China's shock first-round Asian Cup exit sparked demands yesterday for a complete overhaul of the country's soccer system, starting with the sacking of much maligned coach Zhu Guanghu.
The national side was savaged by the state press for its 3-0 loss to Uzbekistan a day earlier, with editorials taking particular aim at the coach.
"`A giant in speech, but a dwarf in action' that is how to describe Zhu Guanghu," said an editorial in the Beijing Times slamming Zhu for not immediately honoring a pledge to step down if the team missed the semi-finals. "The [China Football Association] must learn a lesson from this, there are too many braggarts working for them, the association must begin firing people."
China needed only a draw in Wednesday's match with Uzbekistan in Kuala Lumpur to advance out of Group C, but the resounding loss resulted in their first Asian Cup group-stage exit in 27 years.
Under the headline "Bankrupt! Go Home!", the Beijing Youth Daily urged a total rethink of how the soccer association operates, calling for more foreign coaches and administrators to be brought in.
"They played muddleheaded and looked like a bunch of idiot schizophrenics," it said of the squad. "We hope that losing the Asian Cup will help everyone to think clearer and quickly rid themselves of their unrealistic dreams. Chinese soccer needs to be more open and bring in more international expertise."
The Beijing Morning Post also called for an overhaul, saying "the areas in which Chinese soccer need to improve are far too many."
"Chinese soccer keeps punishing itself with the same mistakes it has made over and over," it said.
The paper blamed Wednesday's loss on the team's two top stars missing the match after being suspended for being yellow carded in previous games.
But it also blamed the soccer body for hiring Zhu in the first place and for failing to bring order to a domestic league that has been rife with corruption, match fixing and bad refereeing.
Zhu took full responsibility for the loss but remained defiant, refusing to step down.
"I will not leave soccer," he said.
However, most papers said Zhu was likely to be relieved of his duties after returning to Beijing and reporting back to the association on the team's performance.
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