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Written by Mary Higgins
Well, we saw the World Cup, which has kept much of China up til the wee hours watching (and even dying for) a sporting competition in which they have no involvement. You can't blame their lame-ass commentators for being a bit miffed that countries with a fraction of China's population are in the competition, when China, with its 1.3 billion people, is unable to find 11 blokes who are half-decent at kicking a footy around a field for 90 minutes.

I was thinking about this rather odd situation the other day, and then the realization struck me: China are crap at team sports. In individual pursuits, they do ok. China performs well in gymnastics, diving…ping pong…um…badminton. However, when it comes to a group of people actually cooperating to meet a common objective, China fails dismally. Soccer? Basketball? Forget it.

I am not quite sure how to explain this, but I’ll try by making a couple of stereotypical generalisations which will no doubt insult and incite:
1. Team sports require the afore-mentioned spirit of cooperation in meeting a common goal.  Individuals who are selfish in achieving their own goals at the expense of others will not excel in a team.

2. A team needs - to put it broadly - organizational skills, everyone must be “kicking in the same direction”. Chinese can work together to get stuff done, but only under strong centralised leadership.

3. But for a team, strong centralised leadership (i.e. the coach) is not enough. Team sports require creativity from the individuals involved, in order to make use of that leadership on the field. Individuals who are nurtured and educated to follow authority blindly without exercising their own judgment or developing creative thinking cannot make a great team.

4. And that creativity must be brought into play with quick decision making. Um, yeah.

5. Individual sports seem to benefit more from the Soviet style “sport machine” system of producing athletes. Which is why China, like the former Eastern Bloc countries, produces great gymnasts (Chinese people just aren’t quite as well cut-out for weightlifting as the Russians). But that system doesn’t seem to work for team sports.

6. Likewise, performance enhancing drugs have more effect on individual performance than on a team.
And don’t give me that “But China is still a poor and developing country” nonsense, to which I have only one response, which starts with “B” ends in “L” and has “RAZI” in the middle.

There is one sole exception to this rule and that is the World #2 ranked China women’s volleyball team. What lesson do they tell us about all this? That Chinese women are just better at all that cooperation and creativity stuff than Chinese men? Maybe so.

And it looks like the Japanese and Koreans are better at it too. Gambei.

Our valuable Editor Mary Higgins has been with us since Tuesday, 24 November 2009.

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