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Two wrong feet in China and India

Updated: 2014-07-18 09:45
By Satarupa Bhattacharjya ( China Daily)

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Earlier, at a bar in eastern Beijing, where two friends and I had gone to watch a quarterfinal match between Argentina and Switzerland, I saw a middle-aged Chinese man arrive just before game time along with a younger Chinese man.

Although the place was packed with frenzied people, the older man was ingenious enough to hastily make room for himself, his Apple computer, his two cellphones, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, and the younger man - in that order.

After which, each time Argentina or Switzerland missed an opportunity to score a goal, the senior man would move close to the room's main TV screen and let out a big sigh.

Throughout the match, of course, he had "errand boy" fetching him beers, cigarettes and guarding his gadgets when he went to the toilet.

It wasn't clear which team he silently rooted for but the "boss" looked like someone who was there for the love of the sport.

China last came closest to the World Cup in 2002, when they failed to score in three games in the qualifying rounds. Last month, the Xinhua New Agency described the current national team as "almost hilariously bad".

But the picture was prettier in the early 1990s, when professional soccer clubs were doing well and local players earned money. Subsequently, media reports suggest, corruption set in and corporate sponsorships dried up for a while.

Some commentators, however, argue that soccer has survived graft in other countries.

The Chinese Super League generates interest across the mainland, but top local clubs such as Beijing Guo'an seem to employ many foreign players as I noticed at a match last September.

In India, teams owned by Indian cricketers, Bollywood actors and businesses are set to compete at the Indian Super League's first season later this year. Although in soccer-crazy India, the government is still being urged to free up land to train young players.

"I can provide them (with) a coach and football but where is the piece of land?" D K Bose, president of the New Delhi-based Hindustan Football Club, told Indian news agency ANI last month.

A raft of explanations later, I don't fully understand why China and India remain goalless. But perhaps I will after eating more fries at midnight.

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