At FIFA’s last ‘Big Count’ there were more regular players of football in England (never mind UK) than China, a country with 25 times more people. There are more golf courses than football pitches in Beijing. In 1999 Simons built his own football pitch – there were only 30 in the whole of Beijing – and arranged a league around it, until the rents went up and he had to abandon it. I’ve yet to meet him, but he’s still championing community footie in Beijing and across the country. Meanwhile China is currently ranked 75th in the world, two below Cape Verde Islands. PS. Deng Xiaoping was a biog footie fan: apparently, when he was a student in France in the 1920s, he sold his jacket in order to see a game.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Just finished a book about football in China rejoicing under the above somewhat corny title. It’s by a Brit called Rowan Simons who’s lived in Beijing for 20 years, first as a Chinese language student, then a TV pundit and now chairman of a 'company' called Club Football (www.clubfootball.com.cn). He has been doggedly trying to champion amateur footie in a country which plainly likes football but hasn’t learned to love it. And by that I mean a country which doesn’t really embrace the sport at grassroots level.