Before coming to China I expected Kung Fu (功夫 gōngfu) to be omnipresent. It just seemed so obvious to me, having learned everything I know about China from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kung Fu Hustle. In retrospect that was probably not the best way to get to know the true Chinese culture. However, upon arriving at my host family my host brother immediately asked me if I played football (足球 zúqiú). I soon realised that football is in fact the most popular sport in China (real football, not the American kind). Nonetheless, I was undeterred and I tried to find a place to do Kung Fu. However, my road to success was made even more difficult by the fact that every time I asked someone where I could find a Kung Fu gym they said just go to one of the football courts and play some football. In the end I found a Kong Fu gym, but I was intrigued by the enormous popularity of football, despite the lack of international success at this sport.
So I researched and what I found surprised me. Not only does FC Barcelona have a training facility in Qingdao, the city I was placed in by InternChina, but a football academy has been set up in a Shaolin temple with the intent of incorporating football into Kung Fu. Yes, you read that correctly Shaolin Soccer is now a real thing. On one hand, the school is trying to increase the reputation of Shaolin Kung Fu on and increase the football skill of the citizens. On the other hand, they are combining the physical prowess the monks gain through rigorous training with the precision required to be a good footballer.
In fact this is all part of an effort to raise the standard of the national sport, because although it is the most popular sport in China, the national team is spectacularly bad. I was forced to witness this when watching international friendlies with my host family at dinner. The women’s national team is comparably good on the other hand, reaching the quarterfinals in the last world cup albeit receiving much less public attention. This success is probably a result of football being introduced into the curriculum from a very young age. Previously, talents did not receive the attention they needed in order to prosper into the potent footballers they could have been due to being occupied with school all day all week up to the age of 16. When this problem became apparent though, football was incorporated into daily school life and many schools now have football grounds.
This national initiative to become better at football, promoted by the eager football fan and president of China Xi Jinping, also consists of an increase in transfer funds in order to secure top players in the Chinese Super League, the top tier football league in China. Much of the money probably comes from wealthy businessmen trying to amass political power and general reputation – corruption is a big problem in Chinese football, too. In the 2016 winter transfer window the Chinese Super League spent more than the Premier League. This is more than the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 leagues combined on transfers last year, to record sum of £194 million.
Not all of the money was spent domestically but big clubs also tried to secure international top players. The striker, Alex Teireira, Liverpool’s top target for this winter’s transfer season, was indeed snatched by Jiangsu for the Asian record fee of £38 million. Among the pantheon of world class players recruited this year are names such as Jackson Martinez (£31 million), Ramires (£21 million) and Brazilian striker Elkeson (£13.9 million). Each of these transfers successively broke the record for the highest transfer fees. Cahill, Demba Ba and Gervinho already call the Middle Kingdom home. Oscar was offered £75 million to join Ramires’ Jiangsu, but decided to stay at Chelsea (with Jiangsu he would at least have a chance of winning a trophy this year). The high salaries also add to the lure of the Chinese Super League. Asamoah Gyah earns £243,000 a week, which made him the 8th highest player at this point in time.
At the moment most top players are South-American mainly due to the millions they are offered in China. As they are chiefly from poor families they do not care much for the prestige of the European league. This is very different in Europe where football players are not only chasing the next pay check but also the glory that is so deeply embedded in the football culture. For this reason European players only tend to leave Europe when they are approaching retirement whereas many South-American talents are going to China early on. South-American players near retirement are more likely to go to China, whereas European ones prefer destinations such as the USA. This is likely change, as Xi Jinping has announced that China would be a major footballing nation by 2025 and Rooney, Fernando Torres and Yaya Touré have all been linked with China.
The interest is bilateral though and top clubs such as FC Barcelona have opened academies in China, trying to turn quantity into quality. Some of the biggest European clubs, such as Atletico Madrid are now partially owned by Chinese billionaires who have gained interest in the European football hype and want to secure some of that footballing glory for themselves. Xi Jinping is reportedly a huge ManU-fan (god knows why).
The biggest competition to the Chinese Super League in terms of emerging football markets is the Major League Soccer in the USA. Both Leagues are relying on and prosper by snatching talent from European top clubs. In order to be more attractive for foreign players there is no wage cap on foreign players, whereas in the US only three designated players are allowed to earn more than the maximum cap. Legislation in China is also ever-changing in order to accommodate foreign players. 10 years ago there could only be 3 foreign players per team, now 5 players are allowed.
