August 13, 2009

Backwards Pass

China is an intriguing case study. For a nation of such historical legacy and future potential, they have been able to produce some fantastic athletes. Just look at the past Beijing Olympics, and you can tell that for every sport, there is at least one Chinese person among 4 billion that is good at it. Yet, among all the sports, from gymnastics to swimming, to even basketball, China has consistently failed miserably when it comes to football. I mean, it's mind boggling how disgraceful and truly talentless any sort of football is in China, from the Chinese Super League to the national team.

The thing is, everyone in China knows this. There is a saying that even the mothers of the coaches and players wouldn't watch their sons play. The image and reputation of football in China is tarnished by consistent fan violence, player violence, and horrid sportsmanship. Even the Chinese FA knows they have their work cut out for them.

So it's no surprise, that during a match between Beijing Guoan and Tianjin Teda, who are fairly large rivals in the CSL, after some harsh calls from the referee, not one, or two, but at least eight players and one club official were involved in a fracas. At least one player chased down the referee. You can clearly see in the video that the referee is running for his life, as police and stewards stand about dumbly.

After all the dust had settled, and the match referee had gone home to change his shorts, the Chinese FA swiftly laid down the law. The main aggressor, as seen in the video chasing the referee a-la-Michael Ballack, was handed a lifetime ban from competition in China. The goalkeeper and a midfielder were given three year bans. China Daily also reports,

"Two other players were banned for 30 months; two received two-year bans; one was booted for 10 matches and another for five matches. An official from Tianjin was also banned for a year."

Since most of the players are young and in their early 20's these bans effectively end their careers and dreams of playing for their country. But really, you think 5 or 6 long-term bans is going to clean up the football scene in China. It is after all a communist state. Cut off their feet! Sell their possesions! Put them into the Nike and Addidas sweatshops to make socks and boots!

I for one find this frustrating. It's clear there is talent in China. Li Tie, Sun Jihai. Even look at Dong Fangzhou and Yu Dabao. If China really wants to make the most of the potential they have, it's about time clubs and organizations change the way they think about the game. No more red cards or lifetime bans. The next temper tantrum, send them to prison in outer Mongolia. Football would be better for it.

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