The Chinese commentator for whom soccer brought pain

As to Chinese football, Huang, in the 2004 conversation, recalls predicting that China’s final group-stage match in 2002, versus Turkey, would be its last World Cup encounter for 50 years.

Our physical condition is better than that of Japan and Korea—we are taller, stronger and quicker than them. So why can’t we play better than them? It is in the bones—minds aren’t good enough and our spirit isn’t suitable for playing football. The football world can’t accept this. Looking at it from a social and cultural perspective, Chinese people don’t play football well because, unlike Japan and Korea, we don’t have a culture of unity—a selfless and collective spirit. Compared to South America and Africa, we don’t have a wild personality and a passionate freedom—we don’t have anything like this.

On the surface, it seems like we don’t have any individuals. But secretly, we don’t have any unity. We [aren't suited for] this kind of collective sport—for a Chinese person, 11 people in a team is too many! If there are only three to five people in a team, then it’s still possible to work together.

Notwithstanding his implicit dismissal of the success of Chinese women players, Huang shocks the interviewer with his forthrightness. Miao states that, perhaps in contrast to the firebrand U.S. basketball commentator and ex-player Charles Barkley, Huang “should be more tactful and optimistic.”

Superficially, Huang’s outbursts remind us of the overheated locutions of Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean before the 2004 primary season in America. Dean, too, suffered consequences. More relevant, though, the Huang situation (is it a situation?) helps reinforce the observations of EastSouthWestNorth author Soong regarding the many sides of Chinese culture often missed in mainstream English-language accounts. In a 2005 interview with the BBC World Service, Soong says he finds the disparities in representations of China disturbing and aims to present “a different kind of China, a more diversified and a more interesting one at that.”

Multiple media perspectives emerge from the Huang conundrum (is it a conundrum?). One learns, for example, from sites such as Danwei.org that China has generated an influential sphere of instant reaction and text-messaging. In a Danwei posting on Huang’s 2006 World Cup commentary (“Crazy CCTV Football Commentator; Fictional Foreign News?” Jun 27), comments—pro- and anti-Huang—flood in over three days, such that a moderator must close the forum and delete comments “that use descriptions of lecherous … acts to insult either Australians or Italians.” China Daily reports on the “netizens” who have resampled Huang’s narration to create signature ring tones (Xin Dingding, “Sports Host to Tackle Rumors,” Nov 20).

The China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong picks up on Huang’s own defense against the culture of e’gao, translated as “spoofing” and seemingly alluding to an unchecked mockery of celebrity figures. In its translation of an editorial from Southern Metropolis Daily (Nov 21), China Media Project notes the contrast between this freewheeling spirit of e’gao and the zhenggao, translated “rigid correctness,” at CCTV, with Huang allegedly sandwiched between the two (see “Resignation of Popular Sports Commentator Directs Audience Frustration to CCTV’s Political Culture“). The editorial mentions the World Cup controversy and Huang’s resignation to posit CCTV as

not only a “work unit” lying somewhere in between the administrative agency and the corporate enterprise, but … a unit lying between the propaganda agency and the media enterprise. This kind of work unit will naturally display a degree of division in the language it broadcasts, for example the strict and sober News Relay versus the Happy Dictionary game show so well liked by ordinary people, and … investigative programs with a strong sense of social responsibility. But compared with the media domain as a whole, CCTV has a definite air of self-righteous superiority.

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