In Whither Chinese Soccer? [link no longer exists], we get an expert opinion as to why China cannot field a world class soccer team. Per the article, China’s soccer shortcomings stem from six things, including the following two:
- The Education System. “The dog eat dog nature of the Chinese education system is unbelievable. From a young age, kids must go from the “right” elementary school to the “right” junior high to the “right” high school if they have a prayer of getting into the “right” college. The concept of “playtime” doesn’t exist for most kids, they get out of school (later than in most places in the world) and then go home to study or to an after school program. They don’t have time to kick a ball around and their parents would be unhappy if they caught them using their time in such a frivolous manner. There are no grass roots weekend youth soccer programs like you find in the US, but even in the few that do exist, expat kids are in the majority. Among some in the middle/upper class in China, who’ve been educated and/or spent a lot of time abroad, there is a growing looseness and allowing their kids more time to be kids, but they often will only choose a single activity and those tend to be something along the lines of golf or hockey, a more “exotic” sport that makes their kid unique among his peers. The large size of China’s population, the reason why so many people think it should be so easy to find 11 decent soccer players, also hurts it, with so many young people competing for a finite number of university spots, an hour or two kicking a ball around is seen as a waste of time.”
- Soccer Can’t Be Taught. ‘The sports China excels in, ping pong, badminton, diving, weightlifting, etc., are all sports that are focused on a repetitive motion. Practicing the same motions 1,000 times a day, day in day out will perfect your skills and lead to success. Soccer doesn’t work that way, it isn’t possible to “teach” the game in the same way. Players need to be creative, anticipating not only what the opponent will do but what their teammates will do, and everyone needs to work together as a team, not just 11 individuals. In China, more often than not, the team’s play a rigid form of soccer, lacking the creativity and the flair you see elsewhere in the world, and when players display that flair, it often fails because teammates don’t expect it. Young Chinese talent needs to go overseas to train and play against other people, to build up that mental database of different ways to play and different systems.”
This post reminds me of a post I did during the Olympics on why China has no good point guards in basketball:
But I feel compelled to discuss one thing I have noticed in watching the Olympics and that is that China’s basketball team does not have a single point guard worth a damn and I have to wonder why.
Is it further evidence of the shortcomings of a planned economy? Does China pull out the great athletes for other sports, leaving only tall people for basketball?
Is it further evidence of a lack of innovation or take-chargedness (I know I am making up this word, but it works) in China? Great point guards have to be willing to innovate and take the heat. Is the coaching so tough that no player is willing to step up?
Apparently, Heart of Beijing wonders the same thing, in citing this line from an AP story: “China has more than a billion people, but there’s not an elite point guard among them.”
So why is China so mediocre in team sports like basketball and soccer, and what significance, if any, does this have in terms of innovation and business in China?