It just seems to go from bad to worse for soccer in China. Former soccer boss Xie Yalong and two other Chinese Football Association (CFA) officials being taken into police custody has further fueled the belief that the game in this country is rotten to the core.
Thorough restructuring and an all-round reform of the game's organization are badly needed if China wants to achieve even an iota of success internationally.
The latest trio makes it a total of nine CFA officials who have been arrested on corruption charges or are being investigated in the past 10 months. Xie is also the second former CFA head, after Nan Yong, to be involved in the anti-corruption sweep as a maelstrom of scandal has engulfed the country's soccer circles.
While the custody of Xie has displayed China's determination to fight corruption, it also shows just how rotten the apple of Chinese soccer may be.
Meanwhile, Chinese internet media has reported that Cui Dalin, the former deputy director of the State General Administration of Sport, or China's sports ministry, and in charge of Chinese soccer, is also "assisting the police" in their investigations, although he denies he has been contacted by lawmen.
Many are now questioning how some of these people get crucial posts at the CFA.
Half a year has passed since Nan was arrested. Fans are getting anxious, and that will worsen if the sweep comes to nothing. Since last November, when the corruption crackdown kicked off, we have seen tangible evidence of the central government's determination to fight corruption and its commitment to revitalize soccer.
Rome was not built in a day.
Fans fantasized that the corruption tumor could be removed by the efforts of soccer's inner sanctum. But the harsh reality is that it has failed us to date.
The ongoing crackdown gives fans little hope of a revival in Chinese soccer, although the national team is making tangible progress on the pitch.
I just hope new soccer boss Wei Di, who moved to his current position from the China Aquatic Sports Administrative Center, will be as successful as he was when he managed his aquatic athletes to three Beijing Olympic gold medals.
Wei has already stated China should bid for the World Cup in 2026. But first, we want to see his ability to stamp out corruption at the CFA and his implementation of down-to-earth measures to revitalize China's soccer.
As for hosting the World Cup, let's be realistic.
I believe China should bid for the World Cup to satisfy millions of fans and some ambitious officials, but FIFA must refuse it unless corruption is mostly, if not totally, stamped out and that the much-needed reforms are fully implemented.
The author is China Daily's chief sports commentator, who has been following China's sports over the past 26 years. He can be reached at email@example.com
(China Daily 09/15/2010 page23)