The missing presence in Brazil

The missing presence in Brazil
A player controlling the official Brazuca ball during a training session at the Santa Cruz Stadium in Ribeirao Prato.

The official football balls, and many other products, are made in China but Chinese fans cannot be part of the game.

When in a cab last Saturday, my friend, an ardent football fan, was telling me about the opening match between Brazil and Croatia.

The cabbie overheard our conversation and joined in.

He filled us in on the places to watch live matches in Beijing, and how booking requests for taxis shot up after the matches ended.

And then as predicted, he steered the conversation to lament the absence of China in FIFA World Cup 2014.

We pointed out that Chinese athletes dominate many other sporting events but he was not pleased.

"No other sports can command as much passion and global attention as football," he said.

His comments reflected the sentiments of the Chinese during the World Cup season.

China, which is currently placed at the 103rd position in FIFA's world ranking, was eliminated during the qualifying stage.

The only time it qualified for the World Cup was in 2002, but it did not score a goal and lost all the matches.

Another cab driver I met in Qingdao attributed the grim state of the national football team to the lack of football playing culture at the community level.

"Kids do not grow up sweating it out on the football pitches," he said.

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