December 17, 2011

The Soccer Mocker: The Economist gets a kick out of ridiculing Chinese football

As I discussed in my previous post, The Economist has published two special articles about China as part of its special Christmas-holiday double issue. I discussed the first of the two in my last post, and intend to discuss the second one here.

In "Little Red Card", The Economist mocks China's attempts at becoming a proficient footballing nation, and, no pun intended, gets a kick out of it.  Even the mention of the efforts of the Chinese government in this direction, which are indeed noteworthy when they are compared to India (the only country that can actually be compared to China in this regard) is done as if doing a favor.

First of all, the article contradicts itself. It concludes that the reason for this dismal state of football is "not (due to) a lack of passion from the country’s leaders". But a few lines ahead, it seems to have suffered a pang of amnesia and asserts that "obscure" individual sports seem to be pursued more by the authorities the team sports due to the higher number of medals up for grabs!
"But the contradictions and weaknesses of Chinese capitalism have also played a part in the country’s footballing ignominy."
Well, the shoddy state of Indian football (or indeed any sport other than cricket, and perhaps chess, and that too due to only one person) begs to differ. Will The Economist then bray that 'the contradictions and weaknesses of Indian democracy have played a part in the country footballing ignominy'?
Once a theory takes hold, it is always easy to find evidence for it. Whenever something goes wrong in China, people always find a proxy to blame it on. As far as China-related reporting is concerned, this has more to do with their own psychology and preferences about how a country should be run than the actual causes of what went wrong. Hence, all of China's defects are blamed on China's "state capitalism" and/or a cartoonish exaggeration of it. At the state that The Economist is in right now, it would be naive to assume that common sense would prevail in its reporting about China.

 "...China also claims the world’s earliest recorded mention of a sport similar to football, during the Han dynasty in the 2nd century BC. A version of the game cuju, or “kick ball”, involved a single, elevated net and two sides of 12 men."
"After, arguably, more than 2,000 years, China still awaits its first home-grown football star"

And there it is, the author simply couldn't resist it. What relation, pray, does having the first recorded mention of the sport have to with the present state of that sport in China? Perhaps the author assumes that 'inventing' something implies that that country should "rule the world" with regards to it 2000 years later. China also has the world's earliest recorded mention of toilet paper; perhaps it should be chided for not "ruling the world" in manufacturing it.