That is the question many Chinese netizens asked after another humiliating defeat from the country’s national male soccer team. In a warm-up match between China’s national male soccer team and the Thailand’s on June 15 in the city of Hefei, the Chinese team was “slaughtered,” as many Chinese media called it: 1:5.
News reports called it another (among many others) historical day of shame for the Chinese male soccer team, not only because the game was hosted in China, but also because the Chinese team had its best players while the Thai team were all U23 players (players age under 23).
Soccer fans at the game were mad. Hundreds of them blocked the stadium exist and surrounded the Chinese team’s bus after the game, shouting “pigs,” “dissolve the team” and “fire the coach.”
Ironically, June 15 was also the 60th birthday of Xi Jinping, China’s new president who has long been a soccer fan. During his recent trip to Mexico, Xi made great wishes for the Chinese national male soccer team: “I’m a football fan. The Chinese soccer team has always been doing their best.” And Saturday’s defeat, many netizens jokingly said, was the team’s best birthday gift to Xi.
The reason why a nation that frequents the top of the medal list in Olympics cannot figure out 11 men to play decent soccer has been a mystery that puzzled millions in China for years. Many blamed the bureaucracy of the Chinese Soccer Association and its corrupt officials. This time on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media where China’s vocal netizens have been actively participating in discussions of political and social issues, the criticism was only louder that China’s corrupt officialdom should be responsible for the national male soccer team’s consistent failure.
The national team’s loss has been the NO. 1 top trending topic on Weibo since Sunday. Not long after, rumors started to circulate. Some speculated that the players intentionally “quit” the game to force out the coach who they never liked. Another rumor had it that the game was manipulated by gamblers who bet against the Chinese team.
The most interesting twist among all the sarcasm and criticism was one that shifted the focus to China’s political system and grand social problems. In the eyes of some netizens, the “system” is once again at the core of the problem. Netizen 作家-天佑 commented:
“Woke up from a sleep and found out about the defeat. A lot of people blamed Camacho (national team coach). But why him? [The failure] was caused by the system. Soccer, a completely marketized game, is controlled by the Chinese Soccer Association, a dictating planned-economy organization. Losing to Thailand is not a big deal. It won’t be surprise even if we lose to Mongolia. Chinese soccer perfectly mirrors what China is today as a country. [China] is like a dinosaur with a gigantic body but a tiny brain. It’s huge yet stupid, and will die out sooner or later.”
One comment from popular Weibo celebrity 假装在纽约 is now the top 1 hot weibo post during the past 24 hours:
“To make fun of Chinese soccer is like picking the low-hanging fruit. Education, environment, food, transportation, the Ministry of Railways, China Red Cross…all are worse than Chinese soccer. School principals (for sexually harassing students), government officials, people’s representatives, Guo Meimei…all are more disgusting than Chinese soccer players. I used to condemn the Chinese national male soccer team, too. But I gradually realize that the Chinese male soccer team ranks 100-something globally. That’s higher than what many other things in China rank in the world.”
Another liberal voice on Weibo 老徐时评 commented: “The past 30 years of Chinese soccer were 30 years of scandals after scandals – corruption, scam, cheating, etc. An achievable goal gradually became a dream and is now becoming an illusion. The most likely reason could be that [Chinese soccer] wasn’t in boom, but in crisis. In the past 20 years, our society has also been covered by a veil of false boom, hiding its true face from the people. Chinese soccer is like that kid among the crowd who speaks out the truth. The truth that the king was naked.”
Faced with overwhelming anger, the official Weibo account of Chinese national male soccer team apologized to netizens online: “Sorry.” In response, one netizen 刘溪的围脖 commented: “The only difference between the Chinese national male soccer team and the Chinese officials is that the national male soccer team knows to say sorry.”