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Another Chinese Failure – Blame the Referees, Blame the Players,Blame the CFA

Chinese players leave the pitch dejected

If you’re looking for a full, non-profanity laced and loaded with plaudits match report regarding last night’s Olympic team match, you can visit the CFA’s beautiful new English language site.  See, now you have options, we aren’t the only game in town when it comes to national team coverage, so if that’s what you want, fuck off to their site.  Because, of course, paying a bigtime sports agency top dollar to create a beautiful new English language site is far more important than putting money into youth development and intelligent management.

It’s easy to write the story of last night’s game as the referee screwing over China.  If you’re a conspiracy theorist, you can even argue it’s yet another example of the “western Asians” (the referee and linesmen were from Iran) sticking together.  China scored a righteous goal in the final moments of added time, that should have been it, done and dusted, and they should have been headed to the group stages of Asian Olympic qualifying where they would proceed to fail to qualify for the Olympics and break fans’ hearts.

You don’t always get the calls, fucking get over it, in one sense it’s easy to blame it all on the referee, but we also need to ask harder questions.  Why the fuck were league games not cancelled Saturday, but cancelled Wednesday?  What did cancelling the games mean, no additional players made the trip to Oman.  Either you treat the Olympics as a serious competition and do what you can to field your best side, or you treat it as the joke it is like the rest of the world, why half ass it?  Further isn’t it the CFA’s own damn fault for taking Oman lightly?  A number of full national teamers who are still at the right age to play for the Olympic team, including stars like Feng Renliang and Deng Zhuoxiang, weren’t included in the lineup.  What the hell was Cao Yunding thinking with that idiotic, studs up tackle that swung momentum moments after China went up 1-0?!?  And, of course, why the fuck wasn’t China’s goal allowed?

Chinese players leave the pitch dejected

an all too common sight, Chinese players leaving the pitch, heads down and mourning another missed opportunity...

Why is it that the only player on the field who looked like he cared was Bali (Bari Mamatil, a Uyghur who plays his club football for Hangzhou Greentown), although he missed a sitter later in the match, he didn’t stop running for all 120 minutes of the match and he seemed to be the only one creating chances.  Perhaps it’s just me being overly sensitive (ie a foreigner tuned in, perhaps over tuned, to political correctness), but the CCTV announcer’s constant references to Bali as a “cute youngster” (“巴力很可爱”,“巴力是个可爱小伙子”) started grating on me and seemed to be demeaning and more about his ethnicity than anything else.

While on the subject of the CCTV announcers, my momma told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything, but she also said the same thing if I didn’t have anything interesting to say.  The CCTV announcers closed the match saying something to the extent that we just saw China’s heroes fight hard (despite the fact that all but 1 player gave up once Oman get the equalizer and thus pushed ahead on aggregate), that these players would receive a heroes welcome when they returned to China, and that this is just one step in the development and growth of Chinese soccer.  Are. you. serious?  I wanted to puke, just say it was a disappointing result and goodnight to those who unfortunately stayed up until 1 am Beijing time to watch this embarassment on grass.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



  1. Yiddo Huayi

    24/06/2011 at 22:41

    Haha – this is clearly a website for true fans. In the last pub talk you and Cameron shrug off the Olympics and now you are spitting tacks!

    But seriously. Quite a while ago there was a post about what was wrong with the game in China and you have mentioned it again more recently in one of the pub talks. Irrespective of whether the CFA have developed a strategy to improve the level of the game across the board (not just at national level) it seemed to me that any changes would take time to bed in.

    Over here in NZ, NZF have just introduced a long-term programme (Whole of Football) that starts at junior level (drastically changed format to primary school-aged football game), strengthens the secondary school age game where we lose a lot of players to other sports (or academia) and then on to senior level and national teams. This won’t be a short 3-5 year programme and we won’t suddenly burst on to the world stage as major contenders for international honours.

    It will take time and patience from the footballing public, but at the heart of the development programme is bottom-up grass roots player development and a qualified training framework for coaching at all levels. Given that you have mentioned football isn’t played much on the streets/(scant) playing fields it seems that Chinese football still has a way to go to develop a good base of players and culture – and if there is a penchant for bringing in foreign coaches it will take even longer.

    • bcheng

      25/06/2011 at 02:47

      I’ve had this conversation over and over and over again, you make a lot of good points, I’m not going to rehash it, instead I’ll send you to my past discussion of it, which can be found here:

      Perhaps that post should be reposted on this site, hehe…

      • Yiddo Huayi

        25/06/2011 at 05:00

        That is a very good post there bcheng. Makes a lot of sense.

