It’s difficult — it really is — to say Chinese soccer has reached a “new” low, considering its history of match-fixing and utter, abysmal, unmitigated failure on the international stage (its only World Cup appearance coming in the year when two other Asian countries had automatic bids into the tourney). But after losing 5-1 to a mostly junior Thailand team on home turf on Saturday, more than a few fans are saying this is the bottom. “Disband the national team” has become something of a commonplace chant, as meaningless as “black whistle” when refs screw up, but the rallying cry attained something of a feverish tone of urgency on Saturday. Can it get worse? If so, it’s only because we’re talking about Chinese football here.
Let’s recap: China was playing at home, in Hefei, Anhui province, where the number of Thailand fans should have numbered between 0 and 5. China was playing against an opponent carrying seven players from Olympic and under-21 squads. The final score was five to one. The result was so shocking that Xinhua resorted to using exclamation marks in its write-up: “In the 16th minute, China’s defence opening to give the Thais vast space to manouver, and Pokkhao Anan’s long shot beat Gung Shaw-fung in goal. 1-nil, Thailand took the lead!”
Fans and commentators are speculating, amid swelling anger, that China’s players quit on their coach, the embattled Jose Antonio Camacho, who should tender his resignation ASAP if he doesn’t want to squander what little is left of his reputation. He has done nothing of note since taking over for Gao Hongbo nearly two years ago. But even if this was a big fuck-you to their coach, one wonders: where are the players’ pride? Whatever happened to playing for country?
Fans, rightfully feeling like they were kicked in the teeth, surrounded Team China’s bus after the game in apoplexy. Who do these washed up and spoiled and undeserving players answer to? If not management, then indeed, those who watch them play. At least some people — probably against reason, and to their personal detriment — still care.
UPDATE, 7:14 pm: Via BBC, looks like there were several injuries in those post-game riots. “Over 100 people were injured and many cars were destroyed in ensuing clashes with police, when angry fans surrounded the team’s coach, the China Human Rights and Democracy Information Centre, a Hong Kong-based social unrest monitoring group, reports.”
China also lost its two previous international friendlies (they’re playing friendlies because they’ve already been knocked out of World Cup qualifying), 2-0 to the Netherlands and 2-1 to Uzbekistan. I bet you didn’t even know Uzbekistan played soccer.
Bums, losers, and hacks. Pics via Xinhua: