China’s national soccer team loses a lot. They have qualified just once for the World Cup, in 2002, where South Korea defeated them in the first round. The team made it to the finals of the Asian Cup in 2004, only for Japan to beat them 3-1. A devastating 5-1 loss to Thailand in 2013 inspired soul-searching cartoons.
Hope springs once again at this year’s Asian Cup, now going on in Australia. China is still in the game, and will advance to the quarterfinals after beating North Korea on Sunday. What can explain this unusual success, and how can it continue?
WeChat user Liangjianwudi (亮剑无敌) has an idea, and it involves the threat of corruption charges from President Xi Jinping—who has made China’s success in soccer an important goal—and a flight home on Malaysia Airlines. Question marks in between characters in the subject line of the post break up the sensitive words “Daddy Xi” and “General Administration of Sport,” a precaution to keep the post from alerting censors:
Before the Asian Cup, Dad?dy? Xi went to talk to the head of the Gen?eral Admin?istra?tion of Sport, Liu? Peng…
“I don’t care if you have a foreign coach or a Chinese coach. If the team plays well, I’ll come greet you at the airport. If the team plays poorly, Secretary Qishan will greet you at the airport…”
Then Liu Peng went to talk to China’s National Football Team coaches and players, and said, “If you play well, you’ll take a Qantas flight back. If you play poorly, you’ll take Malaysian Airlines…”
Then, they won.
After they won, an angry mob surrounded the national team bus. The team captain, Zheng Zhi, almost broke down in tears. “We were cursed when we didn’t win. Well, today we won, and everyone’s yelling at us anyway!”
It’s not easy being on the China National Football Team! Head Coach Alain Perrin comforted Zheng, “Don’t worry about them. They aren’t Chinese football fans—those are Chinese sports betting fans.” (January 16, 2015)
然后， 刘鹏找国足领队教练和队员谈话: 踢得好了，坐澳航回来，踢得不好，坐马航回来……
当国足运动员真不容易啊! 主教练佩林安慰他道: 别在意，那不是中国球迷，是中国彩迷。 [Chinese]
Read more about soccer in China from CDT.
Translation by Little Bluegill.