There are some really great signs, and some ones that portend trouble ahead.
First, on the good signs, of the three games I’ve seen on television I’ve been hugely impressed by the sportsmanship of the East Asian women’s teams and downright distressed by the clawing, shirt-tugging, tripping, shoving, jawboning and other ill behavior by the European and North American teams.
Players from North Korea, China and Japan have all played hard, disciplined soccer (okay, football, if you’re non-American) in a gracious fashion. It is like watching sporting events from the past.
Now, to the not-so-good. Read this excerpt translated in the EastSouthWestNorth blog about Chinese fan behavior at Monday’s China-Japan women’s match in Hangzhou. China may have historical reason to resent Japan, but the anti-Japanese feeling still in the air can be surprising to an outsider (in this case, me). Here is the excerpt:
“The 40,000 mostly Chinese spectators were virtually one-sided on the side of Germany. Whenever, Germany attacked, they cheered; whenever Germany stopped the Japanese attack, they clapped. When Germany scored, a huge German flag appeared in the stands. The unfriendliness of the Chinese spectators towards the Japanese reflects a certain unhealthy attitude that had been on display repeated in the past.
“Next year, the 29th Olympic Games will take place in Beijing. Chinese and Japanese athletes will be competing against each other. If the Chinese spectators continue to display these anti-Japanese sentiments, it will damage the international image of China as well as Sino-Japanese friendship. The purpose of the Games is the pursuit of excellence AND the promption of international friendship and world peace. To boo specific teams is against the spirt of sports and will earn the condemnation of world opinion.”
Then there is the really big elephant in the room, a spying case that should have just about every foreign Olympic team sweating hard about coming to China.
“I have never experienced a case like this,” Danish Football Association chairman Allan Hansen was quoted as saying by Danish media, according to this AFP story. “It is grotesque that two Chinese men can sit behind a mirror and videotape the final meeting for the Danish women’s national team before their match against China. I am in no doubt that FIFA and the Chinese police now know who the two men are.”
Chinese police refused to arrest the men, and FIFA, the sport’s governing body, has declined to say anything public about the matter. China went on to defeat Denmark 3-2, and made it into the next qualifying round. Read more about the case here and here.
In the minds of China’s competitors, I bet this case will linger on.