Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Can China achieve its goal of becoming a major soccer power?

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2016-09-15

Jonathan Sullivan

Jonathan Sullivan says developing the domestic league to catch players young and creating high-quality entertainment with foreign recruits to get fans into stadiums and secure TV deals will be key factors

A series of audacious player signings and investments in European clubs has put China’s soccer ambitions on the map. As soccer fans around the world are now aware, China has decided to become a soccer power and, as it usually does, is putting its money where its mouth is.

At home, the Chinese Super League has been reanimated and a huge amount of money earmarked for infrastructure, training facilities and expertise that China hopes will eventually improve the fortunes of the national team. At the same time, Chinese investors have been on a shopping spree across Europe, buying controlling stakes in clubs, notably in the English Premier League and Spanish La Liga.

The approach to becoming a soccer power has some similarities with other ambitious state-sanctioned projects, notably massive, rapid investment in infrastructure. The “build it and they will come” strategy has had mixed results. It served the manufacturing boom well, but it has also led to huge overcapacity in housing, steel and other sectors.

As with other somewhat nebulous ambitions (the Belt and Road, the Chinese Dream), the leadership has sketched out a vision to become a “major soccer power”, while the planning and implementation is largely left to government bureaus, provincial governments, state-owned enterprises and private businesses. With such an ambitious project, a lack of a concrete plan and a multiplicity of actors (often with their own motivations), things can go wrong.

What does it mean for China to become a “major soccer power”? Parsing statements thus far, the definition of a major football power would mean qualifying regularly for World Cups, hosting a World Cup, winning the Asian Champions League and perhaps the World Club Championship. It will involve huge state investment in infrastructure (training pitches, academies, etc), and acolytes in business (like Suning and Evergrande) investing huge sums (in this case, on players).

Is this model likely to turn China into a soccer power?

First, there is no doubt that China can build the infrastructure and put together the convincing commercial proposal needed to host a World Cup. Given the success of the Beijing Olympics and the government’s total commitment when it decides to host an event, this should be the easiest ambition to achieve.

Second, with the investment in prime coaching and playing talent from Europe and South America, Chinese teams will be competitive in the Asian Champions League and World Club Championship. Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao has already won the former twice in the past four years.

Third, systematic development of youth training academies, pitches, referees and a decent league structure may improve the national team’s success on the pitch. State investment and targeted nurturing of talent led to dominance of the Beijing Olympic medal table. Not long ago, we would never have considered Chinese snooker players – now there are many in the top echelons. There are Chinese golfers, tennis players, basketball players – sports outside China’s traditional sporting culture and excellence. There is no inherent reason why the men’s soccer team shouldn’t improve significantly, at least in Asia.

However, for football to really succeed, China needs to foster widespread public interest in the game – not just following and betting on European professional leagues and the big international tournaments. Kids need to play the game and progress through youth leagues to professional academies. For that to happen, China desperately needs to foster interest in the domestic league – with no one watching, it is financially unsustainable, even with rich backers. The Chinese Super League needs to generate high-quality entertainment on the pitch, and it needs good foreign players to do so.

The high fees that have been used to recruit top players suggest the league is being taken seriously this time, after a number of false starts. Chinese clubs are owned by state-owned enterprises and big private firms with substantial cash reserves, and they can afford to buy these players to make a big impact rapidly. It isn’t a terrible strategy, but it isn’t sustainable without a more holistic approach to developing and growing the league by getting fans into the stadiums and securing a good TV deal.

Japan’s J-League and the US Major League Soccer have shown that it takes time for football to take root – but both have made decent returns. Both country’s men’s teams perform well in regional international competitions and participate regularly in World Cups. Both have hosted a World Cup and have healthy youth participation, especially among women – who also do very well in national competitions. After nurturing a “soccer culture” over a long period, both have thriving, albeit niche, domestic leagues. It took many years of concerted soft and hard investment to get to this point. We shouldn’t expect things to be smoother for China – but neither should we doubt that they can attain a similar level of success.

But is that level of success what Xi Jinping (習近平) has in mind? Would his apparent special interest be sated by attaining the relatively modest achievements of Japan and the US? Given that the Chinese men’s team is 78th in the Fifa rankings (the US is 26th, Japan 49th), I think it is a sensible and attainable goal.

