Winning the inaugural A3 Champions Cup is a morale-boosting thing, but not good enough to save the the Chinese soccer, said top officials of the Chinese Football Association (CFA).
Shanghai Shenhua, the runners-up of the China Super League (CSL), beat Urawa Red Diamonds of Japan 3-1 in the last round match on Wednesday to take the trophy, while CSL winners Shandong Luneng lost their final match to Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma of South Korea 2-1 to finish in the second.
Xie Yalong, CFA vice president, was in no mood of celebration, saying that "Shenhua won over league champions of both Japan and South Korea, but it does not mean the Chinese soccer has any upperhands over their peers of the two countries."
For the A3 tournament, which features the league winners of Japan, South Korea and China, as well as the runners-up of the host, both Red Diamonds and Ilhwa Chunma fielded in many substitutes to let them gain experience of international matches.
Against insouciant attitude of their neighbors, the two Chinese teams, both had been eliminated in AFC Champions League, were in high spirits for the trophy in a hope to win back soccer fans to their league matches.
Lv Feng, CSL manager, said Thursday that "the Chinese soccer market is still pre-mature. The income of last season was not much enough, clubs depend too much on shareholders' enterprise, and the audience remain unstable without much attraction to the young people."
Lang Xiaonong, secretary general of the CSL Committee, explained that "the lack of a soccer culture in China is the key to the current situation of the Chinese league."
Despite the top-two finish from the A3 tournament, the sport of soccer failed to reap any real progress in the past years in China, with fragile mentality in particular, Chinese soccer officials concerned said.
Luneng would have won the title even with a draw in their last match. Yet, with a field of more than half national team players, they eventually lost to the Korean side 2-1, a sad repeat of their group match in the AFC Champions League.
Although Shenhua played to the top of the podium, it still cann't hide the fact that they are struggling in the domestic league this season with unsteady performances day to day.
As to the Chinese clubs, the A3 Champions Cup only served as a chance to learn from their opponents, both of Japan and South Korea, and it will be any moment of torture to be over-confidence from the title.
With an initial purpose of staging a high-level competition among the best teams of the three countries, the A3 tournament failed to make the anticipating impact as the Asian Football Confederation also considered it may affect the AFC Champions League.
Only with the development of healthy clubs as well as talented and honest players, China can hope for the coming of the day when its man footballers eventually becomes eligible competitors in the world arena.