Sycophantic handout to China football is a dangerous game for the United Kingdom
Chinese fans know football requires first aid not foreign aid to save the game from grubby politics and egomaniacal billionaires
Rewind to a year ago when then chancellor of the British government George Osborne was in China kowtowing like a Texas nodding donkey as he sought to cement the new golden era of Sino-UK economic ties.
Among the many flagship initiatives he used to sell (or sell it out, depending on your view point) the UK to China, was handing over £3 million (HK$30.7 million) of British taxpayers’ money to teach the Chinese how to play football.
He said the cash would fund training for a new generation of football stars; the money would flow through the Premier League and British Council’s ‘Premier Skills’ scheme, which since 2008 has helped teach the beautiful game in poor countries from Afghanistan to Zambia.
MPs and the media were in an uproar, declaring that giving UK taxpayers’ cash to the second richest country on earth, at a time when budgets for grassroots football in Britain were cut to the bone because of austerity, was a “tragically daft” waste of money.
Osborne insisted it was good value for money because it would “significantly increase” the country’s awareness of English football. He didn’t mention the sycophantic handout was really a large dollop of grease to rub into the palms of football-mad Xi Jinping, but we all knew what George meant.
After a few stinging headlines and growls of disapproval, the cash aid and its controversies were swept under the carpet.
Today, UK taxes continue to weave their magic across China’s football pitches, helping the Middle Kingdom to become a football powerhouse to rival the Premier League and, who knows, beat England in a World Cup final on Chinese soil a couple decades from now.
Those demanding an immediate stop to Osborne’s double whammy of madness – handing the UK’s nuclear power security and football secrets to the Chinese – might find comfort in the very real possibility that at least the golden UK tap funding Beijing’s goal-rush ambitions will likely get the red card.
The new Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, this week outlined her no-nonsense approach to foreign aid.
Before taking up her new post, Patel declared in 2013 that she would disband the crazy almsgiving Department of International Development and instead use its budget to foster schemes that are in the British interest, such as helping less developed Commonwealth (aka former colonies) countries to become future trading partners.
Of course, since her appointment she has done a good job of impersonating a Kowloon taxi doing a U-turn on Des Voeux Road.
That said, Patel has declared war on the foreign aid madness. Here is just one of the scathing lines from her maiden policy announcement: “It rightly infuriates [UK] taxpayers when money that is intended for the world’s poorest people is stolen or wasted on inappropriate projects. I am infuriated.”
City tour: Did Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron miss a trick in football walkabout with Xi Jinping?
Watch out, then, Chinese football. Enjoy your final tour, the Ethiopian Spice Girls.
And those scientists using UK cash to curb excessive flatulence in Columbian cattle better make haste; the same goes for the Kenyan “rain-makers” who predict the weather by watching the movement of ants and measuring the wind using the tops of earthenware bottles.
There are worse abuses and abusers of the UK’s generosity. Corruption sees billions of UK aid siphoned into the pockets of bent officials from Pakistan to Rwanda, and Britain is still throwing money at space-bound India.
But still, handing over £3 million to money-bags China – which also claims to have invented the game – when UK grassroots football can hardly afford to re-seed the muddy goal area is a ridiculous state of foreign affairs.
The money would be better spent in areas like Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast – hotbeds of British football, and where there are thousands of people who are desperate to become coaches and be coached.
A year on, Osborne’s much-maligned Chinese football handout has revealed its true purpose: a very expensive photo opportunity.
Chinese fans know Chinese football requires first aid not foreign aid to save the game from grubby politics and egomaniacal billionaires with questionable stashes.
Osborne’s nonsense about the UK taxpayers’ money “significantly increasing” China awareness of English football exposes the folly for what is: an insulting, ludicrous joke.
Every weekend the biggest names in the world’s game dazzle and inspire millions of Chinese; it’s up to them to get off the sofa and lobby their own leaders for development funds, or raise it themselves.
Never mind who has the finger on the UK’s on/off nuclear power button – paying our taxes to China to help them one day beat us at football is a far more dodgy game.