Three months before the Olympic and Paralympic Games will commence in and around Beijing, the city is already starting to morph into a “bubble”, with only one flight per day from other Chinese cities to the capital and a much reduced number of international arrivals. The anxiety is based on little more than 1,000 new positive CoViD-19 tested persons, of which just twelve had to enter a hospital – figures which many other countries can only dream of in the current fourth wave.
Before sinking into a depression based on the seemingly never ending Corona story, let’s talk about something more uplifting: Sport. Laozi says in Chapter 38 of the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching): When the Dao is lost, there is still goodness. When goodness is lost, there is still kindness. When kindness is lost, there is still justice. When justice is lost, there is ritual. Or, paraphrasing Laurie Anderson’s famous song “Oh Superstar”: And if justice is gone, there’s always sports>. Growing up in Berlin in the Northern German lowlands, your humble editor is as interested in winter sports as most of the inhabitants of the host city Beijing: Not the least. Curling is, at least for me, the only exception, as there is nothing so soothing than watching on TV, preferably in the middle of the night and in the company of a wee dram of Single Malt, adults frantically using scrubbers to move the “loofies” of their team a bit closer to the goal painted onto the ice.
Football (or: soccer) fascinates much more people around the world, including hundred of millions of Chinese closely following the English, Italian, Spanish and German leagues. Xi Jinping is known to be an ardent football fan, resulting in the opening of more than 27,000 ‘football-specialised schools’ and 6,000 ‘football-specialised kindergartens’ to give training of the sport to children in hope of winning the FIFA World Cup 2034, when it is expected to be held in China.
The Chinese men’s national football team, currently ranking 75th internationally, has appeared in the FIFA World Cup only once – in 2002 when the tournament was held in neighbouring Japan and South Korea. They were knocked out after failing to score even a single goal.
Alas, Qatar 2022 will again very likely be starting without a team representing the People’s Republic of China. In the AFC Third Round qualification group for Qatar China is currently at the penultimate position in the table. Their first victory in the group against Vietnam last month with the help of a goal in injury time will not be enough to push Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia from the top three seats in China’s group.
Consequently, the agony of Chinese football fans seeing their team failing to win against teams from countries with less than 1% of the population of China is continuing – if they are lucky enough to have a stable supply of electricity for their TV, which has not always been the case in many cities in China in the last weeks. In domestic leagues, the leading team of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao Football Club (since this year known again simply as Guangzhou Football Club), which won eight of the last ten national championships, might also disappear following the financial troubles of their main owners Evergrande and Alibaba. Last year, the Chinese Football Association already ended the big-spending era of China’s domestic soccer by imposing strict salary caps, making it not attractive anymore for foreign star players to move to China.
Turning challenges into opportunities, this will probably mean that the interest in visiting famous international football stadiums in England, China, Germany, and other destinations and the demand for football summer camps for young Chinese players will be further increased, once the outbound tourism source market China starts to function again.
As always, all best wishes from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI WEEKLY team!