China’s Failed Attempts at Matching European Soccer

Published on Author caplan

China’s attempts to create a world class soccer league and have a world cup winning soccer team have ultimately failed.  The Economist had a great article last year that denounced China’s political system as the reason behind their failure to have a quality soccer team.  It wasn’t for  a lack of trying, as the higher ups in the government and the soccer federation care so much about winning, that they dump tons of government and corporate money into the teams.  Unfortunately, this just created a system where match fixing was the norm. Chinese soccer is just a microcosm of the way the Chinese economy (at least in a macro sense) is going.  Heavy investment into the currently desirable sector and if it isn’t going well, then figure out a way to make it seem like it is going well.

During the summer two big European soccer stars signed for a Chinese side. The owners paid them a significant amount of money and the players bought in to the system.  They believed they would raise the level of the Chinese league.  Mere months after making this switch, they both backed out and were sold back to Europe.  The players cited a lack adequate facilities and that it wasn’t the lifestyle that they were expecting.  It is interesting to me that even though they played in Shanghai, they couldn’t cope with living and playing in China.  In addition, the owners didn’t pay the players or he paid them late.  Until everything is going to work smoothly and the corruption dies down, China will never be able to have a strong national team and will not have a strong domestic league.In the final paragraph of this WSJ article the author brings up a fair point.  The European leagues are full of homegrown players which allows the supporters to connect with them.  They grew up in a similar place and have a similar background.  In China’s attempt to quickly ascend to the soccer elite, they haven’t developed a strong youth system.  Once again, I don’t believe that China is having this problem with only soccer.  China is trying to take shortcuts to get to the top.  Will this cost them (and everyone else) environmentally?  Will these shortcuts ultimately prove fruitless or will we look back and say that it was worthwhile?  I don’t know the answers to these hypotheticals but it will be really interesting going forward to see what the backlash will be, if any.


6 Responses to China’s Failed Attempts at Matching European Soccer

  1. After reading this post I find myself wondering why it is that a county as large and powerful as China has failed to excel not only in soccer, but in any of the modern era’s major sports. China fares well in the olympics, where individual and skill based competitions such as gymnastics, figure skating, table tennis and badminton are seemingly as important as a sport like soccer. Yet comparatively, we rarely see anyone from China who excels in basketball, baseball, soccer, or track. Is this a result of genetics? Are these sports simply less popular in China? In Chile when kids have recess they play soccer. In America they play football or basketball. What is the sport of choice for young chinese? Or once they realize they are not going to be selected to specialize in a sport do they cease to care about playing competitive sports at all? I would be interested to further investigate what the mentality towards athletics in China is really like.

  2. Come on, even in the US hiring a star player or two isn’t enough to turn around a team if the competition is weak, the local fan base indifferent and the coach and other players are barriers. And you want an entire sport to change, not just a team or two?

    Watch China in this year’s World Cup elimination in Asia, and report back on progress.

  3. It is interesting to see how corruption extends all the way to the sports in China and I am curious as to how the Chinese teams were unable to cater to these European stars with all the investments that are going into the soccer teams. Is there a lot of support from the Chinese citizens for the soccer team? Obviously their culture is not as directly focused on soccer leagues as Europe is, but I wonder if there are any trends in the youth of China for team sports like Soccer and Basketball over the individual sports they are currently excelling in like Gymnastics.

  4. I would tend to agree with most of what Weprinsky is saying. I think it is a difference in culture for the most part. The one-child policy and the extreme stress on education both contribute to that fact. If the children grow up with no siblings, and if their friends have little to no siblings, there may not even be enough people to play team sports. This would encourage sports like table tennis and badminton to be played more often. Similarly, I think the stress placed on individual excellence and perfection in the classroom could be translated to sports. From my experience with my Chinese friends at home, their parents tend to place high value on individual accomplishment. This could be translated from the classroom to sports. They may choose to play sports and games in which they have total control, and thus when they succeed it was their own doing. Obviously this is just a theory and not true for all Chinese parents/children, but it is an interesting question.

  5. It appears, at least through the article presented, that key players on Chinese soccer teams tend to be players “imported” from abroad. High paid and well-known players like Drogba play in China due to a large figure contract. I feel that a potential cause of China’s poor performance in the world soccer scene is the possibility that Chinese children do not see the same appeal that children in soccer powerhouse nations see. It seems that nations that perform well in soccer have at least one figure that plays (or played) soccer that children look up to as a sort of “demigod” that sparks their passion for the game. The fact that China “imports” these “demigod” status players removes the sense of national pride that could spawn a child love and passion for the game. With out this passion, China’s children may look to other sports where they see more glory and take away from China’s maximum competitiveness in soccer.