Aside from Xi’s evident personal interest in soccer, there is another reason for growing the game. China is trying to generate a more positive image, and pursuing all kinds of “soft power” initiatives, but many have fallen flat. It is very difficult for an authoritarian state to engender the “seduction” at the heart of “soft power” through top-down initiatives. Others, particularly in the cultural realm, have fallen flat due to differences in taste, and the difficulties in “translating China for global consumption”.

Soccer, on the other hand, is straightforward. With a few exceptions, soccer is the world’s game and doesn’t need any “translation”. And for the countries with strong national teams and/or exciting national leagues, the “soft power” benefits are big. To date, China’s (men’s) national team has been an embarrassment and the Chinese Super League an afterthought. But there is hope that one day fans in the UK or Spain might wear the colours of Jiangsu Suning or Hebei China Fortune, just as Chinese fans now sport Manchester United or Barcelona shirts.

Dr Jonathan Sullivan is director of the China Policy Institute, School of Politics and International Relations, at the University of Nottingham


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Why China’s lack of success against Hong Kong on the football field isn’t its most vexing problem in sport

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2015-11-26

Zhengxu Wang

Zhengxu Wang says in their angst over the national football team, the Chinese are missing a far bigger problem in sport – the lack of mass participation

Last week was extraordinary for football fans in China. On Tuesday, the national team drew with Hong Kong, eliminating any realistic chance of moving into the second phase of the qualifying matches for the 2016 World Cup. Then, at the weekend, Guangzhou Evergrande won the Asian Champions League trophy, with a 1-0 victory over United Arab Emirates’ Al Ahli in the final.

All around the country, fans have found it difficult to reconcile the excitement of Evergrande’s victory, the second in three years, with the embarrassment of the national team at the hands of Hong Kong. Those old enough will recall that this is not the first time a critical match leading to World Cup qualification has ended in discomfort for a proud Chinese national team at the hands of Hong Kong.

It was on May 19, 1985, that the overwhelming favourites, the Chinese national team, were defeated 2-1 by Hong Kong. Having reached the final of the Asian Cup the year before, it was probably the best national team that Chinese football has had, boasting star players such as Gu Guangming, Zhao Dayu, and Jia Xiuquan. Indeed, the team had even defeated the world’s top football team, Argentina, the year before at the Nehru Cup in India, a feat Chinese football probably wouldn’t dare to dream about again in the foreseeable future.

Fans found it hard to stomach the defeat by the Hong Kong team, which represented a British colony on a tiny island. Riots broke out that evening near the Workers’ Stadium in Beijing, and the People’s Armed Police were called out to quell the trouble.

Since then, the numbers “5-19” have symbolised the Waterloo of Chinese football.

Certainly, it has not helped that cultural and political tensions between the mainland and Hong Kong have been running high of late. Neither has it helped that China has been doing very well in many other sports, harvesting Olympic medals in large numbers, never mind at the Asian Games and East Asian Games. Even disciplines traditionally dominated by Western athletes, such as sprint swimming, have seen breakthroughs by Chinese athletes.

All this must be put into perspective. First, despite the public fever it continues to inspire, football is just another sport, nothing more.

While national teams are competing to qualify for the World Cup, world governing body Fifa is finding it impossible to extricate itself from the largest corruption scandal in its history. Sepp Blatter, the organisation’s long-time chief, has succeeded in turning the four-yearly celebration of the best in the sport into an event synonymous with bribery and secret deals.

Football leagues around the world, meanwhile, have always been plagued by triad infiltration and gambling. Even the most successful leagues – England’s Premier League, La Liga in Spain, and Serie A in Italy – have, sadly, all been monetised and are more or less slaves to commercialism. Except for the extremely rich clubs, most teams in these leagues will never be able to compete for national and European titles.

Indeed, Evergrande’s success reflects more the power of money than the improvement in Chinese football. Barely two days after the club’s victory, Xinhua published a commentary criticising the company for bad business ethics and letting commercial motivation ruin the sport.

Monetisation sees to it that, despite having the world’s most successful league, England can seldom produce a championship-winning national team. And football stars, in the style of David Beckham, have become increasingly indistinct from celebrities in the entertainment industry.

Why should an individual or nation be so obsessed with such a sport?

