China has been eagered to become a football powerhouse in the past decade. Unfortunately their men’s national team has been underwhelming despite hundred millions of dollars being spent to develop the sport; and their ambition further dampened by the corruption in the professional league in the past few years.
Beckham’s visit has created plenty of buzz, but many doubt that it serves any real purpose beside PR stunt. Despite having legion of fans, football is never a popular sport to play in China (and many parts of Asia), it’s an odd situation where people would watch hours of European games weekly but not interested to kick the ball.
In the past two decades Japan and Korea (and Australia if it counts) are the only Asian countries that made consistent progress. It helps to have proper planning and execution from grassroots to professional levels, but the cultural shift (to make people, youngsters especially, to play the sport) is the real challenge.
I imagine it’s much easier for Chinese youth to have a ping-pong or badminton match which require little space and as few as two players to start a game. And there’s also the fact that they have better chance to thrive in these sports on global stage. It’s going to take a lot more than a certain David Beckham to make the change.