Ball Out of Play
A nation of football lovers, China lacks a team strong enough to reach the FIFA World Cup
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Football Fever
Cover Stories Series 2014> Football Fever
UPDATED: June 30, 2014 NO. 27 JULY 3, 2014
Why is China Still Cheering from the Sidelines?

Even the 11-hour time difference between China and Brazil is unable to cool Chinese football fans' enthusiasm for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup happening now in Brazil. To stay up late into the night for World Cup matches has given some Chinese fans new circadian rhythms.

This is China's World Cup complex. Though the Chinese national football team is noticeably absent from the tournament in Brazil, as always, the Chinese are enthusiastically involved in the matches in a different way, contributing to a successful convening of the World Cup. Compared to those who are unable to watch the games in person, commodities made in China seem to be more fortunate, as they go to Brazil and become a part of the event.

There is only one Hercules Cup trophy made by FIFA, but its many smaller, souvenir versions are produced by a Chinese enterprise. Traces of "Made in China" can be found on souvenir footballs used in both formal matches and training matches, and on the World Cup mascots and national flags in the streets. Scoreboards on some football fields, too, are from China, and even advertisements for China-based Yingli Solar can be seen on billboards in the arenas.

However, more and more Chinese fans are feeling disappointed. China is the most populous country in the world and ranks second in terms of GDP, but the nation's football fanatics are still unable to shout, "Come on, China!"

Here in China, in regards to the country's lagging football, there are myriad theories from different perspectives on how to encourage the development of the sport, not to mention various incentives for doing so. The China Football Association has employed a few well-known foreign football coaches over the years, carried out a series of reforms on the nation's football club system, and is also active in bringing in international managerial talents and experience. More than a decade ago, the concept of "football skills from birth" was also proposed and put into practice. Chinese entrepreneurs, too, are generous in supporting the cause. However, none of these shifts have resulted in far-reaching changes in the Chinese football establishment.

Is the Chinese team far from qualifying for the World Cup? After asking this question over and over, especially following China's brief involvement in the event in 2002, most fans no longer treat this as a question, but as an aspiration or encouraging sign. How far it is, however, is anyone's guess.

It is hoped that by 2018 World Cup tournament, China's national football team will finally be able to make an appearance in the Russian arenas, alongside the many obligatory "Made in China" commodities. It's high time the country's enthusiastic fans, skilled footballers, and talented coaches really made themselves part of the World Cup. Here's hoping that time's not too far away!

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