The other, more critical, perspective is that, despite the national sports squads’ extraordinary Olympic performances and the large number of spectators both in stadiums and in front of the TV, individual Chinese participation rates in sport is extremely low. Today’s young people in China are doing very little physical activity on a daily basis. Combine this with a new urban lifestyle and high calorie intake, and the net result is an increasingly high incidence of obesity and other diseases.

Chinese lack opportunities to get involved in sport from a young age, and maintain such involvement later in life. Besides the required two sessions of physical education a week, many students, especially females, stay away from sports.

Schools and universities only play a role in promoting competitive sports, involving a tiny number of student athletes, who are considered different from normal students.

In the UK, anyone can join university- or community-based societies to play an array of sports. And it is very clear that students from Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and other places have played many kinds of sport before they go to study in the UK. By contrast, mainland Chinese students, while large in number, show very little interest or skill in many sports.

The structural imbalance in China – a successful competitive sports sector, alongside sparse participation by the public – must be corrected. While the national government is now set to promote youth participation in football, the obsession should not be World Cup qualification, but to change the reality on the ground so that sports are for everyone.

Zhengxu Wang is an academic at the University of Nottingham who participates in various sports, including marathons and triathlons


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退而不休最累事

信報財經新聞
忽然文化
2016-03-19

占飛

上周,前曼聯領隊費格遜(Ferguson)在一個私人午宴上公開表示,他看好李斯特城奪得今屆英超聯賽冠軍錦標,還揚言李斯特城可以不用打最後3場賽事已奪標。私人午宴,沒有記者在場,他毋須口是心非,亦毋須打「心理戰」(mind game),是以外界都相信這是他的肺腑之言。

事後,費格遜的預測被英國足球傳媒廣泛報道。李斯特城奪標賠率大跌。去年8月,李斯特城是1賠5000的大冷門。現今,香港馬會的賠率是1賠1.5。不過,李斯特城也不是沒有危機的,畢竟它百多年來從未贏過一級聯賽冠軍,陣中大多數球員從未試過爭標。

近鄉情怯

李斯特城對紐卡素一仗,球員已有點患得患失。素以好好先生見稱的領隊雲尼亞里(Claudio Ranieri),半場休息時竟在更衣室大發雷霆,可見「近鄉情更怯」,愈接近奪標,壓力便愈大。

李斯特城有機會創出奇蹟,純因今屆英超「四強」均霸氣盡失。世上沒有不瓦解的帝國;球壇也沒有屹立不倒的霸主。歐洲大球會行「雙軌制」,將足球主任和領隊權責分開。領隊隨時炒魷,可年年更換,足球主任則長駐球會,保證球會傳統延續下去,以及球隊的「哲學」香火不息。

英國球會大多行「單軌制」,領隊集大權於一身。他一旦離隊或退休,球隊極可能一切要從零開始。現時英超球會中,史雲斯(Swansea)表面上行「單軌制」,實質行「雙軌制」,球會主席掌控球隊的「哲學」、戰術、球員轉會等,故雖然更換了3任領隊,球會未嘗絲毫動盪不安!

二戰後,曼聯經歷過一番風雨和大震盪,可惜球會高層沒有吸取歷史教訓。1945年,畢士比爵士(Sir Matt Busby)出任領隊,帶來曼聯第一個黃金時代。可惜在1958年,球隊乘飛機赴慕尼黑比賽途中遇上空難,主力球員幾全數罹難。

畢士比只好重建球隊,1968年終首奪歐冠盃,攀上巔峰。1969年1月,59歲的畢士比在當了24年領隊後決定退休,並選定了接班人。可惜,畢士比仍戀棧董事局,有權決定收購和賣掉那些球員,而且閒來還和陣中老將打高爾夫球。

試問球員怎會聽從新人指揮?短短6年間,曼聯由歐洲冠軍,倒退至1974年降落乙組。雖然迅即回升甲組,但霸主地位已被利物浦取代了。往後二十多年,曼聯一直浮沉在聯賽中游,直至英超成立,費格遜執掌帥印為止。

事後檢討,曼聯沒有好好的為接班安排妥當。畢士比退而不休,一而再地損繼任領隊的權威,是最大的敗筆。費格遜退休,曼聯重蹈覆轍,人去政息,雖依然財雄,卻喪掉費格遜時代的足球「哲學」和傳統,雖要等待另一個出色領隊出現,才能鳳凰火中重生!反之,於1970年代崛起的利物浦,領隊新基利(Bill Shankly)1974年退休後,球會狠下心腸,嚴禁他踏足訓練球場觀操,亦不許他過問球會事宜,新基利鬱鬱而終。

締造神話

利物浦的領隊接班人因而可大權在握,建立了「球靴房」制度,領隊由派士利(Bob Paisley)到費根(Joe Fagan)再到杜格利殊(Kenny Dalglish),稱霸英國乃至歐洲十多年。若非在1985年發生「希素球場慘劇」,引致杜格利殊辭職,利物浦的霸業未必從此夭折!

