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Cheng: Time to rethink the East Asian Cup

China’s East Asian Cup continues tonight as they face North Korea, but it’s time to start thinking about possible changes to, or scrapping entirely, the tournament.

My biggest complaint is that as a fan of the domestic league, this is an unnecessary disruption to the CSL (and equally the K & J Leagues) right when the season is entering the stretch run. While no club in China is brave enough to stand up to the CFA and refuse to release players (there is no requirement to do so as these aren’t official FIFA dates), Guangzhou Evergrande held back a few players from the national team due to “injuries” and illness. The possibility of injury to a club’s key player due to competing in a meaningless competition is enough to give any fan a bit of fright.

The non-official FIFA dates mean that Korea and Japan aren’t able to send their strongest sides, as no European based players can take part.  While this means domestic players, and often times younger players, are given a chance to shine, it means that the other two sides in this year’s competition, China and North Korea, who rely entirely on domestic talent, have an unfair advantage.

My biggest complaint is that in China, too much is read into the competition. China’s success in 2010 was meant to be a turning point for the future and yet it’s been much the same since then. While other sides use the competition as a testing ground for players who rarely get a national team call-up, China consistently focuses on putting out it’s strongest side. What’s the point?

There’s still time for these three matches to not be a complete waste for China. First, I’d recommend that Perrin experiments with some different formations, especially after having lost the first match and now having little chance of winning it, why not try something new? I’d also give some of the younger players who were brought to Wuhan a chance to perform, why not put Wang Tong and Lei Tenglong together in the back four, arguably they are your future so it’s time to let them gain a bit of experience. Most of all, stop relying on 34 (35 this month) year old Zheng Zhi to captain the midfield, this is the perfect opportunity to hand over the torch to someone, anyone, else.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board on the East Asian Cup concept to create more interest and guarantee the best players are taking part. If that isn’t the case, why not turn it into a U23 competition, building the rivalries from an early age. If it’s going to just be domestic sides, then China should consider it an opportunity to experiment instead of sticking to the same old, same old.

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.

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