China’s sports suits use Fifa World Cup focus to propose Marcello Lippi’s national team join the Chinese Super League

Bizarre move proposed by administrators would damage credibility of domestic game with little obvious benefit to Marcello Lippi’s players

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 8:02am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 July, 2018, 9:03am

Chinese football is already a laughing stock, at least if you watch the country’s recently launched version of Saturday Night Live, but the General Administration of Sport is not helping the sport shed that tag.

While the world was gearing up for the World Cup semi-finals, the GAS took it upon itself to suggest a modest proposal to prevent Chinese football being a burden to its people and country.

Their solution? Have the national team compete in the Chinese Super League.

The GAS is a government body. It is, as its name suggests, responsible for administering sports in China and reports to the State Council. It also oversees the Chinese Olympic Committee.

Ma Dexing, of Titan Sports, regarded as one of the country’s top football journalists, broke the story. It was the same day as Paulinho’s return to CSL champions Guangzhou Evergrande and the day after the CFA Cup. It’s not like there was no football to talk about.

The reported plan has four points:

1. There will be two China teams in the league: Team A and Team B.

2. The clubs will not be allowed to use foreign players when playing these national teams.

3. The A and B teams will be updated every five rounds. Clubs who have players called up will be rewarded a point for each player up to six per round.

4. It could happen as soon as 2019. And there will be no promotion or relegation for that season.

Where do you start when each point seems to get exponentially more insane?

Probably with the fact that while the Chinese Football Association is away the GAS will play.

Zhao Zhen of Soccer News was quick to point out this is not the CFA’s idea but a request from the GAS. The football suits are all at the World Cup. In their absence it seems the general sports suits have been at the drinks cabinet.

It is not an idea that has won any backing from football journalists.

Football Weekly chief editor Fu Yayu scoffed at the notion: “It’s no feat to have the national team play in the CSL – try to get them to play in the English Premier League.”

Universal derision has been the theme of reaction from experts and fans alike, although many of the posts have since been cleaned up, while many have consoled themselves with the firm belief that it will never happen.

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But are they right?

This is not exactly a new idea.

In 2010, then CFA boss Wei Di came up with the same brainwave. He wanted the national under-23 team to play in League One to prepare for the Olympics. For all its faults, the CFA has enough collective common sense to spot a truly horrendous idea and steer well clear.

When no one agreed, Wei offered a tweak. He wanted to have different age groups of the national team play in the top flight, League 1 and League 2. But again, nobody else at the CFA wanted that.

In the pre-CSL days of 1988, the CFA allowed the national B team to compete in the top flight in preparation for the 1990 Asian Games, the first to be held in China.

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China won the league, pipping perennial powerhouses Liaoning with nine wins, four draws and a loss. The countries at the Asian Games provided stiffer opposition and the hosts finished outside the medals.

If the GAS gets its way, there are bigger questions. Where would these China teams finish? Anything less than a 1-2 on the CSL table would surely be the greatest embarrassment on a long list of footballing failures.

Further to that, what’s to stop the national team bosses gaming the system and picking the best players from their upcoming opposition every five games? How would two national teams even work? It’s not as if Marcello Lippi is in the same position as Didier Deschamps for France, where the players he has to leave out of a squad are the envy of most other bosses.

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Most bafflingly, what kind of madness is removing the foreign players – footballers brought in to improve the level of competition in Chinese football – in order for China’s best players to play against their inferior countrymen? That’s the situation. If they are not in one of the two national teams it is because they are not good enough.

That someone thinks this is an idea good enough to raise at a meeting shows a frightening disregard for the causes of the failings of China’s men’s national team.

For it to get to a stage where it has reached the media and has become a topic of discussion – withering or otherwise – is a disaster. Even talking about this seems like a step backwards.

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Hopefully, this nonsense is quashed when the CFA’s top brass returns from Russia but anything is possible, however improbable, when it comes to China. It could be that 2019 is the year that Chinese football jumps the shark.