The sad side of Chinese sport

Updated: 2011-12-29 07:56

(China Daily)

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The nation had a lot to celebrate in 2011, but there were also some seriously disappointing moments. China Daily selects the best of the worst for the year 2011.

The sad side of Chinese sport

Zhang Jianqiang, the former head of the CFA's referee commission, in court on charges of accepting match-fixing bribes on Dec 19 in Tieling, Liaoning province. A list of probably more than 60 former Chinese soccer officials and referees is involved in the nation's biggest sports-related trial, which kicked off on Dec 19. Zhang became the first defendant, facing charges of taking bribes of up to 2.73 million yuan ($431,579). [Li Gang / Xinhua]

1. Soccer sorrow

You've heard this one before.

Chinese soccer was again one of the year's biggest disappointments, as all three national lineups were eliminated from the 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Brazil World Cup.

Things began falling apart in June, when the Under-23 team was booted from qualifying for the Summer Olympics by Oman. Head coach Miroslav Blazevic of Croatia - who replaced domestic coach Sun Wei after the team's group knockout at the Guangzhou Asian Games in November of 2010 - ended his brief coaching stint after the loss.

Three months later, the women's team, which had already failed to qualify for last summer's women's World Cup, erased all hope of a Chinese soccer presence in London with a home loss in the Olympic preliminaries in Jinan, Shangdong province. Coach Li Xiaopeng quit after the loss.

Still, it was the men's team that stirred the most debate.

The Chinese Football Association (CFA) replaced domestic coach Gao Hongbo - who guided the senior team's rise from 108th to 73rd in the FIFA rankings - with Spaniard Jose Antonio Camacho in August after Chinese tycoon Wang Jianlin and his Wanda Group decided to subsidize a three-year contract for a big international hire.

However, under the new coach and his assistants - who are paid more than 40 million yuan ($6.26 million) a year - China again failed to escape an early exit from World Cup qualifying.

It's China's third consecutive failure to reach the last round of Asian qualifiers.

The team's exit puts Camacho at the center of debate. The CFA initially took the blame and stressed the Spaniard's appointment was aimed at the sport's long-term development.

"Objectively speaking, the time was so limited for Camacho and his coaching team," said CFA deputy chief Yu Hongchen. "Any coach in the world, despite his fame and professionalism, needs at least two years to build a team, before the players can comprehend and display his strategy and philosophy on the pitch."

"We won't evaluate the coaching team solely on the national team's result in the World Cup qualifiers," CFA deputy chief Wei Di said at the signing ceremony in August. "Instead, we will work more on basic work, including the rebuilding of the youth development system and the training of domestic coaches."

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