A Look into Football Development in China
Del Castillo Morales, Andres
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The following paper is a guide through the history of football in China. It examines the origin of football, since its earliest form found in Chinese ‘cuju,’ its disappearance and unconvincing recognition as a birthplace of football. The paper will also follow the reappearance of Association Football, along with the first attempts to develop the sport. Chinese football would be highly benefited by political allies in the early stages of football development, a theme that would become prominent in Chinese football throughout its history. Until recently, efforts led by President Xi Jinping looked to focus on developing Chinese football in a way that none did before, targeting a massive creation of playing spaces and most importantly, targeting the world’s view on football. Many look at Chinese football as underdeveloped and overfunded, with its league attracting major superstars looking to cash in on their final years of their career while doing the bare minimum. After the success of China in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Xi Jinping showed discontent at the state of Chinese football. Why was the level of football so low, when other sports were performing well? Football is the biggest sport in the world. ‘The beautiful game’ reaches every spot in the world, with its parent organization, FIFA, having more active national associations (211) than the United Nations has delegations (193). The ‘apolitical organization’ has been involved in more than its fair share of politically charged situations, impacting the development of football around the world. China has been negatively impacted by missing out on almost 22 years of FIFA membership. Its population was kept away from the advancements in the game that were being practiced elsewhere. As football was neglected for so long, sporting focus shifted towards other disciplines in which the nation could achieve success. Some believe the state of Chinese football is doomed to fail. Theories point towards cultural aspects ingrained in daily lives. I think that argument is ridiculous. As China opens up, moving away from restrictive policies that used to restrict international collaboration, the population is presented with many opportunities to engage in cultural aspects that they would have never been able to in past regimes. Below, I describe why I believe the Chinese Football Federation is on the right track to becoming a footballing power, and provide evidence based on current footballing powers and their methods.