Friday, August 22, 2008

Things I don't understand about the Chinese....

I was checking out a new bar as a possible sports-watching venue last Saturday evening. The women's volleyball match between China and the USA came on.

This was a big deal for the home supporters: a head-to-head clash between two of the strongest nations in this sport, and also, of course, between the two great rivals for the top spot in the Olympic medals table.

After a few minutes, the barmaid came over and asked if I'd mind if she switched the channel to a football match. She suggested that the other two guys in the bar had requested this (pretty obviously a lie; I hadn't seen either of them say a word; and they were both American, and thus neither knew nor cared anything about the game). I presumed that it must be the girl's own preference, or that of some of her colleagues on the staff. I wasn't about to oppose her wish. I find volleyball terribly dull (although I had been getting moderately interested in this match because of the importance attaching to it); football is far closer to my heart.

However, this was women's football which is, well, a much less compelling spectacle (a bit like watching a Formula 1 race at two-thirds speed). Moreover, it was China v Japan. I boggled at the girl quite openly. "You might win the volleyball," I hinted.

OK, it was the quarter-final of the football, I think, but I did find the choice quite baffling. Women's volleyball is a far better TV sport than women's football. China's volleyball team is far better than China's football team. China's volleyball team was likely to beat the USA (although in fact the USA eventually claimed victory in a tight five-setter); whereas the Chinese football team didn't have a snowball's chance against Japan.

What on earth was their motivation here? Mere masochism? An unrealistic fantasy of avenging themselves on the "old enemy"? A pure love of the game of football regardless of the likely result? A premonition of the shaming defeat they were about to suffer at the hands of the Americans in volleyball?

I am at a loss. At the time, it simply did not compute for me at all.

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