The Disappointment of Chinese Soccer

cfConsidering that China has a population of over a billion people and has found success in several sports, it is staggering that the Chinese men’s national soccer team is not even ranked in the top hundred national teams.  While there is not simple answer for this oddity, the article “Why China fails at football” explores many potential reasons.  The article begins with an anecdote in which a Chinese soccer team actually managed to bungle a fixed match.  I think this immediately raises two important points about the development of soccer in China: there is a lack of skill from professionals as well as a prevalence of corrupt match-fixing.  It is clear that these negatives do not arise from an absence of passion for the sport.  The article emphasizes the great love that Chinese fans have for the soccer, and consequently how utterly disappointing the level of Chinese soccer is to the general public.  The national team is not respected; rather it has devolved into somewhat of a farce.

Unlike other countries, in China soccer and government are intrinsically related.  One potential reason for the poor quality of Chinese soccer is the role of government.  The athletic system in China selects young children for their physical attributes, but while this works for certain sports it backfires for soccer.  The article cites Lionel Messi, arguably the best player in the world, as a player who would have potentially been passed over in the Chinese system because of his tiny stature. In other words, there is a greater emphasis on size than skill.  While in Europe the promising stars are given time to develop before being cultivated during their early teenage years, Chinese sports pick their athletes at a much younger age.

An interesting change is a reduction in the number of teenagers playing soccer in China. While there has not been a reduction in passion for watching the sport, Chinese soccer is being seen as more of a lost cause.  Tying in with this finding, basketball has become increasingly popular, especially with the prominence of Yao Ming.  There is also the potential influence of parents in sports; the article promotes the idea that parents in general view playing sports as a waste of time.

This article really prompts me to explore the views of young people on soccer, from the influence of their parents on the sport to whether they genuinely believe that Chinese soccer is ultimately futile.  I think it would be interesting to see if people still have hope for a star to come from China; this is important because the influence of Yao Ming might have created an aura of despair around soccer as a whole.  I have no doubt that there will be passion for the sport, but I am intrigued to find out if depressed view towards Chinese soccer as a whole actually exists. Following from this, does the reason playing soccer is in decline stem from cultural views toward the success of Chinese soccer? This article has particularly motivated me to explore the relationship between basketball and soccer, and how the differential success has impacted cultural views. I still like my original idea for the location, but I still need to explore alternate locations as backup.