Dear CNN, footballers aren't moving to China for a passport

CNN published an article where they make out that the current flux of European, South American and African footballers moving to China is in order to acquire a Chinese passport. There are two reasons for going to China, the first is money, the second is to better your career.

Footballers aren't moving for Chinese passports

Let's get one thing clear from the start, footballers are not moving to China because of the opportunity to have a Chinese passport. The main draw is money, if China didn't offer huge money in comparison to clubs in Europe or South America, then players would have no interest in playing for a Chinese club.

The same happened in the US when they tried to make a professional league for the first time, and they failed; due in part to buying players coming to the end of their careers and putting them on huge contracts. China is unlikely to have that problem as most clubs make the huge headline transfers are supported by big corporations. The only way something like that would happen is if the company hit problems similar to how Tianjin did.

The second reason a player moves; is to career to get their careers back on track or have a better career than they're currently having, regardless of all the twitter and media nonsense about it being the end of players careers by moving to China; it's far from it for some. Some players may not have had a high profile career by playing for major clubs in some of the best-level leagues because often players are picked up by Chinese clubs from teams in minor European leagues a bit like Eran Zahavi (yes Israel is considered a European league).

Zahavi spent his time playing for European clubs Hapoel Tel Aviv, Palermo and Maccabi Tel Aviv before moving to Guangzhou R&F in 2016. This is a player who had a steady career before moving to China, but none of the big boys was likely to come smashing the door in for him. Since his transfer to the CSL (Chinese Super League), he has been and still is one of the hottest properties in the league.

Or take Nico Yennaris, the player who has sparked all these articles in English speaking media about foreign players becoming Chinese, A solid Championship player who was unlikely to play for any of the top clubs in the Premier League (I know he was on Arsenal's books but he barely played for them) but was a great player for Brentford.

The article states that:

"Aged 7, he joined the Arsenal FC Youth Academy, a production line for Premier League talent, and went on to play for the England national side at youth level. But after a series of injuries cost him a prestigious scholarship, relegating him to the lower league dressing rooms, Yennaris opted for another route to stardom. He looked to China."

My issues with this statement are this; yes he played for Arsenal at youth level but didn't do much else with them, every article I read about this goes on and on and on about his time at Arsenal. What about Brentford? He made his career at Brentford, they deserve more of a mention than Arsenal, but Arsenal are better for the papers SEO.

The second issue is that he didn't go looking to China for stardom, China instigated a policy of looking for players in foreign leagues who have Chinese heritage so they could get them to play in China and maybe get them integrated into the national team. This policy is geared towards improving the level of China's national team, and also looks to be an acceptance that so far their youth policy has been a total failure. China looked to Nico, he didn't look at them pleading to be Chinese but was happy enough with the offer or he wouldn't have gone there. For someone like Nico, who isn't going to play for England, he had a choice of China or Cyprus, neither presents a great chance of playing in a major tournament, so the money option works best. Therefore players like Nico are moving to China either to either, improve their bank balance, their career, or both. Now that China has allowed naturalised foreigners to represent the national team, the chance of playing international football will come as an added bonus for some.

An all-male league, China's soft power

Why bother mentioning it's an all-male league? There isn't one professional league in the world where the teams are mixed genders, this comes across as an agenda to me, and when I read it, it was an irritation.

Yes women's football needs supported more, but to have it in an article about foreigners moving to China made no sense to me, maybe I'm wrong and missed the writers point, but for me it stunk of trying to make the article align with the current agenda of letting the world know women's football and men's football are not equal with the US women's team having a court case for equal pay.

As I have stated women's football does need more support, and there are signs they are getting it, but seeing this line crop up in the article was odd.

On top of this comment, the article got a bit muddled because the main point it was trying to make didn't come across well to me, were they trying to say China is using this to flex those soft power muscles or is it more foreigners are willing to take a Chinese passport and live there?

So to wrap it up here; players move to China for money, or a better a career or both, not a Chinese passport, or anything to do with China's soft power (even if China sees it like that). 

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