曼聯尚未開始重建。車路士13年換12個領隊,摩連奴(Mourinho)擺脫不了「三年魔咒」,何來傳統及球隊「哲學」?曼城每進3步,次年就會退兩步。這3間球會有的是錢,可高價收購球員,卻欠缺穩定的制度和球隊的「哲學」。阿仙奴領隊雲加(Wenger)作繭自縛,來季恐怕要從頭來過。「四強」日暮,李斯特城遂乘勢而興,為英超和英國足球締造另一個「諾定咸式神話」!

假如費格遜預測成真,今屆英超頭4名是李斯特城、熱刺、阿仙奴和韋斯咸,此4隊下屆參戰歐冠盃,能否全數打入16強,頗成疑問。歐洲足協會不會因而將英超的名額由4隊減至3隊呢?

東施效顰

周二深夜,看歐冠盃曼城對基輔戴拿模,比賽乏善可陳。令人唏噓的是,曾光輝一時的基輔戴拿模,與後費格遜時代的曼聯同病相憐,將軍一去,大樹飄零,仍未走出前任領隊盧賓諾夫斯基(Valeriy Lobanovskyi)的陰影!

盧賓諾夫斯基是少數入選足球名人榜(Hall of Fame)的東歐領隊之一。東歐一直想在政治、經濟、文化等各個方面追上西歐。二戰後,蘇聯和東歐陣營以「舉國體制」發展足球,務求跟西歐爭一日長短。

可惜,縱使球員質素不輸於西歐,球隊戰術始終落後一皮,直至盧賓諾夫斯基出任基輔戴拿模及蘇聯國家隊領隊,方可跟西歐分庭抗禮!可惜,成績最好也只是在1988年蘇聯國家隊打入歐國盃決賽,以2-0不敵三劍俠的荷蘭,屈居亞軍,但這已是東歐足球最高的成就了!

有此成就,盧賓諾夫斯基居功至偉。他由1973至2002年逝世為止,兩度掛冠離去又復返,擔任基輔戴拿模的領隊,總共為時20載。在1984至1990年期間,他還兼任蘇聯國家隊領隊。

自動波打法

他的戰術可稱為「集體主義」,很符合當時蘇聯陣營的意識形態:他任教的球隊恍如一部機器,球員就是螺絲釘,各司其職,平時不斷反覆操練,直至球員不假思索已知道如何走位傳球──球圈術語謂之「自動波」──全場體力化的緊迫對方球員,兩翼快速行軍等,已成為蘇聯國家隊和基輔戴拿模的「預設」(default)打法,至今如是。

現時流行的中場體力化緊迫和反緊迫的戰術,可說師承盧賓諾夫斯基。憑這個打法,基輔戴拿模在他領軍的20年裏,贏得12屆聯賽冠軍,9屆杯賽冠軍,並且兩奪歐洲盃賽冠軍盃(Cup-Winners’ Cup)。此輝煌成績,並無其他東歐球隊可望其項背!可惜,他辭世至今14年,幾任接班人沿用一貫戰術,徒然東施效顰;創新戰術,卻畫虎不成,以致基輔戴拿模已給薩克達比下去了!


