Money is often thought of as synonymous with power and influence – in sports as elsewhere – but it’s not often we see such a clear example of a sponsor brazenly attempting to assert their influence as we’ve seen recently in China.
10 games over the next 12 months will determine whether or not China can qualify for the FIFA World Cup for just the second time in history.
China’s long-term soccer plan calls for the country to be a global force in the game by 2050, but if China’s latest football project comes off, it would arguably become a major footballing power long before that.
The plan has been laid out by the Chinese government, backed, of course, by President Xi Jinping, but the latest moves have come from one of the country’s biggest companies – Wanda, whose boss just happens to be China’s richest man.
After a breathless few weeks during which the entire sporting world has been talking about Chinese football (with yours truly quoted by AFP three times, FT twice, El Pais, Hicimos, Vice Sports and interviewed by CCTV, BBC and Al Jazeera among others), let’s take a look at a few stories that could be cropping up over the next 12 months…
For previous episodes of China Sports Insider, please click below:
Chinese President Xi Jinping can do many things, but bringing a World Cup to China won’t be one of them.
We’ve covered Xi’s love of soccer – manufactured or otherwise – several times here on China Sports Insider, but the subject is back in the news again after his recent comments on promoting the game in China. First thoughts are the moves being made do look like sensible, long-term overhauls, rather than the short-term, quick fixes that government officials have previously initiated solely to gain attention and/or promotion (see Beckham, David).
When it comes to the 2022 Olympic Games, FIFA – not the IOC – is holding the joker in the pack. And that Joker is far closer to Heath Ledger’s dark portrayal of the character than anything that faintly resembles amusement.
The Chinese are watching the World Cup in their droves, with some staying up so late that three people have now reportedly died from World Cup-related sleep deprivation. 118 million posts about the World Cup were written between June 12-17, but FIFA, in all its infinite wisdom, has no official online presence in China. Here’s more: