China’s national soccer (football) team has long been a source of mockery and heartbreak among the country’s many die-hard fans. Most recently, the team failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, as it has done every match since 2002. Much money and ink has been spent trying to figure out why China cannot put together a winning team, considering the country’s considerable strength in many other sports and the love of the sport among Chinese citizens. In recent months, the Chinese Super League has recruited well-paid global players, and now one team, Guangzhou Evergrande, has recruited a new high-profile coach, Marcello Lippi, who coached Italy to a World Cup win in 1996, in hopes of raising the bar. From the Wall Street Journal blog:
On Thursday, Guangzhou Evergrande announced that Marcello Lippi, considered one of Italian soccer’s greatest managers for winning trophies both with Serie A club team Juventus and the World Cup with Italy in 2006, will be its new coach. The 2011 China Super League champions said Mr. Lippi will join the team for a two and half years, replacing South Korean manager Lee Jang-soo, who helped the team advance to the Super League in 2010 and then win it a year later.
“My arrival should be a big deal and the most important thing in China today,” 64 year-old Mr. Lippi said in a television appearance. “I will start my work today, the same way I did in Juventus and Inter Milan. The most important thing is to bring the Italian football concepts to China.”
Guangzhou Evergrande, owned by real-estate mogul Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande Real Estate Group Ltd., has splashed out funds on a number of big signings over the past two years, attracting the Chinese national side captain Zheng Zhi. In 2011 the team set the Chinese transfer market record and then broke it again to acquire first Brasilian Cleo, then Argentinian Dario Conca.
Whiles hopes are high for the new Chinese Super League, it may take a while for the new recruits to pay off for the long-term success of China’s soccer program. From CNN:
“There are things happening in Chinese football but there is still a long way to go,” Asian football expert John Duerden told CNN.
“I can’t imagine that Lippi has been always been desperate to work in the Chinese Super League, though China is a fascinating place and some of the cities are fantastic.”
[…] “It’s all about the name,” he said. “While Lee is well-liked in China and east Asia, outside the region he has little standing. Hiring Lippi sends the message that Guangzhou want to be Asia’s first superclub.”
Read more about soccer in China, via CDT.