World Cup Making Many Chinese ‘Ill’

For not having a team in the World Cup, China is getting deeply immersed in soccer – and not always in a healthy way. To many Chinese fans, the sport seems trapped in a cycle of corruption and disappointment. The most recent embarrassment came this week with revelations of an underground "sick leave" industry in which unscrupulous soccer fans purchase fake doctor's notes to take time off from work and watch the World Cup.

An article on Wednesday in the Shanghai Daily reports that sales of notes certifying imaginary ailments are skyrocketing. Fans can buy notes for anything from a one-day fever to a full-blown pregnancy in order to see the games. The People's Daily writes that "Employers Fear the World Cup" because so many employees are faking illness to get out of work or stumbling into the office after having stayed up all night to watch soccer matches. In the first round of the World Cup, games regularly aired at 2:30 a.m. in China, finishing around 4 a.m. or later. That only gives fans a few hours to buy a fake sick note on, a site alleged to have been connecting buyers and 'doctors,' before work.

On top of this, Chinese police are announcing the results of an investigation into online gambling, a problem which has continually plagued Chinese soccer.

According to a Xinhua article on Tuesday, people have been arrested this time. So far, police have broken 740 online gambling cases nationwide. While Chinese soccer gambling is not the worst in the world, it is unusually widespread for a country in which soccer is not a traditional pastime.

As if fake sick notes and illegal gambling weren't enough, Chinese fans are calling for the national men's team to be dismissed. It seems the combination of the failure to qualify for the World Cup and recent successes by other Asian teams has turned Chinese fans against the men's team. A forum on, a popular Chinese networking site whose name means 'happiness,' expresses the Chinese fans' ire. According to an article in the China Daily, a strong majority of fans are voting that "the Chinese national men's team should be dismissed." To be sure, kaixin polls are not scientific metrics of public opinion. Nevertheless, this one appears to tap into a real enough sentiment.

What new problems for China will arise as the World Cup rolls on? At this point, no news would be good news. Those tired of bad press for Chinese soccer may find themselves hoping for the World Cup to be over.