The Chinese national soccer team's shine on the international stage has been a cherished wish of Chinese soccer professionals and fans. Many Chinese soccer fans ask, "Why can't China, a country with a population of 1.4 billion, select a team of 11 players to play the game well?
Photo: Global Times
Lack of competitiveness in skills is an already known reason. However, when the top professional Chinese Super League (CSL) made a record of giving out 16 red cards in five rounds in the 2019 season, we began to be aware that the disregard for sportsmanship is an even bigger problem.
Players need to work hard to win, but working hard doesn't mean getting violent in games, which will not get the Chinese national team into the FIFA World Cup. Many Chinese players are on the wrong track as the over-commercialization of the CSL has triggered a trend in which sportsmanship is abandoned. Limited in skills, they tried to win games with charging fouls. In a derby match in Tianjin on Saturday, a player tried to kick another in the head.
Players can get paid more and get noticed while training less. Easy fame leads to arrogance and disrespect of rules. Some players engage in violence when they are not able to compete with rivals. They have lost their basic professional integrity and sportsmanship.
The lack of sportsmanship is one of the main reasons why the Chinese national soccer team cannot make a breakthrough in international competitions. What's worse, it has also set a bad example and negatively affected youth development, which is crucial for the future.
Like a reflection of the CSL, a high school soccer league in South China's Hainan Province engaged in violence, which injured many students and led to multiple bans. The city of Qionghai, which hosted the league, was suspended from organizing high school soccer leagues for three years.
Professional players may lose nothing after having committed violent fouls and got just fined. But young players who just started their soccer career cannot afford such a game suspension. They would miss precious chances to improve their skills.
As the most popular sports in the world as well as in China, soccer has a great influence on society and sports culture. From soccer games, people can learn the spirit of striving to advance, of never giving up, and of fair play. However, bad behavior could negatively affect the entire environment of competitive sports. In some games, sports fans have even entered the field to pick a fight.
Large investments and policies have been put into soccer in China. The money should be used to improve players' skills as well as cultivate sportsmanship and make players more educated, particularly young players. China's soccer team cannot fight to be one of the world's elite. The antidote lies in players' insistence on sportsmanship and determination to improve.