Author Topic: Foreign-based players spearhead ailing China football to higher status  (Read 709 times)

Offline David

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While China football is still licking their wounds from the women's Algarve Cup fiasco early March, the world's most popular game is trying to gain ground in China following some inspiring performances of their foreign-based players.
China captain Zheng Zhi made headlines across the British media on Monday after a match-winning display that gives Charlton Athletic hope of avoiding Premier League relegation.
Zheng, who signed a loan from Shandong Luneng on Dec. 29 until the end of the season, headed Charlton in front against Newcastle United in his first full start on Sunday.
He followed up by winning a late penalty converted by Jerome Thomas to give the southeast London club a precious 2-0 victory in their struggle to beat the drop.
Another Chinese sensation Sun Xiang played both legs of the European Championships match between Eindhoven PSV and English giant Arsenal, making him the first Chinese soccer player who has played at the European elite soccer competition.
Besides, China's Ma Xiaoxu, the AFC's Women's Player of the Year, secured a contract with the Swedish women's soccer champions Umea IK.
Umea, who have reportedly agreed a six-month deal with Ma starting from the new season in April, are one of the top women's clubs in Europe with five domestic championships and two European crowns in the past seven years. Their side includes FIFA Women's World Player of the Year Marta and Swedish talisman Hanna Ljungberg.
However, Chinese footballers also disappointed the fans in equal measure recently following the women team's nightmarish run in the Algarve Cup football tournament, where they lost four straight matches.
Since finishing second to the United States in the 1999 World Cup, the Chinese women, known as the "Steel Roses", have failed to return to such heights in international competitions.
The team was left high and dry into 2007 when the Chinese Football Association (CFA) failed to appoint the new head coach since former manager Ma Liangxing left the squad ahead of the Four Nations tournament, citing a heart problem late January.
The former top team has slipped to the 11th spot on the FIFA rankings on March 16 after the Algarve Cup.
In men's part, a mass brawl in London between the Chinese Olympic squad and English first division team Queens Park Rangers on Feb. 7 cast a shadow over the China Football Association (CFA)'s efforts to improve the league's image.
Embattled by black whistle and gambling, the CFA has vowed to keep a clean image of the top football league ahead of the new season which started early March.
"We must improve the competing level and make efforts to bring spectators back to the stands," said Ma Chengquan, one of the officials in charge of organising soccer leagues at the governing body on Feb. 26 at Xianghe, Hebei province.
The CFA held a two-day meeting at Xianghe, the first of its kind to bring together referees, club managers and team coaches, to address the possible problems in the upcoming season.
"Then, there must be a crackdown on gambling and the stadium security has to be maintained," he added.
A further strive was also made by the association, promising to donate six million yuan (US$0.78 million) to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation for their Warming China project, which aims to help out those poverty-stricken cancer patients for free.
"I hope this could help create a positive image for China soccer, which drew too much criticism in the past few years," said Li Jinyu, an international from top-flight club Shandong Luneng, who acts as image ambassador for the project.