The Thai national soccer team scores one of its five goals against China on June 15, 2013. (Photo/CFP)
China's embarrassing home defeat to Thailand in a soccer friendly match over the weekend has sparked speculation that the Chinese national team deliberately threw the game, reports our Chinese-language sister paper China Times.
The 5:1 thrashing took place on Saturday in Hefei, the capital of eastern China's Anhui province. What made matters worse was that Thailand had picked a second-string team and that the loss happened on the 60th birthday of Chinese president Xi Jinping, who is a passionate fan of the sport.
One Chinese national team player told reporters after the loss: "We must accept reality. This is the standard of our national team." The Wuhan-based Changjiang Daily noted, however, that "most players did not show a strong desire to win," insinuating ulterior motives had contributed to their lackluster performances.
Many suspicious punters have pointed out that bookmakers at Macauslot — an online gambling portal based in Macau — stopped taking bets just 15 minutes into the match and a minute before Thailand scored its first goal, suggesting that there must have been irregularities for betting agencies to take such measures. Macauslot said it had stopped taking bets because of a technical glitch.
The odds stood at at least 600 to 1 for China to lose by four goals or more, causing Britain's second-largest gambling company, William Hill, to shell out more than 28 billion yuan (US$4.57 billion). While the bookmaker claims it still made a "modest profit" on the game via its Twitter account, it has since declared that it will not take any more bets on the Chinese national soccer team in the future.
Furious fans and gamblers took their frustration to China's popular microblogs, calling Chinese soccer players "crooks" and "sell-outs," noting that China only lost to the mighty Dutch team by two goals several days earlier. Others pointed the finger at national team coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, saying that it won't be long before he is replaced.
On the other hand, there are others who are revelling in the embarrassing loss. One Chinese netizen boasted on his Sina Weibo microblog that he made 8,000 yuan (US$1,300) from betting just 8 yuan (US$1.30) on the game.
Xi Jinping 習近平