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那些足球曾經燃亮我心的日子

明報
筆陣
2015-07-16

蔡子強

6月15日凌晨,前香港足球先生胡國雄因病與世長辭,享年66歲。

香港最後一個球王

記者知我是一個球迷,於是打電話給我,要我說說,胡國雄是否香港史上最好波的球星?我說,我只是七十年代尾、八十年代初才開始睇波,之前,戰前的「中國球王」李惠堂,戰後,五六十年代的「香港之寶」姚卓然,甚至是六七十年代叱咤球壇,曾獲邀遠赴英國效力甲組球隊黑池的張子岱等等,我都沒有看過,所以沒有能力回答這樣一個問題。

我唯一敢說的,是胡國雄是香港最後一個球王,在他之後,便無出其右者,而且是整個球壇都無以為繼,因此,胡國雄的掛靴,同時也標誌香港足球一個黃金盛世的終結。

說那個年代是香港足球的黃金盛世,一點也沒有誇張。那時的班主都好肯投資在球隊身上,當中首推精工及寶路華兩支班霸,兩位班主黃創山及黃創保昆仲,之外還有東方的林建岳、愉園的余錦基等。就是他們肯花錢,再加上歐洲經濟不景,且歐洲足球還未搭上全球化的快車而起飛,因此一些一線球星都有來過香港踢波,讓球迷大飽眼福。

說當時球迷有眼福,不是虛話,當時甚至連在世界盃決賽入過波的球星,也請過來香港效力。不錯,是世界盃「決賽」,不是「決賽周」,大家又知不知是哪一個﹖

香港足球的黃金盛世

答案是南寧加(Dick Nanninga),即在1978年世界盃決賽,阿根廷對荷蘭,為荷蘭頂入扳平1:1那一球的那位高大前鋒,當時他來港效力的是班霸精工,且不是客串幾場,而是踢了一個完整球季。况且,當時精工請來的不單止是南寧加一個,還有其他荷蘭退役國腳但仍當打的球星,例如中場迪莊(Theo de Jong)、海恩(Arie Haan)、連尼加賀夫(Rene van de Kerkhof)、穆倫(Gerrie Muhren)、後防韋伯(Joop Wildbret)等等。其中海恩、迪莊(後備身分入替)、連尼加賀夫(後備身分入替),曾於1974年世界盃決賽上過陣;而海恩和連尼加賀夫,又與南寧加(後備身分入替),於1978年世界盃決賽上過陣。七十年代,荷蘭的「全能足球」風靡全球,而黃創山和精工,便是這樣把荷蘭的全能足球帶到香港,我認為當年的香港球迷實在要深深感謝他們,真的可以說前無古人,我相信亦後無來者。

除了這些荷蘭外援之外,港人愛看英國波,最多人擁戴曼聯,而曼聯當年的星級中堅哥頓麥昆(Gordon McQueen),一樣也來過精工效力一季。

至於寶路華,最著名的,是踢過阿仙奴7季的鋒將查理佐治(Charlie George),可惜他是帶傷來港,表現因此平平。但另一位克捷臣(Tommy Hutchison),則是我見過最好波的外援之一,不單速度快,扭波更像跳芭蕾舞般優雅,把對方後防玩弄於雙腳之上,而且他也大有來頭,不單是蘇格蘭國腳,更在1981年的英格蘭足總盃決賽代表曼城上陣,更入過波。

除此之外,寶路華的柏蘭尼、精工的「壞孩子」邦迪、東方的「子彈」沙尼、海蜂的南韓外援尤其是國家隊隊長朴柄徹等等,都是「好波之人」,在此未能一一盡錄。

當時香港的華人球員能與這樣的高手切磋,因此水準亦大大提高,後衛尤其得益,例如當時港隊的後防五虎張志德、顧錦輝、梁帥榮、賴羅球、余國森,便是我看過最好的港隊後防線。

至於胡國雄,不錯,他頭球和體能都不算突出,但他的長傳卻十分致命,而且更擅長引球出擊,過關斬將,更厲害的是,他左右腳皆能作刁鑽的射門。連尼加賀夫便讚過胡國雄,說他可以在歐洲甲組聯賽立足,我相信如果連這些歐洲一線國腳,都讚他好波的話,那就不是夜郎自大,而是胡國雄真的好波。

這麼多年來我本土意識最高漲的一晚

我一直慶幸自己成長於這樣一個黃金盛世,不單為我的少年時代添上美麗的回憶,更點燃了難得的激情,以及雄心。

讀中學時,我的學業成績不俗,於是也有點空閒時間可以打發,但當時沒有電腦,更遑論online game,電視也不會像今天般全天候轉播歐洲和世界各地的足球,剛巧我居住和讀書都在港島東區,於是政府大球場睇波,便自然而然成了我的課餘消遣之一。就算不能入場,晚上在家裏扭開收音機,邊聽波邊做功課邊溫習,陪我度過無數個少年苦悶的晚上。