Considering all these different factors China has the potential to become a major player in international football. This is not limited to the clubs though, but it also includes the national team that is ever-improving. I guess only time will tell, but definitely look out for China in the next few years! You might have to buy plane tickets to China in the next few years as Xi Jinping has voiced interest in hosting (and winning) a World Cup.
If you think about a sport in China, you probably think about Kung Fu or Ping Pong is that correct? Well as years have passed, China has really gone through an evolution when it comes to sports. China is always a gold getter during the Olympics. This is because of the investment they make in the youth by providing them with a hard working mentality while they are just children.We decided take a closer look at this mentality on sports in China.
First of all, there is a large variety of high-level sports that China excels in. Here are just a few examples: badminton, basketball, tennis, football, gymnastics, tennis, etc. All these sports are being funded by the Chinese Government to stimulate the youth in being active during their studies. It is even mandatory for every school to have small sessions of activities in the morning and sometimes even after lunch. While crossing the streets here in China it is not a surprise to see many companies or restaurants doing some type of activities with their staff. This provides the staff with a healthy dose of daily exercise. The government has also placed a lot of public exercise locations, which are most of the time occupied by the elder. When you walk down the streets of China in the evening, the chance of stumbling upon a group of elder people practicing Tai Chi is very high. As foreigners this is something completely new to see. While we are studying we can choose if we want to go for sports or not. Maybe this is something to be jealous about?
We love to see China pushing the youth and the elders towards a more healthy and productive way of living. The Chinese people have a much wider selection of sports than 10 years ago. Instead of just seeing Tai Chi, you see everyone playing soccer, badminton, volleyball, basketball, etc.. Who knows what sports we’ll see in 2020? What kind of investments will the government make to keep stimulating the youth? Some of them might even have a chance for an Olympic title in the future. Time will tell !
It´s one of the most popular sports in the UK. And although I´m German, I love it too: SNOOKER.
Snooker started to become popular in Germany ten years ago and I remember watching it on TV for (possibly too many) hours as a teenager. In recent years, with the rise of DING Junhui in the rankings, Snooker has become more and more popular in China as well. These days, there are several players who can compete with Snooker legends as Ronny O´Sullivan, Grame Dott and John Higgins.
Adding the fact that China invests a lot of money in sports, especially sports in which Chinese can easily compete with Western sportsmen, there are a lot of Chinese players on the circuit as well many tournaments scheduled in China.
For the season of 2013/14 there are nine of altogether 40 snooker tournaments taking place in China. This is a surprisingly big number and would have been unthinkable ten years ago. With the rise of China, Snooker´s global impact is growing as well. The China Open in Beijing will be the last important tournament before the annual World Championship in 2014.
In other words, Snooker without Chinese players, tournaments and money is unthinkable nowadays.
As Chengdu has taken an important position in China´s plans for the future, it obviously hosts a Snooker tournament too: The Chengdu International Championship, which was first held in 2012. It is listed as a professional ranking tournament and has the same status as the prestigious UK Championship. Thus, the participation list of this tournament in Chengdu is quite impressive. Many great names of snooker took part in this year’s competition (27th October to 3rd November).
The Chengdu Eastern Music Park was the hosting venue. When not hosting a snooker tournament, the Chengdu Eastern Music Park is famous for its bars, clubs and art scene. It is definitely worth a visit.
The local hero DING Junhui was able to continue his fantastic run by beating Hong Kong professional Marco Fu in a thrilling final (10-9) for winning his third consecutive tournament in a row.
All in all, I think snooker and China has made a fantastic development in recent years. So, I am glad to have a chance to watch this beautiful game of precision live in Chengdu.
What better way to spend a brisk Saturday morning than a sail around Qingdao coast.
Like a worried mother I texted the interns in the a.m to wear warm waterproof clothes and rubber shoes so as not to slip and catch a cold.
Armed with a scarf, two jackets, sea sickness pills and a hangover we headed down to marina city in Qingdao where our Skipper Summer was waiting for us.
