Olympics 2008: Soccer in China

Soccer has been an Olympic sport since the beginning of the 20th century. China has previously received relatively little attention at both the Olympic Games as well as in the international football tournaments. The only title won until now was won by the women’s team in 1996; a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Although China did not qualify for the World Cup 2006 in Germany, there was nevertheless clear enthusiasm was perceptible in the air in Beijing. Many inhabitants of Beijing slept during the day so they could watch the matches live due to the time difference. As a result, during the World Cup there was far less traffic congestion and the number of emergency calls fell by approximately 11 per cent.

In order to improve the performance to the Chinese Soccer team for the Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing, the Chinese Soccer Association hired Serbian coach Ratomir Dujkovic in October 2006. The 60 year old coach helped Ghana to reach the round before the quarterfinals of the World Cup 2006. His aim is to help China to reach at least the semi-finals of the Olympics in 2008. Dujkovic brings with him many years of coaching experiences at teams such as Venezuela, Burma, Rwanda and Ghana.
It is seen by some as astonishing that the largest country by population has not yet managed to produce one football superstar. In order to encourage more Chinese to play soccer, the new coach Dujkovic made a bold claim at the beginning of his office, “My personal dream is reaching the finals and winning the gold medal.”
There is clearly still work to be done, especially when considering China’s current position of  75th on the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) world rankings (as of March 2007). Despite this low placement, the Government’s training programme, which prepares the athletes of all sports for the Olympic Games 2008, has not yet exerted any significant effect in soccer.  

It is difficult to predict how successful China will be in soccer at the Olympics in 2008. However, the Chinese team will have the home advantage and will be the only team with the ‘twelfth player’ on the pitch.

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