除此之外,年少時,我一直循規蹈矩,唯一可以迸發激情的地方,就是球場,在那裏可以盡情笑罵,讓自己的另外一面可以盡情解放。

而激情之最,莫如是30年前的「5.19」,當年香港隊以2:1擊敗中國隊,淘汰對手,取得世界盃分組賽晉級權。

我還記得,當時我已經考入中大,住在新亞書院的宿舍知行樓,當晚與一眾宿友擠在宿舍大廳,圍着電視看球賽直播。看到港隊兩度領先,大家都興高采烈,到了球賽末段,港隊想守住勝果到尾,於是排出血肉長城,來阻擋中國隊一浪接一浪的攻勢,每次港腳大腳解圍,同學都歡呼聲震天,導致連宿舍當值校工都要過來干涉,但如此場面,當然任何勸告都屬無效。

5.19,可能是這麼多年來,我自己本土意識最高漲的一晚。

除了激情之外,足球也曾點燃了我的雄心,讓我問自己,為何只是在球場內睇波,在收音機旁聽波,而不能親自落場踢波呢?

只要有足球,Impossible Is Nothing

讀中學時,我得承認自己不太合群(或許今天仍舊如是),換轉是今天,可能已經被視為需要接受輔導的問題學生,令自己也覺得自己真的很有問題。但幸好,那個時候我們有足球。

在那個年代,沒有《心靈雞湯》之類書籍,也沒有成長工作坊,更沒有EQ又或者多元智能訓練班,但我們曾經相信,即使幾唔開心,幾唔如意,幾多挫折都好,「生活」,本身就是解決問題的最好方法。堂堂一個男仔,只要有一個波,什麼難題不可以解決?只要可以痛快淋漓的踢一場,天塌下來又如何?

我記得,2006年世界盃時,adidas推出了電視廣告「Impossible Is Nothing」。廣告裏兩個孩子Jose和Pedro,透過「猜包剪揼」來揀人,組建他們心目中最偉大的球隊,再行對壘比賽。

當然,我們永遠無法像廣告中的小孩一般,找來施丹、卡卡、碧咸、簡尼,甚至碧根飽華等球星的真人來助陣那般神奇魔幻(當然,筲箕灣施丹和深水埗碧咸另計),但在球場以「猜包剪揼」來組建球隊鬥波,確是我們那一代人成長的一部分。

每天午飯又或者下課之後,同學們都會在球場上以「猜包剪揼」來組建球隊鬥波,那通常是由班裏最叻的兩個「球王」來猜,大家亦可以想像到,他們會從現場最好波的同學揀起,第二、第三……一個接一個,餘此類推,直到最「渣」的那一個為止。

有一天,我鼓起勇氣加入他們,那時我揀了打「龍門」,這個沒有多少人願意踢的位置開始,從低做起。

慢慢地,在「猜包剪揼」的過程中,我由最尾,逐漸晉升到尾二、尾三,以至最後躋身中游位置。我知道以自己的資質,永遠不會晉身成為「猜包剪揼」揀人的那個,但起碼,就是這樣,足球為我尋回self-identity,為我找回群體中自己的位置。

當我飛身撲去一個險球時,同學走過來說一聲「好波」,拍拍我的膊頭,又或者捽捽我的頭時,彼此間幾多的心結,都能一笑泯恩仇。

誰曾燃亮我心,一生心內逗留

我記得,很多年前,林子祥有一首歌,內裏有如此一段:

徘徊悠悠長路裏,

今天我知道始終要獨行,

閑來回頭回望去追憶去,

邊笑邊哭邊喝淡酒,

然而就算哭仍暗私下慶幸,

時日在我心內留低許多足印,

從前從前曾共我一起的,

仍然在心內逗留。

從前誰曾燃亮我的心,

始終一生在心內逗留。

多謝胡國雄,多謝精工,多謝香港球圈,以及,多謝足球。

我知道,那些曾經燃亮我心的日子,將會一生在心內逗留。

蔡子強

中文大學政治與行政學系高級講師


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錢用在對的地方

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C01 | 今日焦點 | 忽然文化 | By 占飛 |
2013-11-16

