China’s President Xi Jinping is football obsessed

You almost never see this in China. Tens of thousands of people expressing raw emotions in public. Chinese people love football, or soccer if you’re American, but in this story we’re going to call it football. It’s the second most popular sport in China, just after basketball. But it’s also a constant source of pain and humiliation, Because Chinese men’s football really sucks. The Chinese men’s national team wallows in the 72nd position, in FIFA world rankings. But China is trying to change that. Since 2014 the government has started a massive campaign adding tens of thousands of new football schools and fields, and pouring money into developing a football culture. The goal is to bring football to every corner of the society, from big cities to small towns. But the effort is about much more than football. It’s about how China sees itself, and how the world sees it. I’m Isabelle Niu. This is Quartz. Please subscribe to our channel. This is what China’s plan for football domination looks like. Benny Huang started this football academy for kids about three years ago. Football schools like Benny’s have been popping up everywhere in China in recent years. The thinking is that if enough kids can be encouraged to play eventually China will have a strong national team. This is the first generation groomed to be the future of Chinese football. But China’s love for football goes way back. It was a football power in the 1920s. Mao Zedong was a goalkeeper in college and Deng Xiaoping, China’s leader in the 80s, reportedly played as a winger. And it’s not just these two. Every generation of Chinese communist leaders since Mao has tried to use football as a way of nation building and earning international respect. But none have succeeded. Enter Xi Jinping. Xi told the world that he dreams of China one day qualifying for, hosting, and winning a World Cup. And in 2014, the government released a series of policy papers that spelled out three deadlines to achieve his football dreams. By 2020, China wants to see 300 million children regularly playing football. To do that, the government will put mandatory football programs in 20,000 elementary and middle schools. By 2030, China wants its men’s national team to be as good as Japan and Korea. By 2050, China wants to be recognized as a world class football power. The first deadline is coming up. This elementary school in Beijing is one of the 20,000 schools where football is now mandatory. Students train three to four times a week and the top players get funneled into professional football clubs. There’s something distinctly Chinese about this approach to popularize football. Instead of making football seem more fun, they’re making kids do it in school. Khalid Bakri became a coach at this elementary school, after retiring from pro football in Sudan. – My football started from the neighborhood. Just bring a ball we have a few kids who go out and play. In China it’s different. From the morning to the afternoon all the kids they are in school. So you need to have these coaches inside the school to inspire more Chinese children to come and play football. In the past three years, the central government has spent more than 94 million dollars on just the campus football programs alone. It also plans to build 70,000 new pitches and train hundreds of thousands of new coaches by the first deadline. That’s a lot of money to spend on a national pride project, unless it’s about more than that. I called up political scientist Jonathan Sullivan. He’s writing a book about Chinese football. Football is a great way to unlock middle class consumption, which fits into China’s overall economic goals. In 2016, the total football-related revenue in China was 18 billion dollars. It’s also a great opportunity for Chinese commercial interests to invest abroad. A large influx of Chinese money entered the European football market in recent years. At one point in 2017, the China Super League surpassed the UK’s Premier League as the world’s biggest spending league. The massive enthusiasm for football also comes with risks for the Chinese leadership. A poorly performing national team can become a reminder of all the problems with the government in general — the corruption, lack of transparency, and the deep insecurities that China will always be seen as an inferior power. And when the national team suffers an especially embarrassing loss, the response can be even more extreme. This video of angry Chinese fans rioting went viral after a mostly junior team from Thailand destroyed the Chinese national team in 2013. And the same thing happened again, after China suffered a surprise loss to Syria in 2016. Hundreds of fans took to the streets demanding the top football official resign. But for the party those risks are worth it. Because the potential upsides of a strong national team are huge. Just ask anyone who is alive and in China in 2002, when the team qualified for the World Cup, for the first and only time. This is a documentary the state TV made for the 10th anniversary of China qualifying for the World Cup. This is what people looked like that day. And that was just for qualifying. Then the team lost all three of their games and scored zero times. But no Chinese football fan will ever forget that moment. Xi Jinping has coined a term to describe what China wants. He calls it the Chinese Dream, a growing economy, respect from the world, and a strong national identity. And the project to become a football powerhouse isn’t just a metaphor for that, it’s also a big part of the plan. These tens of thousands of men and women aren’t just cheering for their local team. They’re participants in a massive project to shape the future of China. So, are you ready to support a Chinese football club? Let us know who you’re rooting for in the comments. And subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one.

100 thoughts on “China’s President Xi Jinping is football obsessed

  1. The reason Chinese suck at football, they have no creativity because of socialist living conditions. No outlet to really express themselves and it shows in every facet of Chinese life. 1 billion people and 0 footballing superstars.

  2. Funny thing is there's still so many worse countries than China in asia when it comes to football.Take my country for example,Malaysia

  3. this is not the way to go. let kids decide. give them benifits for playing instead 9f making it mandatory. God I love communism

  4. The only way for Chinese Men's football team to really play well is not to pay them too much money. These players are only interested in fast cars, nice girls and materialistic lifestyles. Remember, a few years ago one of the Chinese national team member was kicked off the plane due to his bad behaviour. He was aided by his wife who openly bragged to the flight steward and security by saying "Do you not even know my husband is China Men's National Player"?
    With this type of attitude, you won't go far.

  5. I'm from China and live in Europe.
    I know that Chinese football team is shitty ,but I'm proud of them for trying. I believe in my country.

  6. It’s odd how every single person in that stadium watching that game is wearing an identical team shirt

  7. if football is the second most played in china, why they don't invest in basketball where they are already good according to this video and the most played sport in China?.

  8. Being good in football is also linked to democracy. I think China will get a main power in football, but countries like Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, France, England, Germany and Italy will defend their position as best football teams in the world. There are also a lot of uprising teams in Africa!

