football (soccer)

football (soccer)
On 7 October 2001 every Chinese person with access to a TV was glued to the screen to witness the national soccer team beat Oman and clinch a berth in the 2002 World Cup. This historical first for China was hardly diminished by their three losses in Korea, especially for the Chinese supporters who hailed their team as heroes upon their return home. The interest shown by the fans and the massive media coverage are indicative of the popularity achieved by soccer in China.
The Chinese have been playing soccer for decades, but the sport has reached an unprecedented peak of vogue only recently. This spike in popularity has been aided by companies like Nike and Adidas, willing to open new markets in Asia for their products. Suddenly, by the mid 1990s, the faces—and the legs—of the best footballers from Europe and South America were pasted on billboards all over the region and were familiar to most metropolitan Chinese. Cable TV has also helped by broadcasting games from the top leagues in Europe.
As the national team level improved, so did the national league, promptly renamed C-League.
The undisputed powerhouse in recent years has been Dalian Shide. Another late achievement for Chinese soccer was the exportation of a few C-leaguers to Europe, with Li Tie and Shun Jihai (both playing in the English Premier League) being the most representative players abroad. Soccer is now eagerly practised in schools, within Chinese companies and in the army. The sport has gained in popularity among girls as well, and the Chinese women’s national team performed beyond all expectations in the 1999 World Cup, only to lose against the US team in a controversial final.
Jones, Robin (1999). The Emergence of Professional Sport—the Case of Soccer’. In James Riordan and Robin Jones (eds), Sport and Physical Education in China. New York: E. and F.N.Spon, 185–201.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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