The 2023 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Qatar Asian Cup group stage match ended on Jan. 25. Among the countries that failed to advance to the round of 16 teams, China and India stood out in particular. China had two draws and one loss (goal loss -1), and India had three losses (goal loss -6). Looking at the detailed results, there is one more thing that attracts our attention. The two countries only scored no goals. Among the 24 participating countries, only China and India failed to score a single goal.

India has become the world’s most populous country, beating China by a margin of 0.04 percent in 2023. The combined population of the two countries amounts to 2.85 billion. It accounts for nearly 36 percent of the world’s population. The two countries with such abundant human resources achieved disastrous results in the Asian Cup, not even the World Cup.

India’s performance is disappointing but not shocking. Except for cricket and field hockey, India’s sports have never performed well on the international stage. Reflecting this, only 35 medals (10, silver, and bronze) have been acquired by India at the 25th Summer Olympics. Eight out of 10 gold medals came from field hockey. The country ranked 57th in all-time.

China has only officially participated in the Olympics 10 times. Despite this, China has become a sports powerhouse with 636 medals (263 gold, 199 silver, and 174 bronze). China ranks fourth in medal rankings. China, which harvests so many medals in international arena such as Olympics, is no stranger to soccer than expected.

So far, China has advanced to the World Cup just once. China had three losses (degrees zero, losses nine) in the 2002 World Cup Korea-Japan. At that time, the group qualifiers were Brazil, Turkey and Costa Rica. China appeared in Olympic soccer twice. Their performance in the 1988 Seoul Olympics was one draw and two losses (degrees zero, losses five). In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when China automatically participated as a host country, China had one draw and two losses (degrees one, losses six). Even if China expanded its scope to 1936 Berlin, where the Republic of China participated before becoming communist, and 1948 London Olympics, the result would be two losses (degrees zero, losses six).

As such, it is difficult for Chinese soccer to score a single goal, let alone win a single game, on the world stage. Many sports fans have doubts about why China is so bad at soccer. There are many reasons for the poor performance of Chinese soccer. Among them, I analyzed the reasons that are less known in Korea.

There is a common saying when referring to Chinese soccer. “Isn’t there 11 soccer players in a country with over 1.4 billion people?” However, this question came from a misunderstanding. This is because the level of a sporting event and the number of athletes are not determined by the total population of a country, but by the number of people participating in the sport.

Take France, the winner of the 2018 World Cup. France has a population of 68 million in 2023. It is only natural that the French national soccer team is not randomly selected from this population. Only the best soccer players in France can be selected for the national team. France has 2.1 million registered players. Therefore, 3.1 percent of the French population is soccer player. Among European countries, France has the second most registered soccer players after Germany. What about Japan, which has grown beyond Asia to threaten world powerhouses? In 2022, 820,000 soccer players are registered in Japan. In other words, 0.65 percent of the Japanese population is soccer player.

In China, recent data have not been easy to obtain. Therefore, we referred to the data from the Chinese Football Association in 2017. In 2017, the number of registered players in China was 84,422, accounting for 0.0061% of the total population. In other words, the Chinese national soccer team was selected out of only 85,000 players. In contrast, according to the World Football Report released by Nielsen Sports, the number of soccer fans in China in 2017 was 187 million. 13.45% of the total population is soccer fans.

One of the biggest reasons why Chinese soccer is not growing is because of its thin player base. In particular, the number of youth players is very scarce, making it impossible to meet the demands of the top classes. Chinese youth can only choose between sports and study. In China, a national college entrance exam called “Gaokao” is held every year, and grades determine the future of students. Although Kaokao is not the only choice to succeed, it is the best choice for most Chinese students.

The Chinese government’s 35-year ‘one-child policy’ also adversely affected the promotion of youth soccer. Most Chinese parents want their only child to focus on studying much more safely and reliably than playing soccer. These social barriers still remain, and children, especially those aged 13 and older, quit soccer because they interfere with their studies. In addition, even if a child has excellent talent, he or she needs a considerable financial investment to play soccer. Therefore, working-class children give up because they do not have enough money. Middle-class children do not have enough time to play soccer because their study volume increases as they advance through school.

China’s Super League attracted world-class soccer stars by easily spending billions to tens of billions of won in the 2010s. As a result, the league’s popularity once increased, and the Super League team also won the AFC Champions League. However, the club’s success, led by foreign players, was rather poisonous to Chinese soccer. This is because most of the top-ranked teams in the league relied on foreign star players, neglecting the development of youth soccer in their own countries. In order for Chinese soccer to grow in the long term, the money that should be invested in youth soccer is spent on short-term performance and splendor.

BY: 토토사이트링크

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