廣州恒大足球隊贏取亞洲冠軍球會盃,得到參加下月世冠盃的入場券。這證明了兩點:其一,金錢不是萬能,但沒錢卻萬萬不能。搞波要成功,必要條件是有個願意大灑金錢的「土豪」。其二,辦好一支球隊容易,辦好國家隊卻難乎其難。恒大的水平,肯定在中國國家隊之上。恒大做得到的,國家隊肯定做不到。

《人民日報》亞冠盃後的評論文章,裏面有這麼幾句話:「在不差錢的中國,只要用錢的主體是企業,錢用對地方,還是可以出成績的,相信市場,相信企業,相信職業化,土豪主導比政府主導強」。這番話,只有一句說對了:「錢用對地方」,其餘都不一定對。

舉國體制

足球和體育一樣,「舉國體制」可以搞出一支優秀的國家隊,「市場經濟」也可以,可惜未見經濟學家詳細深入的分析這個問題。以「舉國體制」來說,「錢用對地方」的話,1966 年的北朝鮮可以產生一支震驚世界的國家隊。蘇聯國家隊在冷戰初期一直是歐洲的強隊,1989年後才沒落以至消失。1960年的歐國盃,蘇聯奪得冠軍,四年後衞冕失敗,但也得亞軍。那支國家隊接着在1966年的世界盃得第四。其後,蘇聯在1972年的歐國盃得亞軍,1988年歐國盃不敵荷蘭得第二。荷蘭的尹巴士頓(Van Basten)在決賽射入世界波,現時在YouTube還可看到,名列歐國盃有史以來十大最精采入球之一。

德國足球復興,亦是多得1998年後德國足總(DFB)以半「舉國體制」半「市場經濟」的方式大興變革,尤其是青少訓。今天,先進足球國家都明白,要培養一個優秀的足球員,必須從十一歲(甚至更早)開始,至二十歲是關鍵時期,青少訓做得不好,就只能等「天公抖擻」。

青少訓是時間長、成本高、花錢多卻成效沒有保證的投資。球會收購外來的「全熟」(mature)或「半生熟」年輕球員,肯定更化算。足總不肯半「舉國體制」地搞青少訓,或立例強迫球會去搞,便很難產生一個「黃金世代」(goldengeneration)的球員矣!

1998 及2002 年,德國足總分別推行了兩個發掘人才的項目。現時效力皇馬的基迪亞(Khedira)、拜仁慕尼黑的馬里奧葛斯(Goetze),都由此得益,八歲便加入青少訓。另外,DFB亦頒令每間職業球會都要設立青少訓中心,並且按照嚴格的規定訓練青少年球員,改善球場設施、提高教練水平、組織各年歲的青少年聯賽等等。球會當然反對要花額外的金錢,但德國足總硬來,任何職業球會違反規定,便開除出「聯邦聯賽」。

黃金世代

2002年,德國一所收費電視倒閉,職業球會失去巨額轉播費。塞翁失馬,焉知非福?球會沒錢收購外來球星,只好起用本土年輕球員。就像今屆英超的修咸頓,因為是小球會,只能起用土炮,反而大豐收:既打出好成績,日後出售新紮球星可賺一大筆。現時的德國國家隊,肯定是二十一世紀德國第一個「黃金世代」的球員。能否媲美1970年那個「黃金世代」?且拭目以待。

西班牙連一個具代表性國家球場(nationalstadium)都沒有,當然沒有「舉國體制」,連德國式半「舉國體制」都付諸闕如。但西班牙舉國對足球狂熱,實體經濟又欠佳,打波是最容易「一朝發達」的途徑,大量青少年渴望做職業球員,於是足球訓練中心多,訓練員及教練亦多。

西班牙有12,720個國際足協的甲級教練,英格蘭只有1,161 個。西班牙有職業牌的教練逾二千,英格蘭只有二百,是西班牙的十分一。試問,英格蘭教出的優秀青少年球員人數,怎可以跟西班牙相比?

巴西情況和西班牙相近,每年輸出逾千球員賺外滙,一如菲傭。兩國都證明「市場經濟」亦可以產生一流球員和強大的國家隊。中國呢?「舉國體制」腐敗,「市場經濟」亦只能出現一、兩間「土豪」恒大球會,滿足國產球迷的虛榮心而已!

撰文︰占飛