Chinese soccer announces end of COVID bubbles

Society & Culture

The Chinese Super League is scheduled to resume on August 5, with the newly-promoted Wuhan Three Towns topping the league. Wuhan has shocked everyone so far, and is the only undefeated side this season.

30,000 fans attended the Guangzhou derby at the start of the 2021 season last April. The game was played in a COVID bubble in Guangzhou.

The Chinese Super League (CSL) will return to its traditional format of home-and-away games when the second phase of the season resumes on August 5, doing away with its three COVID bubbles that have hosted all the games so far. The league has played the last two seasons exclusively at a few designated locations.

This move can be interpreted as an attempt to revive a league in dire financial straits. Hopefully the return of the home-and-away system will result in a spike in fan attendance, and clubs recovering a lost revenue stream.

The disappearance of 2020 champions Jiangsu Suning before the start of the 2021 season perfectly encapsulated the crisis in Chinese soccer. Beyond Jiangsu, the dissolution of major city clubs such as Tianjin Tianhai, Liaoning FC, and, most recently, Chongqing Liangjiang Athletic has grabbed major headlines.

For the players, many have not been paid regularly or at all during this period. This past week, FIFPRO, the global players union, warned professionals about signing for Chinese clubs due to “widespread contract violations.”

On the field, Chinese soccer has taken a step back too. For the average viewer, it’s not hard to see the product’s decline in quality.

A forgivable drop in quality was perhaps inevitable once clubs stopped signing overpaid foreign stars. However, the fact that the games are played in front of empty stands on overused pitches that can often resemble a minefield means the blame goes deeper: to clubs, organizers, and ultimately the league itself.

Currently, the CSL season is on hold for the EAFF E-1 Football Championships, a biannual quadrilateral tournament between China, Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.

China is sending a U23 team to the tournament that will feature some first-team players. With the tournament falling outside of the FIFA-sanctioned international release window, the squads at the tournament exclusively feature players based on various home domestic leagues. The tournament kicks off on July 19.

The CSL is scheduled to resume on August 5, with the newly-promoted Wuhan Three Towns topping the league. Wuhan has shocked everyone so far, and is the only undefeated side this season.

Hope for Chinese soccer? How Shandong built a winner

Last season’s champions Shandong remain a close second, while Henan, Shenhua, Guoan, and Shanghai Port are all within 10 points of the leaders.

Guangzhou FC, on the other hand, has had a miserable start, with the club sitting in 16th place, five points from safety.


Zhang Shuai falls in Wimbledon women’s doubles final

Zhāng Shuài 张帅 and her partner Elise Mertens fell in straight sets 6-2 6-4 in the Wimbledon women’s doubles final against Czech duo Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

Zhang and last year’s doubles champion Mertens entered The Championships as the top seeds, with Zhang ranked second in the world and Mertens first.

The pair looked very strong throughout the tournament, only dropping a single set during the semifinals on their way to the final.

Meanwhile, Krejcikova and Siniakova, who won the Australian Open this year, entered the tournament as the second seed.

The match was set up to be an epic between the two best pairs in the world. However, the reality was far more one-sided, as Zhang and Mertens never really got going.

While the men’s doubles final took a marathon four hours to decide, the women’s was over in little more than an hour.

Broken immediately, Zhang and Mertens were never able to get a foothold in the games as the Czechs imposed themselves from the very start.


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