Football failure is a threat to national security

Updated: 2011-11-25 16:47

By Lee Hannon (

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The loss to Iraq was the last straw.

For millions of football fans across China, the humiliating elimination from the 2014 World Cup was the proverbial nail in the coffin of the nation's soccer hopes and dreams.

The fierce anger and frustration vented across the information superhighway was excreted with the same rhetorical questions from bewildered fans.

China has become the world's second-biggest economy in just three decades. China is the world's largest football fan base. China will send a woman to the moon. China has more World Cup viewers than any other nation. So why in a country of 1.3 billion people can we not field 11 decent players?

Simple questions often have complex answers, and the labyrinth of failure in football in China has been going on for years. It is more a symptom than a cause that can't be cured overnight.

Yes, the usual red herrings will be voiced for years to come. They paint a picture of a game awash in corruption with unskilled players from a society of sedentary lifestyles too focused on academic success.

But even if Chinese grandmothers stop feeding their chubby little emperors fatty foods for one minute, they still won't be able to waddle their way to saving the nation's pride as there is little or no infrastructure, urban leagues or youth academies to cultivate the willing.

A revival of football in China will only come if other clubs follow the lead of Guangzhou Evergrande FC and invest in foreign talent and develop local skills.

China's rich list is on the rise in every city, and others should follow Xu Jiayin, who spent 500 million yuan ($78.7 million) this year to help his team win its first Chinese Super League (CSL) title.

Owning a successful club is fantastic public relations for any millionaire, and stoking the passion and pride of grass-roots soccer fans will do more for a city than the most noble-minded philanthropy.

Great things come to cities and countries that achieve sporting success. It can unite people and raise the hopes and dreams of a nation much more than "babes in space" will ever do. Just look at the pride still felt from the Beijing Olympics.

Failure in football should be a threat to national security and priority should be given to helping the country regain its soccer crown, not joining the space race 20 years too late.

This can only begin when the Chinese Football Association relax their rules on the number of international players allowed on a team and the country's ever increasing millionaires follow the lead of Guangzhou Evergrande FC.