        So if there is an inherently flawed system (for arguments sake) and the social environment (= education system) is also not beneficial for the development of the game, does the “success” of the CSL have any influence on kids giving the game a go and seeing a pathway for professional football?

        Having to dash off to a footy match now, but I’ll expand on this a bit later…

        • Matek

          25/06/2011 at 21:09

          Of course strong league makes wonders. One example – Shinji Kagawa, the new star of Asian football, you know who was his idol when he was a kid? Not any of the great world stars (well, maybe those too), but it was (and still is!) the famous Kazuyoshi Miura. So yes, strong league and media showing it in good light (sometimes you could say it’s too sweet) and giving it enough time on, for example, television channels can do wonders. Maybe it’s too late in China to do that after all… The image of domestic game has been almost destroyed in previous years. Of course there’s education still, maybe too much overrated by Chinese parents.
          Knowing many examples from around the world it seems like it all lies on grass-root level. Not elite sport schools. Those kids will think that they are something special mostly but in fact they aren’t. Of course maybe there will be a kid with enough strong will to achieve something in the world of real football but not a whole squad. Professionals of the highest class in the world are saying that talent is about 5-10% of their skills. Something must be in those usual words. Seeing an Olympic Squad member who can’t clear the ball was painful when I watched ‘that’ game in the middle of the week. That’s where elitarism will lead you. The top leagues are mainly constructed on players who were probably average at best when they were kids. You can count on one Messi, but it’s better to have a team of eleven good players rather than that. And that’s only two points, it’s complicated as hell (maybe even more than finding enough coaches specialized in training young kids).

      • Yiddo Huayi

        25/06/2011 at 10:05

        OK, back from my son’s footy (they lost 2-0 but he got player of the day).

        A few years ago NZF was in deep financial strife and while football was the largest junior sport in the country it really didn’t have much of a profile at the senior level (in fact as a senior sport it barely registered in the nation’s consciousness).

        The A-League – the only professional league in Australasia had one spot that was occupied by a NZ team (first up the Football Kingz FC then restructured to the NZ Knights both Auckland based). Four years ago the licence was taken over by the Wellington Phoenix and through a combination of an organized fan-base, a good management team and a sport-friendly city and facilities, the Phoenix have become a footballing success story (it has reached the play-offs in the last two seasons).

        In part because a good number of the national squad were also in the Phoenix squad, our performances in both qualifying for the World Cup and not losing any games in the group stages, have been in no small part due to the Phoenix (and the coach is the same for both the Nix and the All Whites).

        Just as importantly having a high profile in the A-League and at the World Cup has resulted in a massive increase in registered football players across the country but most notably here in Wellington (we now have a chronic shortage of playing fields for the many weekend warriors).

        The huge surge in numbers playing the game (and also the nice cash injection from FIFA for getting into the WC) has forced NZF to look at how to best serve these players, and move the development of the game to a higher level (i.e. try and maintain the gains that have been made in the last four years) – hence the Whole of Football programme.

        So the point of this ramble is – could a successful CSL be the catalyst for a similar surge in popularity for the game in China? If so would that then create a driver for the CFA to implement changes that improve the local game and ultimately the national team?

        Here endeth the rant.

        • bcheng

          25/06/2011 at 12:59

          There is definitely some truth to that, and while the Editor might not agree with it, if the CSL can bring in aging Euro stars, the league, and potentially the youth game, would take off some more…There is no sense of community, unfortunately, I’m guessing the Phoenix are active in the community, running camps, holding fan events, etc, but there’s nothing like that here.

          In talking with a reporter friend today, I guess there have been some efforts in the schools and at the grassroots level, but parents tend to be motivated to let their kids take part for the wrong reasons. The education system is the number one reason in my mind, but it isn’t the only reason and making some changes, especially to the sports schools and to the general system would help. There are a number of things that can be done, starting more grassroots youth programs, even if it only means 50 kids take part the first year, that’s 50 more than are playing now, so its making an effort, making those baby steps, and these things are starting to be done.

          Whether you like (head of the CFA) Wei Di or not, and I don’t like him, if he can stabilize the CFA and get a plan in place, not only for the top level but all the way down to the youth game, then China’s got a chance.

          In all honesty, there is no reason why China can’t make the World Cup, they have 11 players who are good enough, on paper they are as strong as anybody, the problem is those 11 players just don’t seem to gel into a team…

          Anyways…just a few thoughts…

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