Why China National Team is Horrible at Soccer


China has a football team that is governed by the Chinese Football Association. It was found in 1924 and joined FIFA in 1931. They withdrew from FIFA in 1958 but rejoined in 1979. Despite its huge population, China has had a poor performance in the World Cup due to many reasons. The last time it played in the World Cup was in 2002, when it performed dismally. With a current FIFA ranking of 86, the performance of the national team is below expectations (FIFA n.p.). Some of the reasons for its dismal performance are the corruption in football administration in the national soccer team, the Chinese culture that emphasizes individual sports than team sports, and the Chinese education system. Other reasons include the poor investment by the government in football infrastructure in the country and disorganization.

Reasons Why the Chinese Team Performs Poorly in Football

One of the main reasons for the poor performance of the Chinese football team is corruption. Sports teams operate like commercial ventures and not as state-run entities. The commercialization of the sport has given room for rampant corruption in football administration. The sport has attracted wealthy investors in China, leading to fraud cases (He n.p.). For instance, the investors bribe football officials and result in match-fixing, among other violations. Some coaches also bribe government officials for them to be hired. Gambling syndicates exert influence over investors, players, and coaches, creating a spoiled football system that thrived on unethical practices. The quality and integrity of the game declined. In addition, some players bribe coaches so that they can be on the national team hence leading to locking out some qualified people participating in the sport at the national level. It resulted in the jailing of some football officials because of the findings of the investigations. It brought shame to the Chinese who wanted to be associated less with football. The Chinese Football Association that took part in the investigations has also been blamed for match-fixing. Therefore the results of their investigations may not have done much to eliminate corruption within the football ranks. Less oversight from the Chinese government agencies led to increased corruption cases in football (Liang 434). Therefore, the success in football has continued to depend on money rather than on meritocracy (He n.p.). The corruption allegations prompted investigations that unearthed the unethical practices in football administration by implicating several people. Corruption has discouraged many aspiring players from joining the football team because of the shame associated with the sport nationally. Parents also discourage their children from participating in soccer because of the corruption within the national football administration.

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Another reason is the Chinese emphasis on individual sports rather than on team sports. China has excelled in individual sports like badminton and table tennis at the expense of team sports (Beech n.p.). The system of identifying talent emphasizes physical attributes and therefore discouraging many potential players from pursuing football. The characteristics like long limbs that the sports selection team emphasizes in selecting young talent in sports may not apply in football. For instance, many successful soccer players in other countries are of short stature. If they had gone through the Chinese selection system, they would have been eliminated early. Therefore, there is a possibility that the system has locked out many young people who could have excelled in football. Since the future of sports of any country lies in its young people, there should be a change in making the selections (Beech n.p.). The Chinese government also has a view that individual sports bring more prestige and medals for the country than team sports. Therefore, they do not make sufficient investments or encourage their citizens to embrace football (Liang 435). It is because of the view that football can bring just one medal for the country at a time instead of the many that individual sports can yield for the country. Football ranks poorly even among other team sports. The government has marketed other team sports more than they have done to football. For instance, basketball is more prominent than football in the country, which has led to less attention being accorded to football.

The Chinese education system is also to blame for the poor performance of soccer in the country (He n.p.). Due to its over-emphasis on education attainment, many potential players have not nurtured their football talent to improve the performance of football. Many people consider the rigorous standardized tests to be the only path to success, which has led to disillusionment with football. The many hours spent in the school leave little time for potential players to nurture their football talent. Even after school, students have to complete a lot of work before resuming school the next day. The rigorous training that students sometimes undergo eliminates some of them who would have gone ahead to become great at soccer. The odds that a player has to overcome before becoming successful also hinder many from pursuing football as a career. Only a few Chinese football clubs pay their players well, and even this is skewed because of the influx of foreign players (Liang 438). The number of registered players has been declining each year. The average salary for players in clubs in the lower leagues is very low and makes a career in soccer not to be viable. Many Chinese also have a perception that football is dangerous and therefore prefer to play soft sports. Thus, parents discourage their children from playing football because of the slim chances of succeeding in it in China.

The Chinese government does not channel sufficient resources for the influx of football in the country. Football pitches take more space, making it expensive to build because of the high costs of land. Schools also find it costly to invest in football pitches. It, therefore, makes sports that take less space, such as basketball, have more prominence in the sports activities of Chinese students. There are relatively few soccer academies compared to the huge population in China. The country does not have a tradition of many children who are soccer fans, and therefore the government finds a less compelling need to channel resources towards the growth of football (He n.p.). The result is a population that has less interest in football. Teams from smaller countries such as Thailand have also beaten the Chinese team in the past, and therefore it makes the Chinese team become disillusioned and have low morale. The taxpayers who subsidize the Chinese national team feel that their investment is not worthwhile because of the failure of the Chinese team to impress in international matches.

Disorganization is also to blame for the performance of the team. The Chinese government agencies in charge of other sports display excellent organization skills, but the same is not valid for soccer (Liang 438). For instance, the organizational acumen during the Olympics is great because of the importance that they attach to other sports. The administration in charge of football does not have the same organizational efficiency partly because of the inadequate funds they receive and the general attitude of the Chinese towards soccer. The importation of foreign players by the national football body at the expense of Chinese citizens is also a contributing factor to the negative attitudes that they have towards the sport.


China needs to have significant reforms in the football administration and culture. Aggressive marketing campaigns and eliminating corruption can make the national team perform well in the sport just as it does in others. The government should build football academies and encourage more children to join football as part of its long-term strategy to make the sport attractive and lucrative in collaboration with the private sector. It should pay particular attention to the identification of young talent by modifying its selection methods.


Works Cited

Beech, Hannah. “World Cup Mystery: Why Is China So Horrible at Soccer?” Time, 3 June 2014. time.com/2869357/world-cup-mystery-why-is-china-is-so-horrible-at-soccer/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2017.

FIFA. “FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking.” FIFA, 2017. www.fifa.com/fifa-world-ranking/ranking-table/men/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2017.

He, Patrick. “Why is the Chinese National Soccer Team So Bad?” Soccer Politics, 25 Apr. 2016. https://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/2016/04/25/why-is-the-chinese-national-soccer-team-so-bad/. Accessed 17 Mar. 2017.

Liang, Yiyong. “The Development Pattern and a Clubs’ Perspective on Football Governance in China.” Soccer and Society, vol. 15, no. 3, 2013, pp. 430-448.