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.