Sack Camacho or sack football in China
Football has become a major issue in China, again, for all kinds of reasons.
We need to backtrack to the beginning of June. When President Xi Jinping was making his speech in the Mexican National Congress, he said: “I am a football supporter, China football has been trying very hard for a long time. Mr. Bora Milutinovic led the China National Team to the final of World Cup 2002, he was also the former head coach of the Mexican National Team…”
You could smell it that football would encounter a brilliant political environment in China.
But football is China’s most unlucky sport. Less than two weeks after the President’s personal endorsement, Team China played a series of international friendly at home, though in different cities in China. They lost the first match against Uzbekistan at Inner Mongolia, were defeated by a sincere but lenient Netherlands team at the Worker’s Stadium in Beijing, then travelled to Hefei, the capital city of Anhui Province, on June 15, for the last friendly against a Thai team which was mainly formed of under 23 players.
The last match turned out to the national team’s biggest disaster in history: the Thailand U23 team easily dismantled a lackluster Team China by the score of 5:1, slaughter might be another way of descrining that match.
INSULT, NATIONAL DISORDER, HUMILIATION, etc. These were the headlines across the nation’s media. The match was broadcast live by CCTV5, the sports channel of CCTV, therefore making Team China’s sloppy and dispirited performance impossible to hide from the national audience. Till the end of the match, you could hear clearly through TV the roaring chants from the half empty stadium: Sack the Coach! Sack the Coach!
The current head coach of Team China is the Spanish José Antonio Camacho Alfaro, who made his name with the sweated armpits during World Cup 2002. Not sure if President Xi still remembered the former head coach of Spain.
Sack the coach has always been the most economic way of diverting the public attention when your team is in deep trouble, as it is more difficult to sack a whole team, or in China’s case, sack a whole generation of footballers.
It is economic, it is also very costly, because Camacho still has a two year contract. CFA have either to pay him and his coaching team off about €7 million, or just stick to the contract and bear with an extremely angry outside world. It is up to CFA, or CFA’s higher authority, the National Sport Administration, to make the decision.
If Camacho’s aloofness and arrogance have contributed to the failures of Team China for the past two years, sack him would be an easy solution, but football is a sport much more complicated than that.
For the Thailand match itself, three big questions are still hanging in the air:
– Are the international players really playing to lose the match in order to get rid of the Spanish head coach? So many rumors before and during the match lead us to this question.
– Is this a fixed game? It is so easy to spot so many fixed games in China Super League for the past 15 years. Sports betting is still illegal in China, even though underground football gambling has become a huge industry with billions of cash flowing around.
– Is it true that some clubs called up their international players, telling them to “take it easy” with the national team playing in this meaningless friendly? Evidence has appeared in some media reports that this claim could be true.
On June 19, the National Sport Administration called a technical meeting to analyze the match. Another investigation meeting was scheduled on June 27, for ‘Serious Investigation’, whether the meeting is about those above mentioned three questions, nobody knows.
12 days after the disaster, it would be easy for all evidenced being eradicated.
John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com