Chinese football fans have reacted angrily over the national side’s 1-0 home defeat to Syria on Tuesday night, with some demanding refunds on their tickets for the friendly fixture. The Syrian defensive midfielder who plays for Tishreen scored the sole goal and winner in the 59th minute. China’s Xinhua described the loss as “embarrassing”.
The Dragon’s Team (ranked 80th in the world) were booed by home supporters at the Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium while others applauded the visiting team, who are the 94th best team in the world. According to local reports, the game was already marred by low ticket sales. The venue capacity was over 57,000.
Ironically, ahead of the game one user on China’s popular Weibo social media platform said: “It’s not a bad thing if there are fewer fans going. At least there will be fewer people shouting ‘refund’.”
After China's 1-0 loss to Syria, Chinese fans in Chengdu booed the Chinese players and applauded the Syrian players. pic.twitter.com/1fRlehHDGN
— China Sports Vision 2050 (@CSV2050) September 12, 2023
“It was a frustrating result for us. We asked players to react after the draw against Malaysia in terms of energy level, but unfortunately we couldn’t win the match,” said China’s Serbian coach Aleksandar Jankovic.
We will play against a low-defence team in the World Cup qualifiers and Asian Cup, the important thing is how to learn and manage,” he added.
Tuesday’s game follows China’s 1-1 draw with Malaysia on Saturday, who Syria also drew 2-2 with three days earlier. According to the BBC, they have only won four matches over the last two years, all against teams ranked outside of the world’s top 90. China’s most recent win was a 2-0 victory over Palestine in a friendly. They face two more friendlies, against Vietnam and Uzbekistan next month before the Asia Cup hosted in Qatar and start their World Cup qualifying campaign in November.
Despite China’s President Xi Jinping’s ambition for the country to be a “football power” and to host and win a World Cup by 2050, Chinese daily newspaper Global Times notes that “Even though an expanded format for the 2026 tournament in the US, Canada and Mexico will allow more teams from Asia to qualify, China’s hopes appear to be slim.”
“China has descended to the middle and lower echelons of Asian football.”