Or so it would seem from a New York Times article that appears today, upon the team's exit from the Olympic tournament with an 0-3 record.
The jokes have already begun to circulate among Chinese soccer fans bemoaning another underwhelming performance from the men's national team: "The Chinese team just won two red medals" (referring to the two red cards received for unsportsmanlike play); "Our soccer team won the gold medal in martial arts"; and "China has had a weird year, with a freak snowstorm, the Tibetan riots and an earthquake, but the performance of our soccer team shows that some things never change" (funnier, we're guessing, when delivered in the original language).
The article quotes Xu Guoqi, author of Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008, explaining how corrupt management has hobbled the team's efforts to rise to the top tier. Xu wrote an op-ed last month in the Washington Post on the state of Chinese soccer, comparing its long-suffering fans to those of the Chicago Cubs (ouch). Professor Xu is the authority on the intimate ties between athletic achievement and Chinese national self-image, and his thoughts on the soccer team are illuminating for those not familiar with the backstory. Xu also shared his thoughts on the Olympics more generally on an episode of NPR's "Only a Game" that aired last Saturday--listen here.