing and get really valuable information for detecting modifications through doping," he said.

Celebrating

The excitement of Germany's 11-0 win over Argentina caused a German vessel to miss its scheduled sailing time because one of its mates got drunk and did not return on time, a Shanghai newspaper reported Wednesday.

The Shanghai Daily said the sailor failed to return in time after Germany's record-setting victory over Argentina in the opening match of the World Cup on Monday.