China may be the world's most populous country ,and it won the most gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. But its prowess at soccer is lamentable. China is ranked 84th in the sport's world standings.
Chinese are huge soccer fans, and hundreds of millions are expected to tune in to the World Cup, with all the matches broadcast live on public TV. But the Chinese won't have their own team to root for.
"Chinese have a reputation of being good at math, but they have trouble explaining why a population of 1.3 billion cannot produce a winning 11-member soccer team," said Xu Guoqi, a history professor at the University of Hong Kong.
Journalists and soccer fans offer a number of reasons, most often money issues, politics, corruption and culture, and sometimes a combination of the four.
Even though China now boasts wealthy companies and individuals who could sponsor teams, there is little support as long as Chinese teams are perceived as perennial losers. "This is a very bad circle," Ma said. "No results, no money. No money, no results."
Few Chinese children are playing soccer. Some sports journalists and fans attribute the lack of interest partly to schools de-emphasizing sports in general and the lack of playing venues in the country's dense urban areas. "What can Chinese kids do?” said Fan Huiming, 61, a Chinese soccer fan who grew up watching matches at Beijing's Workers' Stadium, which was built in 1958 near his childhood home. "If they play soccer, the ball may fly directly into the glass of someone's home."
For young people, soccer has largely been eclipsed by basketball, thanks in part to Chinese NBA players who are treated like rock stars. Journalists and fans say NBA's aggressive campaign of marketing and merchandise in China has helped swell the popularity of basketball. By comparison, they noted that international soccer does not even have an office in China.
Rowan Simons, a Briton who came to China more than two decades ago and discovered he wasn't able to play weekend soccer, has been on a campaign to popularize the sport here. Simons said the main problem is that soccer elsewhere has traditionally started as a series of neighborhood clubs, but in China, "there's virtually no football at community level".
"Football in China can only succeed if it's a grass-roots activity organized by the people," he said.
2010-06-06 18:09 编辑：kuaileyingyu
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