Trying to introduce Karl Marx to football is a rather abstract idea, some might even consider it funny. The Monty Python’s Flying Circus team certainly did as they used the founding father of Communist thought as a character in their “International Philosophy” sketch, better known as the philosopher’s football match, back in 1972. Marx, as it happens, could not help the Germans beat their Greek counterparts, but the powers that be think it might help Chinese football. The news emerged this week that Chinese Super League players were being schooled in party lore during their time locked in their bubbles in Suzhou and Dalian. In between the pool tournaments and the karaoke sessions there are “thematic party-day learning and education activities” for the domestic players, club staff and match officials who are members of the Communist Party, or hope to be. AFP reported that Shanghai SIPG’s China international goalkeeper Yan Junling “led everyone to study together”, in news released by the league itself. “All party members jointly stated: We must remember the party’s trust in us to … realise the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and meet new challenges with power and youthful spirit.” Elsewhere, Henan Jianye players watched a film called Xi Jinping’s Football Love. The Chinese leader’s love has extended to policy, the Overall Plan for China’s Football Reform and Development, to get Chinese football to become a superpower midway through the century and a Fifa World Cup regular . This is merely the latest stepping stone towards “Football with Chinese characteristics” and should come as no surprise; nothing should in Chinese football, which operated in a bubble long before the coronavirus. The 1st-class Chinese national team military camp finishes today. The 47 players will have a rest before the football training camp in Kunming for intense physical training starts on 25th. Nov. Another 44 players have assembled in Beijing for the 2nd-class military camp. pic.twitter.com/g0n7TM2yUI — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) November 19, 2018 The headline event was undoubtedly the 55-member under-25 military camp in 2018 , where players were taken from their clubs to train with Chinese special forces. There have been other measures such as Guangzhou Evergrande’s desire for re-education for errant managers and self-reflection from fighting players . The Chinese FA issued a directive that naturalised players , such as Elkeson and Nico Yennaris, must know the history of the Communist Party of China. There is an irony to this. As Rowan Simons recounts in Bamboo Goalposts: One Man’s Quest to Teach the People’s Republic of China to Love Football , the grass roots game was effectively banned in China “where for decades it was illegal for more than 10 people to congregate for the purposes of a recreational sporting activity”. Some of the world’s greatest teams – the Magnificent Magyars of Ferenc Puskas’ Hungary – and players – Russia’s Lev Yashin, the only goalkeeper to win the Ballon d’Or – came out of Communist regimes but the importance of the system is unproven. Former Italy striker Cristiano Lucarelli was famed for his Communist beliefs, playing for left-leaning Livorno. Diego Maradona has tattoos of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara to show his fidelity to the Communist cause – Castro is located on the left leg, by the way – but the Chinese FA is anti-tattoo so maybe that is not the best idea to copy. Football and Communism clearly have a rich shared history; aside from inventing the earliest forebear of the game, football and China less so. The men’s team has only qualified for one Fifa World Cup back in 2002 and while the Brazil team that won the 2002 Fifa World Cup was handed parts of Sun Tzu’s Art of War by coach Luiz Felipe Scolari , there’s no evidence that either The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital have helped win any trophies. Coaches will tell you that footballers need messages to be simple for the players to take them on. Does learning the history of the party help or hinder that capacity? Socialist beliefs have been held by some of the game’s great managers – Shankly, Ferguson, Clough – while John Barnes, who starred on the left wing for Liverpool, has argued that the sport itself is socialist. “Football is a socialist sport. Financially, some may receive more rewards than others but, from a footballing perspective, for 90 minutes, regardless of whether you are Lionel Messi or the substitute right-back for Argentina, you are all working to the same end,” former Liverpool star John Barnes told London’s Evening Standard in 2010, ahead of England’s inevitable World Cup failure. If Barnes is right then perhaps China’s players will benefit from the party on the pitch, if not they certainly will off it. With social credit ratings becoming increasingly important, footballers need all the help they can get. Worldwide they are not renowned for behaviour becoming of good citizens and Chinese footballers are no exception . All this will surely make the players better citizens for modern China but will it make them better footballers? Based on their World Cup record it can hardly make them any worse and the only party Chinese football really wants to be involved in takes place every four years.