Chinese soccer given red card
China's press called for urgent reform of the country's football system Thursday and berated the sport's governing body after the team's humiliating failure to make the 2006 World Cup finals.
Their disastrous exit came despite beating Hong Kong 7-0. It proved in vain, with Kuwait progressing from Asian Group 4 qualifying by virtue of having scored one goal more, 15 to China's 14.
"Chinese football kills itself," screamed the Beijing Youth Daily.
"Nothing can be worse than that, the Chinese team won by seven goals but still can't qualify," it said.
"China's luck was used up by Milu three years before," it added, referring to former coach Bora Milutinovic, who steered the team to their first World Cup finals appearance in 2002.
"Haan cannot save a weak Chinese football team. It's no use crying, start self-treatment now."
The Beijing News took a similar tack, saying "Chinese football has died many times, but hasn't been reborn".
Coach Arie Haan, who took over from Milutinovic, was the major casualty of China's World Cup exit, hanging up his tracksuit.
Sina.com, one of the major websites in China,severely criticized Haan's match tactics.
"His hackneyed 4-4-2 formation was too conservative for a match that needed such a big score. Everything points to the fact that China deserved to lose through over-caution."
"Chinese football is much like Monk Tang and his disciples in the novel 'Journey to the West', who had to experience a lot of difficulties," sighed the Beijing Morning Post. "It seems that our football team has suffered even more frustrations than them.
"Having seen an almost discarded Chinese football team during the last match, people need to realize it is high time to find a direction for it."
While some newspapers blamed him for the disappointment, others trained their sights on the China Football Association (CFA) and the players.
"The CFA, as a manager, should be blamed," said the Beijing Times, saying the players were paid too much and new talent was not being brought through.
"Chinese football players earn lots of money but their skills and competence don't up to their salaries. They are becoming more and more impulsive," it said.
"We can see the lack of good forward players. Hao Haidong, a 34-year-old, still occupies a position in the team's main force. Although he is excellent, his energy, physical power and injuries are undermining his football life.
"China can't make breakthroughs excessively relying on him.
"We need to improve the competence of Chinese football by playing down the impulsive attitude, practicing basic tactics, and hiring a smart coach."
China Sports Daily also pointed out that a lack of steady basis in the training of Chinese footballers is the major factor which caused the current disaster.
"We haven't made enough efforts in the root of Chinese football - development of teenage footballers," it cried. "We should carry out deeper football reforms and focus on our young footballers in the coming years."
China faces an uphill battle to raise its game.
Not only are they out of the World Cup and without a manager, but the domestic league is in crisis amid allegations of corruption and match fixing. Seven of the 12 league teams last month threatened to walk out if something wasn't done.