China is China. You can’t argue with that. They are the second biggest economy in the world and the ones who have showed the biggest growth in the last 25 years. And they came to stay up there for some time. After all, one out of every five people in the world is located in this country. Surely they represent a gigantic market and for as long as they decide that they want to ‘rule’ football, no one will be able to stop them.
The president of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, wants to transform the country into the biggest football world power. That’s an indeed auspicious plan (and even illusory at some point), considering China’s small history within the sport. Ping-pong and basketball are the two sports of much more tradition in the country of 1.4 billion people, now they’re slowly starting to open up to the rest of the world to prove that nothing is impossible. It’s just a matter of time.
In order to reach this goal, China will obviously need to invest astronomical amounts of money, while they’ll be counting on the help of multimillionaire businessmen who will agree on anything in exchange for political gains. Those who condemn the artificiality of such procedure shouldn’t forget that clubs of less history such as Manchester City, for example, who claim to have around 75 millions of followers only in China (!), were built to win at the cost of countless pounds.
Just like with the other leagues that recently tried to grow – USA, Japan and Saudi Arabia, for example – the first step to be taken must be promoting the interest of the football enthusiasts. For that they could build several nice stadiums or offer the lowest priced tickets, but nothing will be as efficient as bringing world class players to these leagues. Preferably attackers, which are commonly worshipped by a mass of supporters that consumes international football like no other people.
In this transfer season Chinese clubs have invested like never before. For Alex Teixeira, Jackson Martinez, Ramires, Gervinho, Demba Ba, Fredy Guarín and Paulinho together they paid 170 million Euros. And that’s just the beginning. It can be guessed that they’ll seal even greater contracts over summer. The SuperLiga is slowly acquiring more and more visibility and fans, and it might as well blow up in case Ronaldo or Messi joins it, as that has already been rumoured. Financial fair-play is definitely not a thing around China. On the contrary: the more money to be invested, the better.
Players being transferred to China and not coming out from packs in FIFA 16 anymore doesn’t seem too bad (not confirmed by EA). After all, they can always be found on the market. However, playing FIFA 17 without some of the players we like the most, such as the beast Ramires – the fastest defending midfielder in the game – would be a mood killer, plus many others will follow the same path. It’s easy to realise that this year the Superliga will most certainly be the most requested new league for the game. EA know better than anyone that they’ll have to buy the licence if they want to keep being the top-sellers – such title acquired back when they first ‘conquered’ the English League’s license. Given the interest that China have in promoting themselves, I’d say this has everything it needs to be the easiest negotiation to ever happen between EA and a league. I wouldn’t be surprised if, instead of EA paying for the license, China paid for them to be included in the game.
In this world where money always speaks louder, it’s no secret that China is willing to do anything in order to one day become the center of international football. In Portugal, for example, they’ve recently bought the second league of football. They not only acquired naming rights but also forced clubs to sign and utilize young Chinese players. It sounds surreal, but this is actually happening. Being aware of how easily EA can be sold out, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if they introduced in the next games of the franchise some new features, such as a specific SuperLiga TOTS, some Chinese stadiums or young players from there as the new wonderkids of the game.
What about you, how do you think this Chinese football growth will affect the next couple of FIFA’s?