China may be a growing power in the world of superpowerdom, but in the global game of football, it is a diminishing one, despite its ambition to host a FIFA World Cup. Its national team ranks a lowly 79th in the world and it now has no representation on FIFA’s executive committee (ExCo), the top table of world football’s governing body.
In that it shares the fate of Japan and South Korea, two nations with legitimate claims to be footballing powers. At elections earlier this month, all three failed to win places among the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) representatives to FIFA’s ExCo. Power within the AFC is tilting towards West Asia, symbolized by Qatar winning hosting rights for the 2022 World Cup, the emirate’s Mohamed Bin Hammam being re-elected as the AFC’s president and Jordan’s Prince Ali bin Hussein’s upset defeat of South Korea’s Chung Mong-joon for the FIFA vice-presidency.
There has been some talk within footballing circles of the 46-nation AFC splitting into eastern and western confederations, though AFC vice-president Zhang Jilong, China’s most senior representative at the confederation and who was one of the unsuccessful candidates for FIFA’s ExCo, plays down to possibility in an interview with World Football Insider. FIFA would not necessarily look favorably on an upstart break-up of the AFC, and Chinese football still has plenty to do in cleaning up its own scandal-plagued game before a World Cup bid is feasible.