Qatar World Cup makes Chinese netizens dream of a stronger national football team

Starting in November this year, the world’s most famous football tournament, the World Cup, has begun. Due to the climatic conditions of the hosting country, the World Cup Qatar 2022 is taking place during winter, making it the first winter World Cup in the Northern Hemisphere. Through social listening, we read the pulse on Chinese netizens’ perceptions and discussions about the Qatar World Cup.

Here is what Chinese netizens are saying about the World Cup Qatar 2022

Although the Chinese football team once again failed to participate in the World Cup, in the week leading up to the tournament, World Cup searches on Baidu spiked 362% and peaked on the opening day.

Baidu Search Index for the “Qatar World Cup”

Qatar World Cup
Source: Baidu Index, search index for “Qatar World Cup” on Baidu

On Zhihu, the Chinese Quora, netizens described the Qatar World Cup as ‘Ragnarok’, or the “twilight of the gods” because it is going to be the last time some of the most iconic football players of our times join the competition.

Qatar World Cup 2022
Source: Zhihu, The founder of a football news outlet sharing his opinion about the Qatar World Cup

Many users shared their expectations towards the Qatar World Cup on Zhihu. One comment by Yanqiang, the founder of the football news MCN Sike Sports (肆客体育), says: “Which god will be the winner in their last World Cup? Which new star will hold the sceptre in this World Cup? This is going to be the last time for Messi, Ronaldo, Modric, Benzema, Lewandowski, and Busquets in the World Cup. The Qatar World Cup will be the last play of Millennial football players and the first play of many Gen Z players.”

Source: Douyin, Netizens sharing their videos about the World Cup in Qatar

On another popular Chinese platform, Douyin, videos with the hashtag #The Qatar World Cup -Twilight of the gods# also went viral. Especially before the 1/8 finals, traditional teams like Germany, Poland, Welsh, Belgium, and Uruguay were all knocked out. Some users on Douyin commented, “The Twilight of gods has already seen many strong teams leaving the game. It’s time to say goodbye, goodbye Neuer, Müller, Cavani, Suárez, Bale, De Bruyne….”. For most of the netizens, what’s different from all the previous World Cup is that “Leave the World Cup without regrets” is the main tagline of this World Cup.

The excellent performance of traditional Asian teams raises concern for China’s national football team

After two weeks of intense action, the group stage of the Qatar World Cup is done. With the advent of the knockout rounds comes a unique feat for teams from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) — three out of six Asian nations have made it pass the group stage for the first time ever. Japan and South Korea miraculously beat the odds to survive in the death group and defeated strong European teams, including the former World Cup champion (Spain and Germany) and the last European Cup winner-Portugal.

Qatar World Cup 2022
Source: Douyin, Netizens’ comments under the video of Japan beating Germany during Qatar World Cup

After the match between Japan and Germany, netizens who watched the entire game raised concerns about the Chinese national football team. Under a video of highlights of the match, netizens expressed disappointment and sadness for the Chinese team. Many netizens maintained a pessimistic attitude, commenting “Huge gap between the Chinese team and the other Asian teams”.

The failure of the Chinese Football Association

Xi Jinping wants China to become “a first-class football superpower”. Although the Chinese government put so much effort and money into supporting domestic football, the CFA has been heading the wrong way.

In 2019, CFA officially launched the naturalisation policy and naturalised some foreign players who had great performances in the Chinese Super League. However, the high investments did not bring high returns to CFA, and the Chinese national football team failed to qualify for the World Cup again. CFA’s naturalisation policy seems to backfire massively.

qatar 2022
Source: Douyin, Netizens’ comments under the video of the new coach of China’s national football team

Netizens call for the Chinese government to act

Moreover, during the World Cup, Li Tie, the ex-coach of the Chinese national football team was accused of corruption. Over 168 million US dollars was found under Li Tie’s illegal personal bank account. He was found to have used his position as head coach of the national football team to abuse his power by requiring players to sign with the agency he worked with. Meanwhile, after Japan and Korea made it through the group stage and safely progressed to the 1/8 finals, Chinese netizens were jealous and furious. They were astonished by the development of Japan’s and Korea’s national football teams, and disappointed with the Chinese national football team.

On the other hand, China is already home for the world’s largest football school, which is worth 185 million US dollars and educates over 2,800 students per year. Many social media influencers and netizens condemned the CFA, costing over a billion RMB every year but getting no return. In comparison with well-established Asian football teams, many netizens pressed the government to launch new policies to reconstruct the CFA and the Chinese national football team.

Key takeaways of netizens’ reactions to the Qatar World Cup

  • The Qatar World Cup 2022 has caught the attention of Chinese netizens. Several netizens poetically described this World Cup as the “twilight of the gods” since it is going to be the last global championship for many renowned football stars.
  • The excellent performance of well-established Asian teams has triggered pessimistic views towards the Chinese national football team.
  • China’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar has highlighted the limit of the CFA, and induced netizens to call for a total makeover.

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