Why Chinese are fanatics for international football

According to Zhou Huiying of Central News Agency, people living outside of China do not understand how fanatical the Chinese people are about the World Cup. Shortly after the beginning of the tournament on 9 June there were several suicides of Chinese fans because their favorite team lost. This, he wrote, is more difficult to understand as "the team that lost was not the Chinese team, which failed to even make the playoff cut."

How did this enthusiasm for international football begin in China? Just after the isolation and mayhem of the Cultural Revolution, mainland China began live broadcasts of world football games in 1978. Then, on 18 October 1981, the Chinese national team beat the favoured Kuwaiti team by three to zero in the World Cup Asia preliminary tournament. That evening, local university students' emotions were boiling over.

"Youths headed by the students from Beijing and Tsinghua Universities marched in the streets, celebrating a seldom seen victory for the Chinese team. Beijing University students shouted out 'Strengthen China,' which connected the ball game to a sense of the rise and fall of the country. The People's University did not allow students to participate in the rallies; the doors were locked. Unable to control their emotions, some students crawled out of the apartment windows to join the parade for this rare celebration," Zhou explained.

"Some say that the student parade that evening was the first spontaneous student movement since the Chinese Communist Party took over in 1949. Since then, fans' enthusiasm is growing more intense with each World Cup playoff," he added.

See also: Chinese broadcaster apologises for anti-Aussie call (28 June)