Own goals put Chinese soccer on the back foot
Match-fixing scandals and poor performances by the national team take a heavy toll
Thailand: Your team was hammered 5-1 . . .
In desperation, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) is looking abroad. So far they’ve tried cleaning up corruption, hiring the best foreign coaches, even bringing in Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka from Chelsea, but nothing seems to be able to raise Chinese football’s game.
The foreign coaches route isn’t working so well. Last month, China terminated José Antonio Camacho’s contract as national soccer coach after the team lost all three of its home games in June.
Camacho, a 58-year-old Spaniard who formerly coached the Spanish national team and Real Madrid, was hired on a three-year contract in August 2011 but failed to guide the team to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
To add to the misery, the CFA will have to fork out €6.45 million to Camacho for ending his three-year contract 18 months early. The CFA had originally hoped to get away with paying just €3 million. The CFA also faces a €3 million tax bill.
“Who can be the qualified coach for the Chinese team? Who can eventually motivate the team which lacks skills, team work, and most importantly, fighting spirit?” the Xinhua news agency asked at the end of its match report.
The latest overseas effort was bringing in David Beckham, who is a legend in China, and is among the most recognised of all foreign stars. He has a new role as “image ambassador”, which began after he announced his retirement from professional football, having won the French league title with Paris Saint-Germain.
A few years ago Beckham’s image was even used – without his permission, of course – to sell a Chinese own-brand potency medicine.
At least Beckham is popular. So popular in fact that at least seven people were hurt in a stampede when he arrived at Shanghai Tongji University. About 1,000 fans rushed forward as the former England star arrived and waved to them.
The league is hoping that its efforts to stamp out corruption will eventually help improve the standard of the game. Shanghai Shenhua, which was briefly home to Drogba and Anelka, was earlier this year stripped of its 2003 league title, had six points deducted for next season, and fined €120,000 as part of a three-year drive to stamp out match-fixing in the Chinese Super League.
More children need to play football. Just 200,000 kids play soccer regularly compared with 300 million children and adults who play basketball.
Senior corrupt figures in the CFA have gone to jail. In February, 33 officials and players were banned for life at the conclusion of a three-year investigation. Former soccer chiefs Nan Yong and Xie Yalong are both serving jail sentences of 10½ years for taking bribes.