October 07, 2004

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China is passionate about soccer but its top league is currently undergoing massive convulsions all due to that typical Chinese problem: corruption. Major club Beijing Hyundai is quitting the league in protest at a series of events in a major dispute with the Chinese Football Association (CFA). On the weekend Beijing Hyundai was playing in a match when at a crucial point a penalty was awarded against them. In protest they went on strike - they literally left the field and did not return. The referee announced the match abondoned and declared a 3-0 win for Shenyang Ginde (the score was 1-1 at the time of the walkout).

The problem was the Beijing club felt that it was again victim to corrupt referees ("black whistles"), officials and players. The club alleges that matches are ficed and that referees and players bet on games. The CFA has been ridiculed for not maintaining a grip on its Super League and seems powerless to control the current situation. Even worse, three Beijing Hyundai players are in the Chinese national team now playing a World Cup qualifier against Kuwait. Under the rules, players must belong to a CFA club to play for the national team, so these three may be forced to withdraw from the squad.

Normally in case like this when a coach and team have a hissy fit after a refereeing decision they don't like I have no sympathy for them at all. The rules are the rules and that shuold be the end of the matter. But in this case the team is alleging there are massive levels of corruption right through the ranks of football in China and it is sadly believable. The reality likely lies somewhere in the middle between Beijing Hyundai's allegations and the inevitable CFA defence. Over 1 billion yuan has been invested in the Super League in the past decade and the coach of Beijing Hyundai is saying that much of it has been wasted. He's likely right.

The cancer of corruption reaches deeply in China: it even touches such holy grails as football.

posted by Simon on 10.07.04 at 10:29 AM in the


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