People have been so quick to lampoon their own team in part because they feel a sense of hurt pride. Chinese Web users often criticize their government,
but they also evince a strong sense of national identity, and are highly sensitive about their country's image. Team-based sports such as soccer and
basketball should, theoretically, represent the unity of the Chinese state. Instead, as taxpayers who subsidize the national soccer team, Web users feel as
if they have made a failed investment.
As @bbschn wrote: "I don't know why the national soccer team exists ... I don't know what
else it does besides wasting taxpayers' money, losing face internationally, and bring us Chinese down." @ 夏末__秋至 had this advice: "Disbanding the team and the Chinese Football Association is
the simplest and most effective way. Don't hesitate, just let it go if we can't do it, don't make we the people share the shame with you."
The team's putrid performance against Thailand also underscored the contrast between Chinese sports and its improving performance in other areas, like the
country's high-octane economy. In fact, the best season on record was 2002, when the team advanced to the World Cup -- which took place in South Korea and
Japan, making it easier for China to get in -- for the first time. In that tournament, the Chinese men's team scored not a single goal, lost all three group
matches, and was promptly eliminated.
Some within China have at various points argued that genetic differences could be to blame -- perhaps Asians are just worse at soccer. But the fall to
Thailand ripped off that last shred of the national soccer team's proverbial fig leaf. A popular phrase spreading on Weibo: "Japan keeps proving that
Asians can play soccer, while the Chinese National Soccer Team has been working hard to refute it."
User @一条河934 described the contrast: "Watched the FIFA Confederations Cup between Italy
and Japan this morning. Though Japan lost a close one 4-3, it was with honor. Their hard offensive, fine skills and unspoken cooperation are a
combination of the Brazilian style as well as the bravery of the Germany team. They have won global respect and admiration. Also from Asia, the Chinese
national team lost 5-1to Thailand and the whole nation feels shameful."
This feeling of helplessness, tinged with bitterness, is often directed not just at the players, but at the country's soccer system, and even the society
that surrounds it. "Chinese national soccer is actually a snapshot of society," @逸仙周刊
wrote. He continued:
About 20 years of Chinese soccer markets' 'professionalism' has created a market freak with a strong bureaucratic flavor: an administrator-controlled
'pseudo-professional' league where officials hook up with businessmen. It's an insider's embezzlement job ... The administrators pursue political
achievements, [and] the goal of professionalism is always [subordinate to] the goal of winning the gold medal.
This is not a rootless complaint. In reality, collusion has been a crux of Chinese soccer's problems, and anti-corruption actions have stirred up Chinese
soccer before. In 2009, the Ministry of Public Security began a large-scale investigation into the sports betting, bribery, match-fixing, and other
violations. The vice chairmen of the Chinese Football Association, Nan Yong and Yang Yimin, were dismissed and arrested.