During my time in China I have noticed that Chinese people are a fairly patriotic bunch.
Whenever a foreign media outlet overly criticizes their motherland they are quick to show their disappointment and contempt.
"Why do you foreigners always criticize China?" one of my Chinese students asked me after class.
Considering we had just ended class with a fun discussion about whether UFOs existed I was a little surprised.
"What?" I shot back.
"You know," the student continued in an overly excited way, "CNN and BBC they always say bad things about our China. Why can't they say something good?"
I calmly began a speech I feel that I have given a thousand times about media bias. It might not have been the answer she wanted, but it was enough to calm her down.
Being a foreigner openly criticizing things in China will probably not get you a lot of smiling faces, unless of course you are moving those overcritical foreign lips of yours to bash the Chinese national football team.
Walk up to any male Chinese friend of yours and give it a try. Instead of a smirk you will get a smile, laugh and most likely a crude joke about Guozu (national team).
Surfing the Net will likely turn up more disparaging remarks. It seems like the combined might of 300 million online Chinese have officially branded the Chinese team as useless.
But why so harsh ... I mean they are the national team after all?
"I am disappointed in them," said a Chinese policeman who I know. "They think they are so good just because they made one World Cup. I don't think they try hard anymore."
Disappointment seems to follow the team everywhere. They have skilled players that play in top European football leagues, but it seems they can never mesh together as a team. They lack creativity and while they aren't weak, their rough game often lapses into a dirty one. As proved when during a 2008 Olympic match against Belgium one Chinese player kicked a Belgian in the crotch.
Let's not even get into other scandals that surround the team. But one would think that with 1.3 billion people at least China would be able to create the football equivalent of Yao Ming. And I am not necessarily talking about Yao's skill, but rather his professionalism. Yao is deeply respected even in my native America for his tireless work ethic.
But it seems some Chinese footballers are more content at showing some bad boy image and "taking baths" between games than committing their undivided attention to improving their skill.
But more than anything else their inconsistency seems to befuddle the hopes of an entire nation. Sometimes they look great, but sometimes they can't even beat a club team from America.
It's a sad story really. As much as I want to tell my Chinese friends, "hey give them a chance". It's just so much more entertaining to bash the Chinese national football team together.