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People's Daily Online>>Opinion

Anelka cannot save Chinese football

By Li Yang (China Daily)

08:48, April 01, 2012

The 16 clubs in the top Chinese football league spent about 3 billion yuan ($476 million) buying foreign players this year including French star Nicolas Anelka. Surely no one expected that the Chinese Super League would get such a phenomenal injection of capital before the crackdown on corruption in the sport is barely finished.

The Chinese Super League has caught the attention of the world, although this is not for the quality of the matches, but because of the enormous amounts of money being splashed around. Today the two biggest buyers in the Super League are both from rich Guangdong province and sponsored by real estate developers. It is probably the money they have made in the red-hot housing market since 2008 that is now supporting the rise of their clubs.

The Super League was among the world's top 10 this year in terms of the amount of money spent on foreign players. Although the other side of the coin was few Chinese players were sold to foreign clubs.

I started watching the Super League in 1994 when it was first launched. The transfer fee for foreign players at that time was about $100,000 and few clubs could afford to buy foreign players.

Fans' loyalty to their clubs back then was based on their attachment to their hometown. It was considered lucky to be a football fan born in a city having a club. Now it is almost impossible to tell where a team's fans come from as money has changed the landscape of the league completely.

A big investment can turn a desolate spot on China's football map into a footballing powerhouse, like Guangzhou, while a lack of money can relegate a city like Qingdao with its long pedigree into also-rans.

In the late 1990s, rich State-owned enterprises began sponsoring some of the clubs, the first round of big investment in the Super League, which meant clubs could afford to buy foreign players for $1 million.

Since then, hundreds of foreign players have come to China to seek their fortune, including Damiano Tommasi of Italy, Carsten Jancker of Germany and Paul Gascoigne of England. But none of these stars lasted more than half a year, because they simply could not adapt to low standards of the matches. The players who do stay in China for years are willing to keep their job by demonstrating a slightly higher level of skill than their Chinese counterparts. The question is how much Chinese football can benefit from these two kinds of foreign players.

Surely the money would be better spent on youth training, if the rich businessmen who own the clubs are committed to helping Chinese football as they say.

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Leave your comment3 comments

  1. Name

Aqyu at 2012-04-1524.215.200.*
China must develop it's own "Yao Mings" of Chinese soccer instead of importing from elsewhere.
thomas at 2012-04-01202.89.190.*
for goodness sake dont waste your money on foreign players get your young children interested in the game at a young age give them coaching at primary and secondary levels the more players you get the more possibly of you getting a special talented footballer
See at 2012-04-01124.13.145.*
Even you spend money on training the youth chinese palyers would not be good unless the chinese players think of team works and not indidvdual skill and they must have a good coaches not like the one china currently engages. Get more foreign coaches to trains the youths and have more competition on youth league

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