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Why has China’s golden age of women’s soccer faded?

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China opens the 2015 World Cup on June 6 against host Canada, China no longer has the best women's team in Asia, much less the world.

就在中国队6月6日与东道主加拿大队开始2015年女足世界杯的首场比赛,中国已不再是亚洲最好的女足队伍,更谈不上是世界强队。

 

China hosted the inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991 and put on the Cup again in 2007. It finished second to the United States at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and in the 1999 World Cup. And its star forward at the time, Sun Wen, joined with the American Michelle Akers in being named the greatest female soccer players of the 20th century. 

中国1991年主办了首届女足世界杯,2007年又主办了一次。在1996年的亚特兰大奥运会女足决赛以及1999年的世界杯上,中国女足均负于美国屈居亚军。当时的明星前锋孙雯和美国的米歇尔·阿科尔斯被评选为20世纪最伟大的女足运动员。

 

But that golden era of women's soccer in the world's most populous nation has faded. China did not even qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup or the 2012 London Olympics.

但是,此后这个世界人口第一大国的女足的黄金时代逐步逝去。中国队甚至都没有获得参加2011年女足世界杯以及2012年的伦敦奥运会的资格。

 

The reasons officials and coaches cite for the decline are varied. For starters, other Asian countries have caught up in terms of resources put into women's soccer. Japan is the reigning World Cup champion. Australia, which plays in the Asian region, is ranked ahead of China, and so is North Korea, though it was barred from this year's Cup because of a doping scandal.

足球官员和教练对女足衰落给出的原因五花八门。首先,其它亚洲国家从投入女足的财力上来说已经赶上来。日本是世界杯的卫冕冠军。参加亚洲区比赛的澳大利亚排名在中国之前,朝鲜也是,尽管由于兴奋剂丑闻朝鲜被禁止参加此次世界杯。

 

China has startlingly few female soccer players, given its population of 1.4 billion, which in part reflects a historic emphasis on elite sports for medals instead of grass-roots sports for everyone. The country has only 6,000 to 7,000 registered female players above age 12, according to the Chinese soccer federation and the Asian Football Confederation. The true number of players could be four or five times that, officials said, but even if it were 100 times, it would be dwarfed by the 1.7 million registered female players in the United States.

就中国14亿人口的总量来说,中国的女足运动员少得可怜,这在某种程度上也反映了中国历来对于一些能够获得金牌的体育强项的重视。据中国足协和亚足联说,中国只有6000-7000名12岁以上的注册女足运动员。官员们说,实际的球员数量可能是这个数字的4-5倍,但是即使是目前数字的100倍,美国170万的注册女足运动员的数量也让中国相形见绌。

 

Many parents are reluctant to put their children into sports in a nation with an intensely competitive education system and a one-child policy, even though that policy has been relaxed, Sun, the former star, said.

作为前足球明星的孙雯说,在一个教育体系竞争激烈和实行独生子女政策的国家,许多父母不愿意让孩子投身体育界,尽管独生子女政策已经放宽。

 

"That's a big concern for parents," Sun said in a telephone interview from Shanghai, where she leads the technical and youth departments of the city's soccer association. "If you have four or five children, maybe you say, ‘O.K., I support one to be a great athlete.' But with only one child, that is a problem."

现任上海足球管理中心副主任、主管青少年足球工作的孙雯接受电话采访时说:"这是父母的主要担忧。如果有四五个孩子,家长可能会说‘好吧',我支持一个成为一个出色的运动员。但是只有一个孩子,就成了一个问题。"

 

Many schools, too, have been reluctant to promote sports, in part because of fear of injury, said Fan Yunjie, another former star player. "With the one-child policy, children get overprotected," Fan said in a telephone interview from Zhengzhou, China, where she directs grass-roots and youth soccer development for Henan Province. "Parents and schools are afraid their children will get hurt. They both don't want to take the responsibility for that. They don't want to get into any trouble."

另外一位前明星球员范运杰说,许多学校也不愿意推广体育运动,某种程度上是因为担心受伤。现在负责河南省青少年足球运动发展的范运杰说:"因为实行独生子女政策,孩子们都被保护过度。家长和学校都担心孩子受伤。他们都不愿为此负责。他们也不希望惹上任何麻烦。"

 

The slide in women's soccer in China, and the mediocrity of China's men's national team, are considered a national embarrassment, both athletically and politically, in a country with the world's second largest economy.

女足在中国的下滑和男足国家队的平庸表现被认为是一个作为世界第二大经济体的国家在体育和政治上都备感难堪的事情。

 

Such sporting disappointment has drawn the concern of China's top government officials, including its president, Xi Jinping, an ardent soccer fan who has said that he wants China's men's team to qualify for the World Cup again, for China to host the tournament and, eventually, to win it. So far, the men's team, ranked 82nd in the world, has participated in only one World Cup, in 2002. It did not score a goal in its three games.

这种局面甚至引起了包括国家主席习近平在内的中国高层政府官员的关注。作为一位热情的球迷,习近平曾说,他希望中国男足可以再度获得参加世界杯的资格,希望中国能够主办世界杯并最终赢得这一比赛。迄今为止,世界排名第82位的中国男足在2002年只参加了一次世界杯,而且三场比赛未进一球。

 

A series of reforms, begun in 2009 and accelerated late last year, is intended to gradually lift men's and women's soccer by making the sport a mandatory part of physical education for Chinese students . 

中国从2009年开始进行一系列改革,并在去年年底加速了这一改革进程。这些改革希望通过让各地中小学把足球列入体育课教学内容并发展足球特色学校来提升男足和女足的水平。

 

While the United States, Germany and Sweden have maintained their primacy in women's soccer over the past 25 years, cultural advantages enjoyed by early powers like China and Norway have subsided as the sport has grown in popularity around the globe. The 2015 World Cup has expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

美国、德国和瑞典过去25年来维持了它们在女足上的领先地位,但中国和挪威等早期的女足强国的文化优势却随着这项运动在全球的流行而下降了。2015年世界杯已经从16支队伍扩大到了24支。

 

"China, like the U.S. and others, was early on the scene in terms of dedicating resources and emphasis," said Sunil Gulati, the president of the United States Soccer Federation and a member of the executive committee of FIFA, soccer's world governing body. "The landscape has changed dramatically for a lot of countries."

美国足联主席、国际足联执行委员会成员苏尼尔·古拉蒂说:"就像美国和其它国家一样,中国从投入的资源和重视程度上来说都是起步很早的。但现在许多国家的局面已经发生了巨大的变化。"

 

In China, some young female players now even decline when asked to join the national team, Sun said.  She added: "The environment has totally changed. When we were players, it was very honorable. You were very proud of this."

孙雯说,在中国,一些年轻的女足运动员甚至拒绝加入国家队。她说:"环境完全变了。我们当球员的时候,这是非常光荣的事情。我们会非常自豪的。"

 

Today's players "know that football is not forever," Sun said. "They cannot totally focus on this. But to be on the top level, you have to concentrate without any interruption."

孙雯说,现在的球员"知道不能一直踢球。她们不能完全地投入其中。但是要达到最高水平,就必须要集中精力,不容任何中断。"

 

Government financing has also decreased in favor of Western-style development and corporate sponsorships, which has hurt the women's game, given its lack of widespread popularity, Sun said.

孙雯说,政府青睐西方式的发展模式和企业赞助,因此投资也下降了,而这损害了女足的发展,因为女足的普及程度没有那么广泛。

2016-06-24

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