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SBD Global/January 31, 2013/International Football
Shanghai Shenhua Still Claim Drogba; League Advised To Drop Top-Down Approach
Published January 31, 2013
NEED NEW APPROACH: The AFP wrote the signings of Drogba and Nicolas Anelka proved the cash-rich CSL "can lure big names but their abrupt departure shows China cannot yet compete with the top European clubs." Drogba "arrived in a blaze of publicity last year" after helping Chelsea win the Champions League, "pledging to help promote a sport plagued by corruption and low-quality homegrown players." But barely six months later, "the powerful Ivory Coast striker" has signed with Galatasaray, "giving no clue as to why he walked out" on a reported $300,000-a-week contract with Shenhua. A website said in an editorial: "As for his desire to strive to increase the level of Chinese football, that is already nothing more than a fantasy." Drogba's departure came after former French int'l Anelka, a teammate of the Ivorian at both Chelsea and Shanghai, "and said to be on a similar package," left to join Juventus last week on loan. Tom Byer, who recently became head technical advisor of a Chinese FA-administered schools football program, "suggested clubs would do better investing in youth development rather than in stars." Byer said, "The top-down approach doesn't work. It's old school, and no one can show me any example of it having worked this way anywhere else before." Byer "questioned the motives of the super-rich businessmen bankrolling the sport in China." Byer: "I don't think they are looking at it so much as a way to develop the game on a macro level. They are just looking to cash in on it" (AFP, 1/30).
DIFFERENT STANDARDS: In Beijing, Wang Zhenghua cited analysts saying that Drogba's departure "can be linked to the poor quality" of Chinese football. Although Chinese clubs, backed by wealthy tycoons, are able to recruit foreign stars, "the low standard of play" in the CSL "remains a daunting obstacle when trying to keep those players in China." Local commentator Zhang Lu said, "The overall level of Chinese soccer is low and far from the top-level European leagues." Shenhua goalkeeper Wang Dalei sent Drogba a farewell message saying, "It was an honor to play soccer with you." Shanghai BlueBoys Supporters Club Deputy Head Li Hui said, "These foreign big names come and go like passerby, because they may not be suited to Chinese clubs. If Drogba stayed at Shenhua, he would be wasting his talents" (CHINA DAILY, 1/30).