August 6, 2007


The sumo champion, the sickie and the story that shook Japan: Mongolian-born Asashoryu has always cut a controversial figure in his adopted country. So the sight of him playing football when he was on sick leave, and rumours that he wants to retire, have caused uproar (David McNeill, 07 August 2007, Independent)

They thought he was indestructible. But now Japanese sumo fans are not so sure after it emerged that the national champion is seeing a psychiatrist to help him deal with the worst crisis of his career. Asashoryu, the Mongolian-born firebrand, is reportedly in such a fragile mental state that he wants to quit Japan and go home. Many fear he will not return, abruptly ending the controversial reign of sumo's greatest modern champion and throwing the sport he dominates into a tailspin.

Just one month ago, it all looked very different. Asashoryu swatted aside the sport's 14 best wrestlers to take his 21st title, putting him firmly in the pantheon of sumo greats. And he did it in style, battling through media accusations of match-fixing and a catalogue of painful battle scars that included a fractured lower back and nerve damage. "I was tired mentally and physically, so I'm happy to win the yokozuna (grand champion) told his fans before handing sumo's ruling body a medical certificate claiming that his injuries would force him to sit out the autumn tournament.

A few days later, goggle-eyed Japanese viewers watched as TV pictures showed the invalided star in a Wayne Rooney T-shirt hurtling around a football field in his native Mongolia. Mugging happily for the cameras that would eventually betray him, the 26-year-old looked as fit as any 150kg, top-knotted yokozuna as he executed a lethal-looking series of dives and tackles. The pictures of the charity match were relayed home and all hell broke loose. By the time a glum-faced Asashoryu was ordered back in Japan last week, his already scandal-tainted career was about to take a turn for the worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 6, 2007 10:23 PM

In soccer's defense, it is much more fun to play than it is to watch.

Posted by: Brandon at August 6, 2007 11:38 PM

To answer the question, yes.

EPL starts this weekend everybody. Full slate of matches on Setanta and FoxSoccer beginning 6:30 am cdt. Can't wait.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 7, 2007 9:02 AM

Which reminds me, Orrin didn't post a story about the joy among Iraquis over recently (and improbably) winning the Asian Soccer Cup, did he?...

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at August 7, 2007 2:09 PM