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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 06:58 GMT
China football faces reform calls
By Francis Markus
BBC, Shanghai

Chinese football fans, 17/11/04
Fans have little to cheer about
China's elimination from the 2006 World Cup qualifiers has prompted calls for reform of the country's scandal-tainted football bureaucracy.

China managed to thrash Hong Kong 7-0, but it was not enough to stop Kuwait, who progressed from the Asian group after having scored one more goal.

Many in China hope the disaster could serve as a catalyst for reform of the football establishment, and beyond.

Match-fixing allegations have left many Chinese deeply cynical about football.

On Thursday, Chinese newspapers and websites were full of pictures of dejected players and fans after the national team humiliatingly crashed out of the World Cup.

A senior Chinese Football Association official said the country should not put the whole blame on China's Dutch coach Arie Haan, who has bowed out in the wake of the failure.

And lots of Chinese fans and commentators agree.

Alongside the bitter disappointment, there are calls for China to seize the opportunity for reform of its football bureaucracy.

The Communist Party-backed Chinese Football Association has presided over an increasingly chaotic league structure.

Teams have walked off the pitch in protest at referees' decisions.

There have been calls for the association's balance sheets to be made public to clear up allegations of match fixing.

But given the passion that football generates at national level, many will be watching to see just how much change this humiliation helps to spur.

After all, such issues as corruption and lack of transparency go right to the heart of demands for reform, not just in the microcosm of Chinese football, but in the wider political arena.

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07 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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07 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
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07 Aug 04 |  Internationals

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