China’s national men’s soccer team — yes, I called it soccer, get over it — is not having a great month. The team, which has long been the target of Chinese soccer fans’ ire for its poor performances, lost an embarrassing 5-1 game to Thailand this past weekend and things got ugly. Fans across the country have shown their anger in all sorts of ways, but one group of game developers hopes to end the madness once and for all by challenging the men’s national team to a high-stakes, winner-take-all match.
Giant Interactive’s New Long Journey soccer team is a group of 16 guys — programmers, engineers, designers — who like to blow off steam after work by kicking the ball around with other local teams. But after China’s abysmal performance this weekend, the developers — who describe themselves as “average” players — decided to issue a challenge to the men’s national team. If the national team comes to Shanghai to play Giant’s team and wins or draws the match, then the devs will award the national team with 1 million RMB ($163,000). But if the national team loses to the New Long Journey developers, it must promise to “disappear from China.”
Unfortunately for fans of Chinese soccer everywhere, there’s essentially no chance that the men’s national team will actually accept this challenge. That’s probably good news for the dev team, which will likely need to focus over the summer as their game is expected to launch in the late summer or early fall. But the challenge is still quite a cheeky move, and has stirred up quite a bit of discussion online. Some accuse the team of cooking up the challenge as a promotional stunt for the game — which could certainly be the case — but others have saluted them for defending China’s national honor by attempting to rid the country of its embarrassing national team once and for all.
While I can’t imagine the national team would ever agree to disappear, I kind of hope this match gets played anyway. It’d be a great promotion for New Long Journey, true, but it would definitely be entertaining.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why China’s soccer team is so bad, this Economist article is a great read).