China: The end of 32-year-long football “Korea-phobia”?

China’s football (soccer) team beat South Korea by 3-0 in the East Asian Men’s Football Championship in Tokyo on Wednesday. The victory created a storm of euphoria among China’s sports fans and netizens, as South Korea stood at the heart of Chinese football’s decades of embarrassment, corruption and failures. For 32 years, China had been doomed in every battle with South Korea on the football field, generating the so-called ‘Korea-phobia’ that has dominated the cultural imagination.

In cyberspace, this news was immediately met with joy, amazement and even disbelief. The general opinion seems to suggest that the victory did not just happen by chance, but rather through a genuinely brilliant performance. Here are some of the comments left on a video collection of the game’s highlights, which has already accumulated 800,000 views in less than a day.


My father and I say these guys (Chinese players) are all bewitched!

这个是中国足球吗 那脚法 那传球精度 我是不是看错了!!

Is this really China’s football team? That accuracy! That agility! Am I on the wrong channel?


In the morning I heard that the Central Television was ‘censoring’ the national team so that sports fan could have a happy new year. But in the evening, we were met with such a pleasant surprise.


No matter whether or not it really happened, this game was superbly well played!

今天是真拼了 难得见到国足的爷们拿国家荣誉当了回事

These guys are really fighting today. It is so rare to see that those pampered boys on the national team take national pride so seriously.


When I was a kid I did not have access to any football field, so on the weekend I played with my classmates in the middle of the road. We put bricks on both sides to make goals. This is how our generation loved playing football. Nowadays it is hard to see kids playing like this. Go Team China! Do not blame us for not giving you enough love, because we do!

To make the matter more intriguing, this victory actually came in the midst of a high-profile probe into China’s corrupt football system, which included the arrest of the president of China Football Association for match fixing. Blogger Zhu Daming wrote:


One game cannot prove a lot of things, but at least it can bring us back that confidence we have so long lost. There isn’t any lack of talent, yet a terrible environment has turned many talents into mediocrities, corruption and match fixing and has contaminated the soil of China’s football and even the greatest seed cannot flourish in such soil.

Famous blogger and sports journalist Li Chengpeng tries to keep a cool head by questioning the presumption that a single victory means the problems have been finally cured.


The numbers 3-0 will not cure 32 years of Korea-phobia. It means no more than a win itself. It was the same thing 9 years ago when we broke into the World Cup. We claimed then that 44 years of nightmare had been finally cured. We soon realized this only lasted for a few days, and soon afterwards we were literally raped 9-0 in South Korea.


by What is it that we really want, victory or success? Victory was our debut in the World Cup 9 years ago, and is also today’s 3-0 win. Success is different. Success is to get the basics right according to normal human nature and the nature of normal football, just as the Japanese are doing. Success is to treat football as the carnival of a whole nation, as the Brazilians do.


I am very, very, very worried, that this victory will again be exploited as a pretext for more administrative intervention in football. Gao Hongbo (the coach) will be free from the blame of 11 problematic games simply because of this one game. Law does not apply to the powerful, neither will it apply to the victorious. And a huge number of people will agree with this statement.

Many netizens also echo Li’s worries:


Honestly, today’s game was a very good one, at least I hope so. But I think we were just lucky. There is no way out of our problems unless there is substantial change in the system.

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.