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Beihang University of Aeronautics and Astronomics School of Economics and Management Study programme: Introduction to China, 253102, 1 Credit

Examiner: Dr. Sun Yan Scope: 2060 words inclusive of appendices Date: 2012-12-19

Final report

Chinese Soccer

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Abstract 2012-12-19

Abstract
Sports has formed an important part of the lives of the Chinese people ever since the beginning of civilization. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of certain health-building sports that were played in China about 4,000 years ago. Hunting, archery, and rowing races, were some of the earliest sports that were played by the people in this region. There is even evidence of a sport similar to football being played in China around 1,000 A.D. However, this Asian Giant embraced modern sports only as recently as the 20th century. Through its government's support and system, and the interest of the people in general, the country has been producing players of immense talent in the world of sports in recent times. Data from the mid-2000s suggests that basketball and soccer were roughly tied as Chinas most popular sport with table tennis in third. But while in almost all sports China is getting better year by year in soccer is the exception where the national team has really poor performance and the national league suffered by corruption and others scandals despite famous soccer players and coaches are came in the Asian Giant. Keywords: China, soccer, corruption.

The Buddha tells the people he can fulfill only one of their wishes. Someone asks: Could you lower the price of property in China so that people can afford it? Seeing the Buddha frown in silence, the person makes another wish: Could you make the Chinese football team qualify for a World Cup? After a long sigh, the Buddha says: Let's talk about property prices.

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Chinese Soccer
At the beginning of November, more than 38,000 green-clad Beijingers streamed into Workers Stadium to watch the local soccer team, Beijing Guoan F.C., play versus Guangzhou Evergrande F.C.. It was the last match in the soccer season and Guangzhou Evergrande F.C. had already won the Chinese Super League the previous match, but I was there as one of the 38,000 supporters to understand the quality of the Chinese soccer and 1 Final score of the match see the difference that the Italian played in Beijing on 3th Nov 12 coach of Evergrade, Marcello Lippi, had developed in one season. The drone of vuvuzelas was punctuated with periodic chanting, mostly variations on the unprintable-in-English term shabi. When a Guizhou player subbed out, the Beijing fans hassled his replacement: Shabi, big shabi, the more you change, the more youre ashabi. While the taunts were directed at the opposition, it occurred to me, sitting in the bleachers among the rowdy yet remarkably sober teenage fans, that they could be addressing Chinese soccer itself. Soccer is one of the most popular spectator sports in China. Games between teams belonging to the domestic Chinese Super League (CSL), the top professional league in China, regularly draw crowds in the tens of thousands, plus millions of eyeballs on television, while the 2004 Asian Cup between China and Japan was the most- 2 My personal photo of warming-up watchedsports event in exercises before the match Chinese history. The CSL sold more than 4.2 million tickets in 2011, with an average game turnout of 17,651greater than that of any other Asian 3

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league. While ticket prices fluctuate, a rough estimate of 50 Yuan per ticket (thats how much I paid a friendly scalper) would put the CSLs annual revenue at around 210 million Yuan, or $33 million. The widespread appreciation makes sense, considering the Chinese claim to have invented the sport: A team-based ball-kicking game called cuju became popular as early as the Han Dynasty. As international contests expanded in the early twentieth century, Team China enjoyed a hot streak, winning the Far Eastern Games six times in a row between 1915 and 1925. But in recent decades, Chinese soccer has suffered. The mens national team scored zero points in three games at the 2002 World Cup, the last one for which it qualified. Since 1988, it has only made it into the Olympics once, in 2008, and that was because it hosted. The teams performance then was most notable for a Chinese fullback nailing a Belgian player in the crotch. Despite having the worlds largest population, China now ranks seventy-third in the world in mens soccer, according to FIFA, down from thirty-seventh 3 Logo for China in 1998, though better than its 104place PR national football team ranking in 2009. The womens national team isnt quite as awfulit won the Asian Football Confederation Cup in 2006but its success hasnt compensated for the mens failure. Outside Beijings Olympic Sports Center, I asked ten-year-old who was coming from soccer practice with his weekend youth team, which was better, his team or the national team. Ours, he said without pausing. They stink. Of all the troubles plaguing Chinese soccer, corruption is the most publicized. Bribery convictions have soiled the sport from top to bottom in recent years: CFA deputy chief Yang Yimin accepted $200,000 in bribes and was sentenced to ten and half years in prison; former head of referees Zhang Jianqiang took $433,000 and got 12 4 On the left Xie Yalong, ex chief of years; and the ref known the Chinese Football Association, as the Golden Whistle and on the right Nan Yong ex vice (for his reputation for president.

