China’s Super League has been sending shockwaves throughout the footballing world in recent weeks. It’s a strange state of affairs, as not long ago even gathering in groups to play sports in China was considered a federal offence against the state.
But the nation’s top tier has really emerged in the past couple of months, dominating in terms of expenditure when it comes to transfers.
Leagues around the world have watched in awe as football stars and some of the biggest players in Europe have made the move to Asia to compete in one of the most up-and-coming-leagues around.
We’ve seen it with Australia when Alessandro Del Piero featured, we’ve seen it with Major League Soccer and David Beckham, and now it’s China’s turn to splash the cash and turn football into a worldwide agenda.
Jiangsu Suning, Guangzhou Evergrande and Hebei China Fortune have all spent mega-bucks to attract some of the best players around, and persuade them to make the financially lucrative move to the east.
Many have argued that this has been a purely money-based decision and that Champions League worthy players shouldn’t be sacrificing ambition for the chance of a better payday. After all, I’m sure Ramires and Gervinho were earning well at Chelsea and Roma.
But there is ambition there. The league is backed by good, honest and, most importantly, very wealthy businessmen who want to make the sport popular in their country.
But can they keep up their ability to attract megastars?
Perhaps not. There is a certain ambiguity to the Chinese Super League’s long-term plan, so the attraction and the money could run out.
There is also the question of young talent and scouting young players, rather than just attracting top-class names in their prime. Yes this is fine, but you need the youngsters to bring up the rear and have a legacy to build on.
This is where China will struggle.
Granted it is a vast country and the potential is there, but on the pitch, there aren’t many Chinese players making an impact in the bigger leagues around the world. Instead it is quite simply the foreign stars that have moved for big wages who attract all of the media headlines.
China dominate in other sports, let us not forget that. They showed their improvement in the sporting realm during the 2012 Olympic Games, finishing just behind America in the medal table.
But, the Olympics, and the sports that it entails, isn’t football. Football is very much a young and emerging initiative in the country and the interest has to be there. It has to be implemented at schools at a young age and for there to be a real passion amongst the people.
Go to any area in England and you will find football fans – it’s entrenched in our thinking and upbringing.
China can succeed and they have the money to succeed, but it’s going to take more than marquee signings to push the game to the lengths that so many want.