Chinese football authorities have apologised for the national team’s poor showing in 2018 World Cup qualifying, but fans denounced their remorse Monday as missing the goal.
Last week, a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong — when the semi-autonomous territory’s fans jeered the national anthem they share with the mainland — left China hopes of reached Russia 2018 hanging by a thread.
The perennially underachieving national team stand third in their group with two games left and are struggling to reach the next round of Asian qualifiers.
Industry executives, coaches and players felt “the same disappointment and pain” as the fans, and were “deeply sorry and facing enormous pressure”, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) said on its website.
“Given the status quo of a lack of [football] culture and… teams that are not very competitive, it is difficult to expect that early reforms would have an immediate effect,” it added.
Signalling that French coach Alain Perrin’s position could be under threat, it said the organisation would carry out a “comprehensive assessment” of his performance and “seriously analyse” it after supporters called for his dismissal.
The CFA acknowledged that it “cannot escape and will not choose to escape” censure.
Perrin was hired in February 2014 with hopes he could lead China to its first World Cup finals since 2002.
China is the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, and officials have ambitions to host and even win a World Cup, but the team currently languishes in 84th place in the Fifa world rankings, behind Cyprus and Antigua and Barbuda.
“Get out of here,” wrote one social media poster Monday in an expletive-strewn response to the weekend statement. “Is that an apology?”
Another insisted: “Until we qualify, there will be no forgiveness.”
Chinese football long suffered from endemic corruption, with a history of match-rigging and bribery, but authorities have sought to clean up the game in recent years.
One commentator said: “This soccer setback was such a big thing, yet the first thing the CFA thought to do was wash its own hands clean. Just an apology isn’t enough — those who have any face at all should resign, and the CFA should be reformed to the point of being totally reborn.”