China needs more heroes

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

If you have the money for criminally outrageous football transfer fees like China, what do you do under the apparent guise of promoting the game in a country with more than one billion people?

Well, you flaunt it and poorer counterparts can eat their heart out and make do with fading futbol players in the twilight of their careers.

Recently, the emerging superpower acquired the services of star Carlos Tevez of Argentina—reportedly for a record 38 million euros ($40 million)—and shelled out also a reported 60 million euros for Chelsea’s Brazilian forward Oscar.

The shopping spree is good for the China Super League (CSL) but not necessarily for a country that is miles away from world football respectability, having failed to qualify, for one, in more recent editions of the World Cup from South Africa to Brazil.


In the battle for the Jules Rimet Trophy in Russia in 2018, the Chinese are in a hole in their qualifying games as they attempt to make it to world football’s biggest stage.

The buying binge, which is expected to come to a halt in the next few days from today when the Chinese transfer window ends, at best is good PR for China but an expensive stunt that presumably sets back the careers of one or two home­grown players who have to give way to foreign talents.

Ironically, one of those who has supplanted a Chinese footballer is Javier Patino, a Filipino-Spanish striker for the national football team Philippine Azkals but who suits up for the team only if his club in China—Henan Jianye FC—lets him.

Already a popular Asian player in the Chinese Super League who joined Henan Jianye FC in the 2015 season, Patino’s stock not only with Chinese fans but also China’s top football authorities further rose in March last year when he helped the Azkals stun much-higher FIFA-ranked North Korea, 3-2.

The win did not help Philippine hopes to make it to the next stage of the qualifiers for Russia 2018 but, also ironically, allowed China to live another day for next year’s World Cup.

The Chinese eleven’s passage was eased by its 2-0 conquest of Qatar to end up as one of the four best runners-up from group play and the 28-year-old Patino, whose mother is Filipino, was hailed by Chinese media as a hero on account of the victory in Pyongyang.

Of course, there are bigger foreign players in the China Super League but whose transfer fees probably were not as mind-boggling as Tevez’s or Oscar’s or even Patino’s.

An over-achiever in table tennis, badminton, gymnastics and a few other Olympic disciplines, China, it is feared by experts, with its “astonishing” acquisition streak would end up in tears like the first stab by the United States at building in the 1970s a football league now known as Major League Soccer (MLS).

The MLS has been able to get the likes of David Beckham, who seemed to be past his prime, when he donned the LA Galaxy jersey, and no one else as big or bigger.

Note that China is still smarting from the London Olympics debacle where its basketball team laid a big fat egg that proves that it would take 10 Yao Mings to be a legitimate world basketball power.

In the same vein, it would take more than Teves, Oscar and Patino to make China embrace the beautiful game.

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