There is a LOT more going on in the Chinese sports world than ever makes it onto this Web site. With that in mind, today I’m posting about some interesting recent developments that I’ve neglected. Here goes.
China’s domestic soccer and basketball leagues are notoriously corrupt. Match-fixing is just one symptom of a system that’s completely broken. In January, officials launched a purge of the national soccer league and national team. Among the more incredible developments was the revelation that players had actually bribed their way into national team tryouts. I apologize for not having brought you more updates on this crazy story. Here is a link to a Global Times editorial by Beijing native David Yang on the toxic effect that corruption has on sports.
The dragnet has already netted more than 100 players, coaches and officials (including the sport’s top official), and spawned some shocking anecdotes (though probably not so shocking to anyone who closely follows the league). Earlier this week, the Chinese Football Association disqualified Qingdao Hailifeng for trying to score on itself to fatten the team president’s gambling wins. You have to read it to believe it, but basically it looks like this: With his team up 3-0, team president Du realizes one more goal for either team will increase his winnings on an international betting Web site. He puts a call in to coach Du, who sends a text message to a player on the field, who rallies the support of two teammates. They try, but fail, to score on their own goal (diagram from a Chinese newspaper, with translations, from Danwei).
I remember when I first arrived in China, and my friends here would gripe: “1.3 billion people and we can’t find 11 to field a decent football team.” The reason why has only become more evident the longer I am here. And it’s well known that the problem isn’t isolated to soccer. In an editorial cartoon in a recent issue of Titan Sports News, a figure representing Chinese Basketball hid behind one representing Chinese Soccer. He wore a grin and the bubble above his head read: “They can’t see me here behind Soccer.”
It’s much too early to tell if efforts to clean up the sport will actually bring the payola to a halt and improve the now atrocious level of play, but a couple of good pieces of news must give some hope to China’s frustrated fans. China won the East Asian Football Championship about two weeks ago (2-0 over Hong Kong, 0-0 tie with Japan, 3-0 win over South Korea); and Beijing Guo’an, reigning CFA champs and one of few domestic sports teams with a passionate fan base, beat Melbourne Victory 1-0 in a match at the Workers’ Stadium just a few days ago.
This story also appeared on China Sports Today