As the Euro Cup moves towards Sunday’s championship match, China’s own soccer team is watching from the sidelines after being ousted in the qualifying rounds for the 2010 World Cup, hoping for a more succesful performance in August’s Olympic matches. The team’s disappointing play has led to an outpouring of netizen analysis about how the world’s most populous nation is seemingly unable to assemble a solid eleven-man line up. Some of the speculation is informative, some not so much. Here are our picks:
- Australian football writer Jesse Fink says the Chinese team lacks patience and the ability to keep cool under extreme pressure. But there is one thing it has plenty of: fightin’ spirit. Among recent instances of player aggression is the “Battle of Harlington,” shown in the video above, in which a March 2007 training match turned into a massive fistfight. The Times of London offered the following undignified description:
“…a serious mass confrontation with comic undertones as several of the China team attempted sub-Bruce Lee maneuvers in front of fewer than 150 people at a chilly training ground near Heathrow.”
- The Chinese may suck at soccer, but they sure sure can write about it. Pomfret’s China points out that football’s new status as a national obsession has produced excellent international media coverage of the sport, relatively independent of the governmental hurdels that typically plauge hard news reporting. Titan Sports gets special mention as an especially widely-circulated, well-written source focusing especially on soccer. A semi-private publication, the paper covers corruption in the league (including the fact that many of the nation’s pro matches are fixed) and criticizes government officials who let it happen. Not the type of thing we’re likely to find in our favorite People’s Daily.
- Beijing TV football commentator Rowan Simons’s book “Bamboo Goalposts” came out last month, and now the British author is chatting with Reuters about why the sport is supposedly dead here in China. Simons declares the football boom, with its high point at the team’s appearance in the 2002 World Cup finals, has gone bust because of lack of grassroots support for the sport. The game can be resurrected only if participation by players at all levels swells while government involvement is cut off.
Video from jaywhyel