The title is a phone conversation overheard in the streets after the China-Korea men’s soccer match. Not for 32 years has China beat Korea in a men’s soccer match. So when China beat Korea 3-0, Chinese soccer fans essentially went crazy with media saying it is a win of “historical importance.” The win has also wiped out the continued talk of “Koreanphobia” within the men’s soccer team, due to 27 consecutive non-wins in the past 32 years.
Having battled with problems of corruption and gambling, the men’s soccer team had finally re-discovered their confidence and ambition. Among Chinese soccer fans, there is a joke about the men’s soccer team. It goes something like this:
A man prays to God everyday and one day, God finally decides to listen to him and fulfill his wishes.
The man first requests, “God, I wish for world peace.”
God says, “Hm…that might a bit hard. Ask for something else.”
The man then asks, “Ok, well then let the Chinese men’s soccer team win the World Cup.”
God thinks for a while, and says, “Hm…why don’t we just try world peace.”
So, the Chinese men’s soccer team is pretty much universally deemed to be terrible and hopeless, and if you had asked any Chinese person a few days ago, no one would have said that China had any hope of beating Korea. Even Wen Jiabao says that “if the team were to gain confidence from winning, that is more valuable than gold.”
This article from Sohu hypothesizes about the reasons behind the win:
Perhaps it is all the anti-corruption and anti-gambling efforts that brought confidence, perhaps it was the tie with Japan that boosted their morale, perhaps Wei Zhangmen’s call for “no target” removed some unnecessary pressure, or perhaps it was the media’s indifference that increased their self-esteem.
I talked with a Chinese friend about this win and he says that it is giving hope to China in more ways than just soccer. The main problem with the soccer team has always been the system, there hasn’t necessarily been anything wrong with the players themselves. So, if the soccer team’s battles with corruption and gambling were so successful, this means that China’s other problematic systems also have hope for improvement and even success.