By Stephany Zoo
There’s nothing that makes angry fans forget fixed games faster than a foreign football god trying to relate to Chinese culture by flashing his hanzi tattoo.
At least, this seems to be what the Youth Football Program and the Chinese Super League (CSL) are hoping for from David Beckham’s appointment as ‘international ambassador’ and tour of China, after the sport’s already shaky reputation was tarnished further by numerous bribery and match-fixing scandals. In February, the China Football Association (CFA) banned 58 Chinese football officials and players for match-fixing, this was soon followed by a worldwide ban from FIFA.
Corruption scandals have been dogging Chines football for many years. Club investors are increasingly skeptical of their money in this seemingly endemically bent sport, while Chinese parents are reportedly becoming loathe to even let their kids play the ‘beautiful game’.
Most Chinese parents, and even some educators, consider football a dangerous and distracting sport. In fact, Ma Dexing, editor-in-chief of popular magazine Titan Sports, told the press that even at special, government-designated “football-playing schools”, students only play when they have an audience. “When the leaders come, they ask the kids to play football,” he said. “After the leaders leave, they do nothing.”
Considering the lack of cultural interest in football, and the CSL’s superfluous spending on a glamorous spokesman, is anyone surprised by persistent and widespread problems? Having a flashy ambassador won’t do anything to improve the quality of the league or its players. Even with David Beckham the Super League is still plagued by a shortage of talent, inadequate training, and a sub-par organisational system. As one Weibo fan described Beckham’s hire: “I really don’t think its necessary and worth the money. China should spend its money training young players because Chinese football needs its own rising stars.”