  9. suspicious that the fans all have the same kit almost as if the government gave it to them for the documentary???

  10. Why the heck is the purchase of world star players like Oscar or Fellaini, and many world star players who go to play in China to retire.

  11. Main problem with Chinese football? Well they basically don’t have the culture to play football… in France, kids aged 5 are playing football every day with their friends and their brothers/sisters, they are many clubs and all those club are easily reached with public transportation and not so far from the kid’s home. The result? Well France has produced the most 2018 World Cup players, and the most champions league player. Paris and it’s surrounding only are creating more talented players than any other region in the world.

  12. I'm supporting Hénán Jiànyè solely for the fact that their crest looks like a tsunami of noodles swallowing a football.

  13. China's dictator Xi Jinping is football obsessed.* Please do not hide what he is – a communist dictator that needs to die

  14. really good plan and quite possible one. you really need to develope passion first, and then hard and soft infrastructure to nurture that passion.

  15. They’re missing two things, diversity, and creativity. Not just ethnicity (Arab powers buy football teams) but diversity in cultures provides facets that improve playing style, where people learn from each other. Ethnic groups tend to develop a style from playing with one another, China’s is too structured. Creativity is essential for football.

  16. China man in any sport team sucks not just football whereas the female in any sport team do well. Look like their man can't really work together from top management to players. Wake up whoever in charge.

  17. The last time the Chinese Government tried to control something (birth control), they had to reverse it a few decades later & encouraged people to have more kids.

    Instead of forcing football on the kids, they should make it voluntary.

  18. Paris build a good model for how to make great teams from the suburbs.
    The best teams are all mixed. If China can find mixed people, then they might build good teams that have all of the best in one team.

  19. What the heck? What does it mean that it is rare to see in China that Chinese people express their raw emotions in public? It is common, okay?

  20. You cant overlook the fact that they have planned and are following the plan upto 2050,30 years from now.Thats amazing.

  21. If the Chinese have right coaches and facilities these young kids will improve tremendously in 10 to 20 years, and can enter final in 10 to 20 years I believe.

  22. hopefully he does the same with Basketball – they are the 2 highest grossing sports (futbol now basketball in the future)

  23. It’s not about the number of people playing football to produce good players. It’s more got to do with the quality of coaching to produce quality players. Iceland is proof that a country of 300,000 people can qualify for the European Cup and the World Cup.

  24. Am I the only Vietnamese who can see the similarity between the content of this video and the football industry in Vietnam?

  25. They should do an American version. Despite resources, the men’s team sucks. The women’s team are absolutely amazing, so why are the men’s lacking? This would be an interesting story

  26. Whats particularly unappealing about programs like this is that the chinese government is so overt in their plans to use soft power as a neo colonialist tool. The way they also implement these programs is that they sistematize it in a way that sucks out the spirit of fun or spontaneity from sport, art, film or music or any other cultural activity

  27. China created football and is trying to reclaim its name to it while the foreigners are bitching about their dethronement from the world stage.

  28. As a new Chinese football fans coming from Malaysia I see Chinese football is improving. Since 2016 until now I follow CSL progress. Now we can see the league is getting better. The dominance of guangzhou evergrande is no longer there. Teams like Shanghai SIPG, Beijing Guoan and Shandong Luneng is there to compete. But I honestly think the transfer policy and CSL rules is too complicated. Besides, the gap between CSL and China League One is very big. I think Chinese FA should allow 5 instead of only 4 foreign players in transfer market and can use 4 players on the field. And the transfer should also can sign a goalkeeper as I see the chinese goalkeeper too need some competition. For example Wang dalei, yan junling is too comfortable in their respective squad. They need challenge. Sending the best gk in CSL for 2 consecutive years to Espanyol following Wu Lei step isn't the right thing to do. Also, all football team there need help from billionaire like Fosun group, Tony Xia or making deal with some Arab billionaire. I understand that CFA is ruling the league. I think here, all football team in China and CFA should follow EPL. They make some agreements to make the owner of the football group can have some business football culture with global. You can read it in Wikipedia about English Premier League. Investing on top coach and scout from all countries should be great. There is a lot of available managers who isn't contract with anyone. Luciano spaletti, Peter stoger, laurent blanc, moyes, slaven bilic, julen lapotegui, Santiago solari Jose mourinho, arsene wenger, Sam allardyce, gattuso, Thierry Henry are some of the popular name who is still not manage any team. Those club in China League One or CSL who still doesn't have foreign managers should take them all. I'm not saying Chinese manager isn't good. But top coach can motivate Chinese footballer more. The tactics, coaching setup all different. The Chinese manager can also help themselves by learning from the best. They can be 2nd man in the each team staff.

  29. they make kids playing football in the schools that make kids play football. !! It is just like the soccer camp in Barcelona!
    Simple logic, use ur brain to talk plz..
    It is like there r schools in China that teach u kongfu and other common knowledge like math etc.
    the point is if u don’t want to do that then just don’t enter the school, plz make ur propaganda more reasonable so I don’t have to hurt my stomach due to laughing every single time I hear all these nonsense statement….just so stupid….. or just pure misleading which makes u guys disgusting creatures…
    Wtf is national pride project? It is what every sing Chinese want! Instead of using all those money in invading bombing other countries we invest it in kids playing soccer and they builds tons of soccer yard isn’t that great?
    U guys r so good at twisting whatever comes out of China, I am impressed now!

  30. The most popular sport in China is football , not basketball… Trust me , IM Chinese …. Although the national team is lousy

  31. Call it "soccer" in my country or any other European nation and you might end up seriously hurt,…it's Football or the beautiful game.

    The most popular sport on the entire planet second to none.

    Good to see China embracing the beautiful game ?⚽.

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