The story of football in China really is something to behold. It goes like this:
The Chinese government realised a while back that most sports at which the Chinese excel are individual sports like table tennis, rather than team sports like football. But they realised that for the economy of China to develop further and further they needed to promote team work and team spirit. So they decided to invest in football. Big time.
The idea was that by encouraging football they would not only improve the co-operative outlook of their countrymen and women, but also the lives of everyone in the country.
So every school now plays football. But this is not like we do it in England with an FA that pretends to promote youth football, but actually is so negligent that even Sport England loses patience and removes its funding.
No, China goes for it big time – and then starts making clubs pay additional taxes for all foreign players in the teams.
But now, here is a new development. Because Tyias Browning of Everton, who played for the England under 21s has become Jiang Guangtai – a Chinese citizen. And there is Nico Yennaris who played for Arsenal under 23s and is now a Chinese citizen known as Li Ke who recently played for China against Guam.
Of course such matters by and large are ignored by the national press, not least because there are very few areas in which they can criticise Arsenal within such an article. And if there is no Arsenal knocking to be had, then it is not much of an article.
Except the Guardian did manage to find a way, as they discovered that Nico Yennaris played in a game against Everton under 23 at London Colney some years ago, and Arsenal beat Everton 4-1. And they have found (or at least alleged for I have not bothered to go through the records since they don’t give us the exact date) Shkodran Mustafi was in the Everton defence, and apparently the goals against were all his fault.
So there we are, even the development of Chinese football can be found as a way of knocking Arsenal.
But it could be something else. For the FA is funded by the British government, and the British government pays lip service to the notion that the FA should be supporting young players, providing pitches that are fit for purpose, providing all-weather grounds, and overall encouraging youngsters to get active.
But are they? No, there is no evidence that they are doing that at all.
And this is where a campaigning newspaper like the Guardian, a paper with a strong social conscience in most matters, could really start to develop a theme, blaming the FA for its grotesque failure at developing grassroots facility, and calling it to account.
But they don’t. Indeed when Untold broke the story about how Sport England was withdrawing funding from the FA for youth football because it had not been spending the money it had been given on new facilities for young players, the Guardian didn’t even cover that story at all.
Why is this? Why sneak in silly little comments about Mustafi when the key issue is the failure of the FA to spend money granted to it on community facilities?
One can only wonder. But one thing is clear. If there is a chance to knock Arsenal, then that opportunity overrides everything else, no matter how important.
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