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fairness) took $128,000 and received five and a half years. On June 13, courts sentenced another eleven players and officials, including former CFA head Nan Yong, to prison terms for match-fixing and bribery. The sports hand-greasing culture runs deep: Coaches pay off government officials in order to get hired, and players in turn bribe coaches for spots on professional teams. Nan Yong once quoted the price of a spot on the national team as 100,000 Yuan, or about $16,000. Ethical laxity has even infiltrated youth soccer. At the World Middle School Football Championships in Turkey in 2009, a Chinese middle school girls team from Chongqing unexpectedly thumped the competitionbeating the Turkish team 6-0, the French 3-0, and the Brazilians 1-0. Chinese media went wild, praising the team for its excellent defense and cool composure. As it turned out, all but three players were actually members of the national youth team. The schools principal apologized but did not return the trophy. The Chinese Football Association (CFA) pleaded ignorance. Youth soccer in general is in a sorry state. Last October, a primary school team lost a high-profile match to a visiting Russian youth team, spurring a Chinese media meltdown. Some fans blame the countrys Soviet-style sports education system. Starting as early as age four, aspiring professional athletes typically attend at rigorous government-run boarding schools, where they study in the morning and train in the afternoon. The least skilled players are regularly booted out, eliminating late bloomers before theyve had a chance to mature. Parents are often reluctant to let their childusually their only childdo anything other than study for the allimportant college exams. Adding to their reluctance is the perception that soccer is dangerous. Now kids only play soft games, like jump rope, says Cai Wei, general manager of the Beijing Off Road soccer club. Fixing Chinas soccer system will take time, but long-term solutions are not Chinas specialty. China needs a 30-year football plan, says Rowan Simons, the author of Bamboo Goalposts: One Mans Quest to Teach the Peoples Republic of China to Love Football. But if I present that plan to a new leader, the only thing he can be sure of is it will not work in his tenure. Incentives favor short-term maneuvers that burnish the reputation of whoever is currently in charge, he says, not long-term fixes that earn incumbents little credit. Officials at the China Football Association generally hold their positions for four years. Coaches cycle through even more quickly: There were eight national mens team coaches in the last decade. As

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a result, they tend to favor splashy solutions, such as importing expensive foreign players like former Chelsea strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba and coaches like Italys Marcello Lippi. These strategies gin up media attention, but dont fix systemic problems like the countrys shoddy 5 Drogba (on left) and Anelka (on right) at the first training with the new Chinese youth program.
jerseys

Some organizationsBeijing Off Road, for oneare trying to help. With three freshly painted bright-green pitches and a clear view of the Beijing National Stadium, known as the Birds Nest, Off Road looks like it would be at home in Bethesda. Founded in 1997 and funded by member contributions (it costs 20 Yuan, or about $3, for an hour of play), it offers lessons and facilities to kids and adults interested in recreational play, as well as an entry point for aspiring professional players who havent committed themselves to a government-run school. Its also one of only about 80 pitches in Beijing, a city of 20 million. One adult player told me he commutes 30 kilometers each way to get there. But even a relatively successful club like Off Road faces huge obstacles, according to Cai Wei, a floppy-haired former car salesman who once played for the Peoples Liberation Army soccer team. Land is expensive, so its hard to justify using it for wide-open green space. The number of kids who want to play is shrinking. According to official statistics, the number of registered soccer players in China declined from 600,000 in 1996 to 7,000 in 2011. Even the so-called fans who attend professional soccer games are not real enthusiasts, he says: They just go to shout. That the shouting has eclipsed the soccer is remarkable in a media environment as tightly controlled as Chinas. The Chinese dont shy away from publicly discussing the sports woes. If you want to feel desperate and depressed, watch Chinese football, the comedian Song Dandan joked during a national Chinese New Year broadcast in 2008. We play soccer like the Brazilians play Ping-Pong, the mens team captain famously said after a loss to Brazil at the 2008 Olympicsan

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insult to Brazils not-half-bad ping pong team. That same year, Chinese soccer fans wrote a parody of the Beijing Olympics theme song that included the lyrics, Come play with us, our goal posts are wide and always open. The (CFA) officials need to reflect upon themselves, said former national team captain Fan Zhiyi, after the teams loss in the 2008 Olympics. Who should be responsible for all these mess-ups? The Propaganda Department has occasionally drawn a line, demanding the press stop making fun of the mens national team in the wake of the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 World Cup. But, in general, the government hasnt discouraged chatter. If anything, by cracking down on corruption, theyve fueled it. Fans attending the Beijing game rattled off complaints like talking points. If Lionel Messi were born here, he wouldnt be great, said a man who called himself Zhu. Oddly enough, soccer has become a kind of safe space for dissentor, perhaps from the governments perspective, a useful safety valve for public anger. The people I met did not seem reluctant to share their grievances, and while they started with soccer, they didnt end there. Upset about government control of land? Complain about the lack of soccer fields. Sick of a culture of corruption and embezzlement? Scold the seedy soccer officials. Or if you just need to let off steam, round up some friends and go scream Shabi! Maybe thats why, at the Beijing National Security match, dozens of Peoples Liberation Army soldiers ringed the field. They werent watching the game. They were watching the crowd.

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References
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Little red card: Why China fails at football. , The Economist, Dec 17th 2011 Where are Chinas soccer stars?, The New York Times, Jun 29th 2010 Playing fake ball: why Chinese soccer matters, The New Yorker, Jun 20th 2012 China jails former football chiefs for corruption, The Telegraph, Jun 13rd 2012 R. Simons, Bamboo Goalposts: One Mans Quest to Teach the Peoples Republic of China to Love Football, MacMillan UK, March 2009 http://www.wikipedia.com http://www.transfermarkt.it/

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