China are champions! Okay, no, it’s Guangzhou Evergrande, but judging by some headlines, you’d think this country’s united in its support of the new AFC Champions League winners. As if a Real Madrid fan would ever care about Barca in the UEFA Champions League. As if this country’s soccer fans weren’t, in actuality, cynical and parochial, likely more so than Philadelphia Eagles supporters.
Guangzhou Evergrande played FC Seoul to a 1-1 draw on Saturday in Guangzhou and won on away goals, having played to a 2-2 draw in the first leg. The result — though expected — prompted Wall Street Journal to pull out the exclamation mark for a headline: “A Chinese Soccer Club Has Won Something!”
“This can be called Chinese soccer?” asks @钟樂咸 in the comment section of the below Youku video.
Of course, it’s easier to ignore the above sentiment in favor of a more familiar narrative: a Chinese team won something! All of China is naturally celebrating because PATRIOTISM and COLLECTIVISM.
“Why do I get the sense it’s all laowai?” asks @1思维178.
“So many foreign players,” notes @皮卡充电中.
Some fans were happy for the country, resorting to the sort of cliches that will always make it to English-language print somewhere. One fan, Chen Jing, told USA Today in post-match delirium, “We have waited so long, and often felt hopeless, but now Evergrande have won glory for Chinese football.”
The editor titled the ensuing article, “China elated as Guangzhou Evergrande wins big,” as if, again, a Beijing Guo’an fan is jumping with glee despite the sinking suspicion — settling into fanbases across the country — that its team will never win the Chinese Super League as long as Evergrande remains the poster child of the Chinese Football Association (and continues paying all those foreigners!). Will a ref ever not give a favorable call to these guys for the next 18 months?
But here’s how we know Chen is just spewing nonsensical fan-speak:
“The victory will give more confidence to our national team and show Chinese parents that (soccer) is also a good route for their children,” he said. In ten years, China can produce a player like Lionel Messi, widely considered the world’s best, and will reach the World Cup Finals again, Chen confidently predicted.
SCMP’s story, whose headline begins “China rejoices,” cites the Sina Weibo account of a provincial government plus Xinhua, as if Xinhua were representative of “China” and not a mere mouthpiece.
“After 24 years, the Asia cup has returned to China. Evergrande, this battle will live on in memories forever!” the local government of the poor northeastern province of Jilin wrote on its microblog.
The Chinese Football Association wasted little time in expressing its congratulations on the achievement many hope will spark a resurgence in the game there after years of corruption had blighted its growth.
“This is the highest honour for Chinese football,” it said in a congratulatory message carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. “We sincerely hope you keep working hard, but guard against pride and impatience.”
Such pride marred by paternalism. Good work, Guangzhou, now remember to be good CONFUCIANS. Evergrande should reply with a message on Sina Weibo that reads in full, “Go fuck yourself.”
In any case, sorry for burying the lede. Congratulations to Guangzhou Evergrande, the first Chinese team to win in the AFC Champions League in the tournament’s 23-year history. Congratulations to manager Marcello Lippi, the first to win both European and Asian Champions League crowns. On behalf of myself and other Guo’an fans, and fans of other Chinese clubs, from a purely sports-fan perspective: we sincerely hope they never win again.
“Only can represent the club, can’t represent the country, thanks,” says @黑宫木耳.
“Does domestic soccer really have this capability?” replies @卧槽你丫真丑.