China’s main governing body for soccer issued an official apology on Monday, in the wake of the national squad’s humiliating and controversial loss against Thailand this month.
In a statement posted on its website, the Chinese Football Association was contrite over an embarrassing 5-1 home-pitch thrashing on June 14, which had led to the sacking of Spanish manager Jose Antonio Camacho on Monday.
The association attributed the team’s defeat to technical and tactical issues as well as a serious underestimation of the opposing team’s playing style and strategy. It also pointed to “lack of morale and heart” from its players.
“The results of the match are inappropriate and unacceptable. They do not reflect the true spirit of the Chinese national team and the level they should be playing at,” the CFA said in a statement, after nearly two weeks of angry public criticism and concerns about corruption and game fixing.
The association's statement stopped short of fully blaming Camacho, as the group earlier had, and said that as Chinese football’s governing body, it would bear the “inescapable responsibility” for the national team’s defeat.
“The Chinese Football Association sincerely accepts this criticism from the masses and its leaders and will work hard to rectify [its problems],” the statement read.
The CFA also said it would change the selection standards for the national team and look for prerequisites in recruits such as “a never-say-die spirit and sense of honour”. Players who perform passively will be excluded from the squad for the East Asian Cup, the CFA said.
The public, however, was not easily placated by the CFA’s statement. On Sina Weibo, the CFA apology was slammed by netizens and fans alike for being long overdue and even insincere.
“The fact the CFA had to write an apology letter after so many days is a telling sign Chinese soccer will never become professional enough,” one user said.
“It is the State General Administration of Sport that should apologise!” another said, referring to the government agency in charge of all sport in the country, as well as the Chinese Olympic Committee.
Some called for the entire dissolution of the team and its management, while others said an apology would never be enough to address the “rot” in Chinese soccer.
“I do not accept this apology. But again, I’ve been used to the frustration and sadness about Chinese soccer for a long time. This is barely a momentary setback,” a post read.
Camacho, a former coach of Spain, was appointed two years ago on a €2.8 million (HK$28.4 million) per year contract in hopes of heralding a new renaissance for scandal-, corruption- and failure-plagued Chinese football. He was tasked to take China's national team to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a noted wish of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But under the 59-year-old Spaniard’s reign, the national team were knocked out early in World Cup qualifying rounds, dropping 26 places in the rankings to 95, and hit a nadir of 109 in March.
The team announced they were terminating Camacho’s contract on Monday and that it was already on the hunt for a new manager. Guangzhou Evergrande's World Cup-winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi is rumoured to be the team’s target as well as the Serbian manager of Wuhan Zall, Ljubisa Tumbakovic.