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Go, Chinese soccer

By Huang Xiangyang (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-02-11 09:19
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Chinese soccer has never been short of drama.

But for decades the drama has been related to scandals ranging from violence on the field to allegations of match-rigging and illegal gambling. The sport has brought nothing to its devoted fans except shame, a sense of humiliation and painful memories of endless lost games to lesser teams.

So much so that no one of sanity would harbor any hope for the Chinese men's national team before the start of the ongoing East Asian Men's Soccer Championship. The state central television's sports channel cancelled the broadcast of the matches. After all, there is really no need to spoil happy moods prior to the upcoming Spring Festival holiday.

That was why people were taken aback on Wednesday night -- in unexpected bliss -- by the national team's stunning 3-0 victory over South Korea. The last time China won any formal match with South Korea was 32 years ago. The latest extraordinary performance came just several days after China tied Japan with a 0-0 draw despite missing a penalty kick.

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There could have been no better timing for these victories. Before these wins, the national soccer team, and the sport itself in China, had been best described as "a dead man walking". A national crackdown on match-rigging and illegal soccer gambling has reportedly netted more than 100 players, coaches, referees and officials, including the head of the national soccer authority. Even the current national team's coach, Gao Hongbo, is widely suspected of having been involved in some of the scandals.

I believe the latest win was not rigged, though some whose hearts have been broken countless times by the national team would cynically think so. I would like to see the team's latest feat as a testimony of the Chinese proverb that "to know shame is to be near to fortitude". And for Gao Hongbo himself, the latest win is a story of redemption. I hope he can lead the national team to go a little further.

After all, soccer is just part of our life. All the bad things it has exposed are comparable with the evils we confront every day in any other aspect of our society. So long as our newspapers are still filled with stories about police brutality and official corruption, we should at least give soccer a chance to rise from the ashes.