China is playing against International Rules, but that’s ok for FIFA in the geopolitical game

Last April, Fifa, signed an agreement with Chinese Football Association, for the development of the beautiful game in the most populous country and, de facto, legitimized the Chinese Government Interference in the FA.

On April 26, Du Zhaocai, the interim president of Chinese Football Association (and vice Ministry of Sports) has signed a MoU with Gianni Infantino, president of FIFA. The two parts will work together on the structures, management and technical aspects related to the development of Chinese Football. An official release, said that partnership will focus on 5 Keys points: governance structure of the CFA, Technical development, refereeing, professional league and event management. Is not a new fact also, that China want to host a Fifa World Cup edition and probably, will present his bid for the 2030 edition, with the possibility of the new Fifa Club World Cup on the background.

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Fifa president, Gianni Infantio said, “It must be a priority of Fifa to ensure that world’s most popular game keeps growing and developing in the world’s most populous country.” The president of Chinese Football Association, Du Zhaocai remarked, “As a big nation committed to the development world football, China is willing to make its contributions while being integrated into the international football family. We look forward to receiving continuous support from Fifa for our football development, which will further promote the development of the game worldwide.”

Chinese Football Association in the past four years signed a lot of agreements with foreigners FA for bilateral cooperation (except for Italy, sadly) involving particularly the politics: during the 2016 G20  in Hangzhou, the Argentine president Mauricio Macri and Xi Jinping discudssed about the opportunities in football cooperation: nowadays the Argentine FA established training programs in China and also a e-commerce website. While, during the G20 in Berlin, in 2017, president Xi Jinping and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attended together to a youth football match and lately, signed a bilateral agreement that included also football (and strength the previous deal that Merkel has signed in 2016 the CFA and the Chinese Ministry of Education)

While, the agreement with FIFA is more controversial, because the world football organization allowed only for China, government interference inside his Football Federation. According to FIFA rules, the interference of the government inside the affairs of the FA can be punished with the ban from international competitions, both from clubs and for National teams. In the last three years, FIFA banned the FA of Pakistan, Indonesia and Sierra Leone, but should have done the same also for China in many occasions, but of course they didn’t, because they don’t want to lose one of the most profitable market in the world and their sponsors.

On the Chinese Football Reform document released on 2015 it was written that the CFA had to become independent and split from the Ministry of Sport, but, even if this happened on the papers, the CFA continue to be run by the Government authorities. In 2017, the decision to reduce the number of the foreign players in the Chinese Super League, during the transfer window didn’t came from the Football Association, but from the Ministry of Sport, while last year, the controversial and absurd Military Training Camp (where 55 players U25 were taken from the clubs outside the International break and don’t allowed them to play the last 6 rounds of the league) was also a decision taken by the Ministry of Sport. These are just few examples of controversial episodes of Government Interference, that are numerous.

Also, at the beginning of 2018, Cai Zenhua, the president of Chinese Football Association, that brought Lippi to the National Team, was removed from his job, that was taken by Du Zhaocai, who recently became the vice president of FIFA and signed the agreement that we have reported. Du Zhaocai was not a man inside the Federation, indeed he also is the vice Ministry of Sport, so it definitely means that is the Government that lead the CFA, and that China is playing against the International Rules.

FIFA is not in the position to ban China from international stage for sponsor reasons: as we noticed in the last World Cup in Russia, 4 main sponsors came from China: the conglomerate Dalian Wanda of Wang Jianling, one of the richest man in China, also owner of the Dalian club in Chinese Super League; the giant milk producer Mengniu Diary (that signed Messi as brand ambassador); the electronic devices brand Hisense and the smartphone manufacturer Vivo. Indeed, China has a big influence on the economy of FIFA, that also started a social media marketing campaign in the Asian country, with the inauguration of a Sina Weibo official Account.

In conclusion, this agreement between Chinese Football Association and FIFA, have just a little to do do with the real development of football, but more with economy and geopolitics, with Infantino that in his mandatory is acting more like a politician instead just a simple sports man, and the MoU is a big step forward for Chinese Fifa World Cup (Clubs and Nations) ambitions. After all this is the nature of Chinese Football: it’s a political factor, not a sports one.