At Bloomberg, Adam Minter explains fans’ rage and anguish at a 1-0 loss to Iraq which will almost certainly prevent China’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup. Blame for the defeat has been assigned to everything from the high cost of healthcare and the players’ alleged unmanliness to the ineptitude of governing bodies and, as ever, corruption.
Yin Bo, one of China’s most prominent soccer journalists, summed up the frustration in a pointed column for the sports section of the Sina.com portal:
If we lost to Japan or Korea, both of which play better than us, or Saudi Arabia or Qatar, which have very deep pockets, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for us to accept the result … but it’s Iraq who defeated and double-killed us, Iraqis who haven’t completely extricated themselves from a war and can’t even play on their home field.
The Chinese public’s passion for their national team’s history of mediocre soccer is a curious thing. In its history, China has qualified for only one World Cup, in 2002. China’s home-grown professional league enjoys pockets of popularity, but is often overshadowed by the misbehavior of its bratty stars — most of whom also play for the national team. This is despite the Chinese state — and companies seeking to curry favor with it — spending vast sums on the the Chinese Football Association, or CFA.
So how, then, did China’s loss to Iraq turn into one of the most angry and sustained popular discussions on China’s internet in recent months? Because, like so many other recent scandals in China, the national team’s World Cup failure is, in large part, a story about corruption.