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Retail, Sport

Cultural weakness makes China weak for World Cup


FIFA data shows that more than 40,000 Chinese fans bought World Cup 2018 tickets, “the second-biggest turn-out from a non-qualifying country” (picture from Al Jazeera News)

Here is some interesting data from Al Jazeera News about China and World Cup 2018 in Moscow:

[1] In 2014, Chinese football fans bought 7,400 tickets but the figure jumped to 40,000 in 2018.

[2] Russian media estimated 100,000 visitors from China during the World Cup.

[3] The average Chinese fan will spend around $7,500 on a trip to Russia.

[4] Chinese brands account for nearly 35% of FIFA’s advertising revenue.

Furthermore, it reports that “China unveiled its plan to become a ‘soccer powerhouse’ by 2050. The blueprint included ambitions for the men’s national team to dominate Asia and for the female team to become one of the leading teams in the world.”

I am not optimistic. Many people have offered various explanations, such as Chinese players’ body strength and height disadvantages (similar to Koreans and Japanese), lack of the necessary culture for team spirit, shortage of national enthusiasm for ball games owing to emphasis on education …

I add one more detailed reason to the list, namely, culturally a lack of a tactical mind for playing games in a team on-site without command. On the battlefield, for example, soldiers follow the senior’s command to move, charge or retreat. There is a leader on site or the soldiers can take orders via some sort of radio communication. When playing ball games in team, the players have to act, react, and counteract in a dynamic, ever-changing environment. Even though there is a captain in team, or coach shouting nearby, their commands are unsystematic.

Players’ independent judgment onsite and self-generated tactical collaboration in team on the brink are the qualities a successful team need. Unfortunately, the Chinese culture is traditionally weak in sports in general and frail in team forming in particular.

It takes very long time for Asians to have these qualities established and internalized, probably three to four generations, at least, with reference to Japan and Korea. Therefore, assuming the nation will keep it on culturally, I would say China’s football teams may be able to compete meaningfully at the world-class level by 2080, rather than 2050.

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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