Realising that it was 25 degrees out we felt silly wearing all our layers, so we stowed them below deck and donned our sun tan lotion.
We smashed a champagne bottle and set off! Waving goodbye to the mass of Chinese people looking down to see us off, we all revelled in the sun, laying about deck looking forward to a quiet afternoon drifting on the ocean..
No sooner had we left the safety of the marina when Summer (a former Olympian who competed in the 2008 Beijing games and who still competes at a national level) was barking orders at us to hoist the stern to tack and whittle the spinnaker portside! It was this moment that I then wished I had brushed up on my sailing terminology….
Luckily one of our interns Lasse had some sailing experience so he lept to attention and started pulling on ropes and swashbuckling around the boat, we all looked on thankfully. However, Summer had plenty of jobs to give out; Jenny was in charge of steering, lasse with the main sail, Tine and Mandy taking turns controlling the Spinnaker, myself with the important task of sitting at the front like a fat Kate Winslet to make the boat go faster and Fabian’s job was to curl up in a ball and be sick.
We all knew our roles and did them well.
Once we had whizzed around the bay a couple of times, annoyed a few professional sailors and riding some waves we felt it time to go back. Summer dropped the Spinnaker and the boat cruised slowly back to port, we were taking pictures of the sunset soaked horizon and generally relaxing on the way.
All in all it was a great trip, (nearly) everyone had a wonderful time and we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather… lets hope we can make sailing a regular InternChina event!
Since the Olympic Games in Beijing, Qingdao has become famous for Sailing activities. This led InternChina to organize a 3-hour sailing activity.
After a quick instruction of the two professional skippers we could board the ships. The majority of our small group had no previous experience in sailing before, so it was quite helpful that our sailors gave us a lot information about how to sail and everyone was more or less involved and had their own tasks to do.
But just in order to avoid any misunderstanding: we were definitely not too busy to enjoy the nice weather, the sea and the beautiful view of Qingdao’s skyline. After around 2 hours of sailing we stopped the boat in the middle of the sea and were allowed to jump into the sea. It was an amazing swim and – thank god – nobody got caught by a monster-jellyfish 🙂
What the Internchina interns were lucky enough to experienced is that Qingdao offers many possibilities of different kinds of water sports. Unfortunately, I am going to leave China in one week and I already know that I will miss the sea when I depart 🙁
Besides Badminton and Table Tennis, Roller-skating seems to be one of the Chinese national sports. Try not to look like an elephant on wheels next to the Chinese guys showing off all their tricks and skills to impress the girls! We tried and, of course, looked perfectly skilled and charming.In one of the big arcade halls in Qingdao we travelled back to the 80s with laser-lighted skating-rink, manic techno-beats and 4 wheels under our feet. After the first steps that looked pretty helpless we soon discovered some pros in our group. Either due to intensive skating experience in their childhood or secret practicing, two of the guys even managed the obstacles in the skating rink quite elegant. Somehow, the rest of us were busy keeping balance with flailing our arms and staying close to the side walls. Even with four wheels it is not as easy as it sounds, but after few rounds we all became saver on the skates. Still we looked relatively stupid compared to the agile Chinese guys. It was fun though and maybe next time we go there we can show off with some skills too!
This sunday 4 braves (me, Franzi, Rita and Benjamin) decided to try out the Chinese mantis kung fu. The Northern Praying Mantis is a style of Chinese martial arts. It was created by Wang Lang and named after the praying mantis insect. The reason therefore is the similar hand posture. So we met the kung fu teacher Mr Pan with his pupil Mr Xin near the beach for one and a half hours hard Bruce Lee training.
First of all Mr Pan showed us the moves we would learn (or should learn) and it was absolutely impressive to see a 58 years old, 1,60 meters small Chinese guy doing these powerful exercises. After that it was our turn and I think we did it pretty well for the first time, mainly because of Rita who always translated for us. After practicing alone for a while everybody got an opposer and it was time to ‘fight’. It was an absolutely effective self-defence-training. After an hour we stopped the training as the grils really destroyed our wrists… no seriously, when you practice the whole time how to break ones bones and wrists you need a break. So Mr Pan and Mr Xin showed us further close combat techniques and different kung fu-styles.
All in all it was really interesting to get a look into the Chinese martial arts and we’ll definitely train again!