China | Football at all compass points on EastSouthWestNorth

James Montague has dissected the “footballing Venn diagram of … political and social hatreds” that constituted the recent East Asian Championships in Chongqing, China (“Football? What Football? The Asian Game Is about Politics,” Guardian Unlimited, Mar 3). Within Asia, Montague concludes, football still comes with political intrigue, readily available in every permutation of a four-team round-robin featuring the hosts plus Japan, South Korea and North Korea.

On Feb 18 in Yongchuan Stadium, China defeated South Korea 3–2 despite a late sending off for captain Li Jie, right. Events confused viewer Wang Xing, who says that when the referee started to confront Li “the CCTV live broadcast suddenly ended.” (© Koki Nagahama |

The refereeing transgressions and pitch warfare further raised the profile of the Mar 26 World Cup qualifier scheduled between the two Koreas in Pyongyang. Diplomatic intervention has been required to work through match protocol, especially the display of flags and playing of anthems. [Update: As of Mar 7, FIFA has directed that the match be moved to Shanghai.] As Montague points out, the DPRK’s football program remains “pretty much the only envoy from the Stalinist dictatorship that travels outside its tightly controlled borders.”

Still more curious information can be mined from the East Asian event (Feb 17–23), which had a parallel women’s competition featuring the same nations. Roland Soong of EastSouthWestNorth translates a bizarre report from Southern Metropolis Daily of Guangzhou that characterizes Chongqing supporters—indeed, the entire male populace—as overcompensating for a perceived lack of male virility (Zhang Xiaozhou, “Do Him! Do Him! Chongqing Is a City That ‘Does’ Stuff,” Feb 22).

So now you understand why Chongqing has become the home of the “hard-on,” why the Chongqing fans need to yell “Get it up!” and why there is the need for several tens of thousands of men to gather and yell “Get it up!” in unison. For the purpose of suppressing the fan hostility against the Japanese team, the event organizing committee intentionally raised signs such as “Polite Chongqing, Sincere Chongqing” at the China-Japan game. However, there was no denying that the true slogan for the city of Chongqing was “Get it up, Chongqing!”

Follow-up reports by the Chongqing Evening News questioned the author Zhang’s motivations and said that Chongqing residents would sue. On Feb 26, the Southern Metropolis Daily printed a brief apology.

The women’s half of the tournament also had its strange media subplot, again made available in English through Soong’s website. CCTV viewers were dumbfounded when the broadcaster, without explanation, cut to commercial late in the China–South Korea match (“The Chinese Women’s Soccer Game That Never Finished,” Feb 28). Chinese message boards speculated that producers wished to minimize controversy over a sending off for Li Jie, who allegedly then protested by interfering with a corner kick. (The official match report does not mention the incident.) But a yWeekend article, in Soong’s translation, said that confusion over satellite times forced a novice production crew to air commercials before the match had finished or risk losing advertising revenue.

Whatever the truth, China Central Television producer Zhu Ping offers valuable insight into circumstances that might force the government subministry to suspend programming during sporting events. The broadcaster makes such provisions for unexpected political content, violence or broadcasting error. Allowance is even made for

immoral behaviors such as nude running and spitting. Such scenes are not permitted to be shown. Once, I was on night duty and a naked man suddenly ran onto the field in a European league game. All of us exclaimed, “This is unacceptable.” We are all strongly sensitive to such scenes.

But broadcasters apparently fell asleep at the switch during commentator Huang Jianxiang‘s notorious outburst at the 2006 World Cup (see 29 Nov 06):

For Huang Jinxiang’s impassioned speech, our leader said that the producer should have immediately lowered the volume of his voice so that people can watch the screen and not listen to the words. Then the producer should contact Huang immediately and ask him to stop. But Huang Jinxiang is a veteran at CCTV with a great deal of fame. So nobody expected that he would launch such a surprising tirade. However, his final sentence “Australia, get lost” already had the volume lowered by the producer. Afterwards, the channel clarified that what Huang Jinxiang said was his personal opinion which did not represent CCTV.

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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