Football As An Examination？
“I am a football supporter, football in China is working very hard to improve…” President Xi admitted his personal interest when he was addressing the Mexican Congress, but less than 24 hours later, Team China lost at home to Uzbekistan, 1:2.
What an anti-climax following the political leader’s high key claim.
Whether Mr. Xi’s claim put more pressure on Camacho’s team remains to be clarified, there is no doubt that the Spanish head coach is under great pressure from supporters, media and the CFA. However, some comments made by one of the CFA leaders caused a lot of misconceptions just a week ago.
It was on a youth academy visit, by the deputy minister of the National Sport Administration, prior to June 1st, which in China is called the ‘International Children’s Day’ – anything has to be ‘international’ in China to make sense. Mr.Cai Zhenhua, the deputy minister, who was a table tennis world champion in the 80s, and is now in charge of football, stressed the importance of football promotions in schools during the visit.
But his sidekick, Mr. Wei Jixiang, the deputy director of the CFA, created a bigger stir by suggesting that in order to promote football more efficiently in China, “maybe we need to set up a level examination system on kids football technique, just like the piano level exam system…”
He even went into details like, “juggling the ball for 20 times would be a level, 30 times might be another…” He didn’t say that the educational department in China should set up football as a special subject and that all kids must pass the football technique exams, however, he made it crystal clear that without the educational department’s support, as schools all close their doors to football, there would be no chance for football to flourish on this infertile land.
You could imagine the media’s feedback on this weird suggestion.
Mr. Wei might be right in pointing out that in an extremely academic results driven country, football can only reach the kids if it can prosper in schools. At the same time, the society has come to agree that the reform in education has been the worst reforms taken place in China for the past 30 years. Schools are mainly aimed at academic results, the rating of students passing the national exams to make it to the next level of education. Sport has long been dusted in the corner.
Pushing through the schools doors would be a kind of solution for football in China, but put it into a level testing system which might persuade teachers and parents to encourage their kids to play football, would be another sorry joke that China football can no longer take.
A similar test happened a year ago in Qing Dao, one of China’s most famous football towns, where students had to pass the football test in their entrance examinations to secondary school. Within a couple of days, the parents and teachers bought every football in the town’s stores, and groups of kids were enlisted in all kinds of extra-curricular football training classes.
Once the exams are over, most of them gave up on the sport. Because they were not encouraged to participate, because teachers cared more about their academic performances, and schools were genuinely worried that football could cause harmful injuries to the students and they would have to take the blame from the parents.
Football does not have a future in China, if the school doors are not really open and the schools do not embrace the game for the sake of the beautiful game, whether the political leaders like it or not.
In a few days time, Team China will be facing Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben’s Netherlands national team in Beijing.
John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com