Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Corruption, Schmurruption, Let's Talk About Soccer

Chinese soccer has long been an easy target for those looking to talk about what's wrong with sport in China. If sport serves as an allegory for society, than soccer speaks volumes about modern China, with its corrupt, do anything to win attitude. The recent scandal involving Wang Xin, a former GM of the Liaoning side, has brought every news agency out of the wood work and got them talking about Chinese soccer. Never mind that most of the reporters writing these stories have never attended a Chinese league match or that they barely know anything about the state of soccer in China, its a story about corruption and they want it.

I guess I can't blame the reporters, its the headline writers and others who try to sex the story up that deserve my ire. At the same time, too many have made it seem that Chinese soccer is still cancerous, when the story that they're reporting on occurred mostly in Singapore in 2007.

First, there are the problems with what these articles are saying. Again, if sport serves as an analogy to society, than the oft quoted Hong Kong University professor Xu Guoqing's assessment is right on the money. He stated that, "To solve the soccer problem in China you need the rule of law and an independent judiciary. Chinese leaders seem quite serious about fixing this, but there is no way they can under the present regime."

While I'm all for the rule of law and independent judiciaries are a great thing, I don't see how these are the key to solving soccer corruption. It would also seem like you could remove the "soccer" part of that quote and add in any other societal ill in China, and the quote would still work.

And while I don't want to beat up on any one story, the Christian Science Moniter article* not only used the above quote, but also included this bit of brilliance, "So bad has Chinese soccer's reputation become that it is fast losing its popular appeal. Chinese state-owned television stopped broadcasting live games a year ago."

Can you not see my frustration? CCTV stopped showing matches toward the end of last season due to an issue with on field violence. They showed games this season and received large ratings. Also, for a league "that is fast losing its popular appeal", the attendance stats from this season, which would be the envy of all but the most elite European leagues (as well as US NBA or NHL teams), would certainly come as a surprise.

I don't want to talk in depth about the corruption scandal and I've put it off this long because it just feels like old news to me. The perpetrators were in China and it appears some Chinese domestic matches were fixed, but the majority of events were in Singapore. I don't believe that I'm willfully blind on this issue, but I think the league has turned a corner and is, generally, clean. Corruption may have some fiending like a drug addict, there may be some incidents here and there, but overall, we've come a long way since the "Black Whistles" of 2001.

Am I being oversensitive or should we see more intelligent, multisided reporting?

No comments:

Post a Comment