By Sportswriter Zheng Daojin
BEIJING, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Chinese soccer fans witnessed another year of fiascos, but this time, they accept it more peacefully as both players and fans feel nothing unusual for they've tasted so many failures in recent years and some of them even sighed that Chinese soccer is "beyond redemption".
No wonder the fans are so pessimistic. The Chinese men's national team failed to qualify for the last two FIFA World Cups, and this time things were worse: they almost lost their hopes after the first four games in the third round of the Asian qualifiers and got eliminated after a useless win over Singapore at the penultimate group game.
It's not the fault of head coach Jose Antonio Camacho as the Spaniard took over Gao Hongbo just 20 days before the first qualifier against Singapore. Three straight defeats to Jordan and Iraq basically sentenced them to death. Some fans complained that the Chinese Football Association didn't change Gao much earlier, which led to another four years of waiting for nothing.
Miroslav Blazevic couldn't change the fate of the Chinese Olympic team. After some hard fighting against an Oman side, the young team failed to get past the test for the 2012 London Olympics and created their worst record in the qualifying round.
No one can blame the boss as the hard-working Croatian has tried his best to teach the young boys in less than six months before the Olympic Asian qualifiers. Blazevic overestimated his players'ability in carrying out his tactics, combined with some crucial errors by the referee in an away match. Although Blazevic didn't want to leave with regrets, he had to bid farewell after some disputes with the CFA.
To add some salt to the wound, the Steel Roses suffered a heavier blow. After the first bye to the World Cup last year, the once formidable Chinese women's team didn't make it to the London Olympics, which created another humiliating record.
Native coach Li Xiaopeng resigned after the qualifiers, claiming that the team had tried everything. The young women were in tears after the exit, unlike their men's counterparts who already felt numb and sad.
Chinese soccer must have a thoroughly technical revolution in the coming years to get rejuvenated, and combined efforts should be made in developing the professional leagues, which had been troubled with match-fixing, gambling and corruption.
The Chinese government has launched a resolute nationwide action against soccer gambling, match-fixing and corruption, in which former CFA vice presidents Xie Yalong, Nan Yong and Yang Yimin were arrested.
The first round of trials of corrupt soccer officials, referees and club managers opened on Dec. 19 in two local courts in northeast China's Liaoning province.
The anti-corruption movement has achieved obvious effects in clearing the environment of soccer. To make things better, stricter supervision system should be set up to have better control of the professional leagues and the CFA officials.
Amid the woes and defeats, Chinese soccer also has some positive things. Firstly, the youth training system has been improved. The Chinese Ministry of Education and the General Administration of Sports have made joint efforts in building a nationwide campus-based youth soccer training system, which now includes some 48 cities and 2,600 primary schools and middle schools, with some 470,000 league games to be played by the teens every year. And the CFA also started to send youngsters at the age of 12 to 18 to European and South American countries like Spain, France, Portugal, England and Brazil to get professional training.
More than 100 young players have been sent to learn the game overseas in a project named "Future Stars" in the past one and a half years. Some boys even had the luck to be accepted by big clubs like Lyon, Liverpool, Valencia and Porto. Maybe after 5-8 years, some prominent future stars will rise from these boys.
Secondly, the Chinese Super League (CSL) began to win back fans in the past season. Some real estate tycoons like Xu Jiayin of Guangzhou Evergrande club invested heavily in signing big stars including Dario Leonardo Conca, MVP of the Brazilian top class league, to enhance the attraction of the CSL. And the level of the league was lifted to some extent with those foreign players and famous coaches like Philippe Troussier.
For the next season, Shanghai Shenhua even signed in Nicolas Anelka from Chelsea, and the CSL teams may have better performance in the AFC Asian Champions League.
The CSL made a best-ever average attendance per game of about 17,600 in the 2011 season. And the Chinese central television station CCTV will begin to live broadcast the CSL games after a three year ban since 2008, when CCTV decided to stop broadcasting the CSL for there were too many "dark elements".
Camacho and his assistants will remain to guide the national team under a three-year contract. The former Spanish coach's attack-minded idea has changed the Chinese players a little, and the tempo of the team has been lifted to some extent. The Chinese players may learn more new ideas from the Spaniard and change their basic understanding of soccer.
Besides, the Chinese youth national team is now under the reign of Dutch boss Jan Riekerink, the former Ajax youth team coach.
If the Chinese players can learn quickly from foreign coaches and have more creative thoughts, they can help the Chinese soccer follow the trend of international soccer like what their neighbors Japan and South Korea have done.