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Women's soccer and the Olympics

Womensoccer1 A major sporting event is taking place in China now, Women’s World Cup soccer, and it isn’t a big stretch to use it as a distant mirror for next summer’s Beijing Olympics.

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.

Womensoccer2 On Sept. 12, before a critical women’s match between China and Denmark, Danish officials said they discovered two men in an adjacent room filming a strategic team meeting through a one-way mirror.

“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.

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Comments

fence sitter

Actually the Japanese also use the "must win" banner when they play sport. So don't read too much into it. They are all as annoying as "USA USA" and "Aussie Aussie Aussie, oi oi oi"!

sleepy

Actually, i think it's pretty common for people to be fiercely anti-another nation ESPECIALLY during soccer. For some reason, soccer fans seem to be really rabid.

I've read tons about racism in european soccer, mostly by fans screaming insults at players from other countries.

And before you protray the japanese team as victims, I should mention that I was in japan for the 2003 fifa world cup (i think it was 2003). Anyways, it was the game that was hosted by Japan and Korea. The people at my high school literally cheered when players on other teams were hurt. I was really shocked because 1)I'm not a huge sports fan and 2)Japanese people are usually so composed. I had commented that it was sort of wrong to cheer when other players are hurt but people paid me no heed.

dchan

The fact of the matter is, two apparently Chinese men were caught videotaping behind a two-way mirror. What were they doing there and who are they?

The constant booing that Japanese teams get in China is no surprise, given that the same thing happens every time a Japanese team plays in China. Does anyone remember the 2005 Men's final when a Japanese ambassador's car was attacked by an angry Chinese crowd?

The Olympics will be interesting indeed.

anonymous

I went to the U.S./Nigeria game on September 18th and I can say that the sentiment, although not as serious, was similar to the Japan/Germany game referenced in the post. The crowd was decidedly anti-American. Despite there being a rather small Nigerian contingent (about 50-100), the overall majority of the crowd (I would estimate well above 90%) was cheering for Nigeria. Every time Nigeria touched the ball, there was a cheer. Every time the U.S. lost the ball, there was a cheer. When an "injured" Nigerian player came back onto the field, there were cheers from all over the stadium. If an American player went down, the crowd was virtually silent when that player came back onto the field.

Let's face it, there's no such way for these people to separate their emotions from sport. Any notion that Chinese can do so is absolutely false.

And the chants of "USA! USA! USA! are not annoying. It's not the fault of Americans (most of which are students) that they care enough to buy tickets, go to the stadiums, and root for their country. You should try it sometime, or maybe you just don't really care for whatever country you call home.

Pffefer

The writing on the banner/scarf means "Go team China". Could anybody tell me why this is a problem?

Not so much worse than the annoying "USA! USA! USA!" chant.

Pffefer

It's amazing that the author of this blog, Tim Johnson made a big fuss about the "incident" involving the Danish and the Chinese women's soccer teams. First off, have you heard about New England Patriots' alleged spying over the Jets? Should people be concerned about the sportsmanship of the Americans and maybe the US should be banned from hosting future Olympic Games? Secondly, did you know what the nasty Danish coach did later on? The middle finger. Some sportsmanship.

China Law Blog

Come on. This is soccer, not golf or tennis. "Shirt-tugging, tripping, shoving, jawboning" is exactly how the game is meant to be played.

nanheyangrouchuan

Tim:

Before going on about the "thugishness" of the western women's soccer teams remember that they are trained along the same lines as the men's teams and that while the western women tend to use more upper body force the Asian teams use more leg clipping and some of them also like to use Italian tactics and fall down crying in a stiff breeze.

Secondly, the Chinese women's team is far more capable than the men's team so the Chinese crowds may not feel the need to "rally" the girls as much. Let's see how things work out when the S. Koreans, Japanese, European US or S. American teams are whipping the PRC men's team 4-0 at half time.

otherlisa

My Chinese isn't great, but doesn't mean, "China's Team Is Sure To Win" or "China's Team Cannot Fail"?

anonamouse

You forgot an excerpt from the article you cited at:
http://www.zonaeuropa.com/200709.brief.htm#058

Read the last paragraph and look at the accompanying picture:
"In the Germany-Japan game, the Japanese women were praiseworthy. They lost the game and were eliminated as a reult. After the game, the Japanese players poured out into the field and took out a banner which said "Arigato 谢谢 China" -- Thank you, China in three languages. Then they bowed to the spectators, who stood up and applauded them. May this be an example for the Beijing Olympics.
"

Read the last two sentences in the paragraph again:
"Then they bowed to the spectators, who stood up and applauded them. May this be an example for the Beijing Olympics."

chriswaugh_bj

Fair point, Xiao Zhu, but is the meaning any different?

Xiao Zhu

I think it is worth pointing out that the Chinese on the banner which says 'Fight for the motherland' is different from the English. The Chinese says 'China must win'.

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