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China Loses World Cup Qualifiers, Netizens Lose Their Patience

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On March 29, China’s men’s soccer team lost 2-0 to Oman in the third round of qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The match’s outcome was yet another crushing defeat for Chinese soccer fans.

While a draw against Saudi Arabia on March 24 gave Chinese fans hope of reaching the World Cup, the team failed to manage a single shot on target against Oman, despite a heavy advantage in possession.

The defeat was the last in a series of disappointing performances by the team throughout the qualifiers. Picking up just six points, and recording six losses, the Chinese squad finished fifth in its group, two points ahead of last-place Vietnam.

Chinese fans promptly expressed their frustration on microblogging platform Weibo, with a related hashtag gaining more than 290 million views at the time of writing.

With more than 7,000 likes, one gripe reads, “When will the male soccer team finally be dissolved?!”

Meanwhile, another comment that was liked more than 10,000 times states, “Harsh public opinion is not the reason for poor performances — it is their result.”

China’s men’s soccer team came under close scrutiny earlier this month when former captain Feng Xiaoting uploaded a heated 2,000-word post on Weibo. The tirade was in response to comedian Gong Hanlin’s open criticism of China’s soccer players for their astronomical wages yet poor performance.

Feng reasoned in his post, which has gained more than 100,000 likes, that instead of athletes enduring the humiliation and public hatred alone, fans should also direct their attention to the whole operation — coaches and managers included.

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China’s women’s soccer team celebrate their victory at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup upon returning to Beijing. Image via Weibo

To call China’s soccer players inept would be an unfair statement: Just a month ago, the national women’s team made their country proud by defeating South Korea and taking home the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

Their historic win ignited discussions on gender pay gaps and the general lack of recognition for female pro players compared to their male counterparts.

Many netizens referenced this triumph while mocking the men’s team, and ill sentiment has flared up again after Tuesday’s loss. Many Weibo users have even called for domestic media to replace the term ‘national team’ with ‘male team.’ 

Cover image via Depositphotos

Beatrice Tamagno
Beatrice is a graduate student in sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her writings have appeared on SupChina and ChinaNauts, an online magazine she co-founded with fellow researchers from Fudan. When she is not researching gender in contemporary China, you will find her playing mahjong or binging Chinese TV shows.
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