The transfer of Chelsea soccer star Nicolas Anelka to Shanghai’s Shenhua could become a turning point in China’s troubled soccer league, says soccer specialist Rowan Simons, in The Sun. “His move will open the floodgates.”
Chinese football expert Rowan Simons, a Beijing-based British expat involved in the game for more than 20 years, said: “Anelka will be the first big star in the Chinese Super League. His move will open the floodgates, so it is a very significant one.
“Chinese clubs are owned by a mixture of government-linked bodies and private companies and individuals.
“The money to buy these big stars is coming from very rich private owners who have made fortunes in Chinese business and now want to indulge their passion for football.
“Like super-rich club owners around the world, they are always looking for new ways to massage their egos and football can help build government relations.
“The problem is that each has to outshine the previous one so, right now, the hunt is on for a player bigger than Anelka.”…
Simons, whose ‘Bamboo Goalposts‘ book about Chinese football was nominated for the William Hill award in 2008, said: “Chinese football was at the very bottom after corruption scandals and continued failure to make international finals.
“China is the fastest-growing economy and hundreds of billionaires have emerged. Until now, they have not wanted to be too high-profile for political reasons.
“But the government has now called on them to save Chinese football and they are gaining in confidence.
“The endgame for China is the World Cup — first to qualify for it again, then to do well, then to win it.
“There are two ways of getting there. One involves throwing money at the elite, with the top reaching down to select and process large numbers of children in order to produce winning teams. The other involves throwing money at grassroots.”
Simons has worked hard on the grassroots angle, using his Club Football organisation to create an amateur structure in Beijing virtually from scratch.
But the arrival of Anelka, 32, suggests the Chinese game wants to try the ‘top-down’ route.