[NEWS] Football Orientalism: British “Sun” ridicules China

In a widely criticized article, the British tabloid magazine “The Sun” lashed out at the Chinese Super League, calling it a “fakeway” and claiming that its development is in fact impeded by idiosyncrasies of Chinese culture.


Published on October 5th, the article was the result of a short trip by editor Justin Allen, who obviously has never been to China before – and he was probably not even aware of the Orientalist gaze he used to tell his story, which almost resembled the episode of Sky 1’s Idiot Abroad. In an astonishingly bizarre paragraph, he shares his observation at an airport where workers took an afternoon nap, promptly leading to his conclusion that China’s inherent problem of football is the general laziness of its population.

“The Chinese come across as lazy generally – surely a by-product of a communist regime that has ruled their land since 1949.

“For years, their government has done and thought everything for them. Only here have I seen people shamelessly sleeping on the job … like two workers at an airport help desk in the city of Changchun in the middle of the afternoon in full view of passengers.”

The passage was later deleted without any further clarification, but was luckily documented by both South China Morning Post and Wild East Football. Interestingly, the country’s ideological foundations primarily seem to undermine the quality of football, although this theory might fall short in explaining China’s 543 Olympic medals. Maybe it is indeed a deeper socio-cultural problem rooted in Confucian traditions of hierarchy that have caused a serious disadvantage for team sports? Well, the women’s national volleyball and football team do not seem to care much.

While the Sun article remains to be a great showcase of chauvinistic absurdity, it also very much reveals an on-going colonial (or at best Euro-centric) world-view that keeps evaluating cultures according to past achievements.

The methods used for these “fact-finding” mission might make any academic cringe. Opinions of random stadium visitors (some of which clearly just attended their very first game) were presented as objective realities. Given the lack of Chinese language skills by the editor (or reluctance to hire a translator), only English-speaking Caucasians were qualified to be heard – as well as a handful Chinese pedestrians with adequate foreign-language skills.

If you would like to read a “sentence-by-sentence” dissection of the entire article, I highly recommend Cameron Wilson’s detailed response.