In the worst national humiliation since the last time that China’s football team took the field, China was defeated by Syria yesterday, throwing their chances to qualify for the 2018 World Cup into serious doubt, not to mention their hopes of winning a World Cup anytime in the future.
At Xi’an’s Zhuque Stadium, 40,000 Chinese fans watched their team, ranked 78th in the world by FIFA, take on war-torn Syria, ranked 114th, just ahead of North Korea. Holding up scarves reading “Fight for the Motherland!” they looked on in horror as Syria’s Mahmoud Al-Mawas scored a goal in the 54th minute. “Our defense line made a mistake and let the rivals grab a chance in counterattack,” said China coach Gao Hongbo.
While China dominated possession in the close match, they failed to score the equalizer. Having already lost to South Korea earlier in the qualifiers, China’s chances of making it to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia are now hanging on by a thread.
You can watch the full lowlights below:
Unsurprisingly, Chinese fans weren’t pleased with their team’s performance and have taken to Weibo to express their disqualification, via The Guardian:
“Last night Syria, a country which has been suffering wars for many years, whose manager earns just 2,000 yuan (£240) each month, defeated China whose players earn millions of yuan. It is time for China’s national football team to have a good think.”
“China’s national team couldn’t even beat the Syrian football team which is suffering from a situation of extreme instability. There is no longer any need for China’s national team to exist. It is a waste of taxpayer’s money.”
And they’ve also taken to the street. A video posted to Twitter by Chinese football expert Zhe Ji shows a mob of angry fans demanding that Cai Zhenhua, the presidential of the Chinese Football Association, be sacked.
Large crowd of fans demanding head of CFA, Cai Zhenhua to resign after China's 1-0 WCQ home defeat by Syria today. pic.twitter.com/zX0y0J2290
— Zhe Ji (@Maoradona) October 6, 2016
The shocking defeat is also a huge blow to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s dreams for Chinese football. Back in 2011, Xi made his “Three Wishes for Chinese Football”: “to qualify for the World Cup, to host the World Cup, and to win the World Cup.” In that effort, the Chinese government unveiled a master plan in 2015 which promised to make China better at the sport with sweeping reforms aimed at shaking up teaching practices and increasing funding.
Thousands of football academies, using football textbooks, have been opened throughout the country (some with the help of the “other” Ronaldo) in a national effort to nurture the young talent that will take China to the promised land — or at least not lose to Syria. By 2020, the number of schools specializing in football will have quadrupled from 5,000 to 20,000.
There’s always ping pong.
[Images via Xinhua / CCTV 5 / cnwest.com]