Chinese women’s football team qualify for Tokyo Olympics
Published: Apr 13, 2021 08:42 PM

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

China's women's football team qualified for the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, after defeating South Korea 4-3 on aggregate in the qualifier playoffs. 

Under the gaze of nearly 10,000 fans in the stadium in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province, the team survived the surge from their Korean opponents and overcame a two-goal deficit thanks to a goal from star forward Wang Shuang in extra time. 

"We never thought about giving up, even though we were trailing 2-0 in the first half," Wang told state broadcaster CCTV after the game. "We have been training for more than 100 days for the qualifiers. Every day we ran 10 kilometers."

Wang, a player from Wuhan who endured a 76-day lockdown in the city last year, was one of the Chinese players whose preparation for the Olympic qualifiers was seriously disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tuesday's game was the first international sport event held in China after the suspension since the beginning of 2020 due to COVID-19. It is also the national team's first home game since November 2019. The Chinese Football Association offered fans free tickets to the game.

The players were in tears as they celebrated victory after the second-leg playoff, throwing head coach Jia Xiuquan, a 58-year-old who took charge in 2018, into the air.

The first-leg of the qualifier saw China edge South Korea 2-1 on Korean soil. Korean media reports blamed Chinese fans for "shouting out loud," which was not in line with the virus prevention measures, rather than applauding the team. 

"What will the Korean media say after this game? Maybe Chinese fans are shouting out even louder than in the previous game?" a football fan joked on Weibo.

The topic "Chinese women's football team qualify for Tokyo Olympics" trended on Weibo on Tuesday, with more than 30 million people engaged with the topic.

It marks the sixth time the Chinese women's football team has qualified for the Olympics, a sharp contrast to their less successful male counterparts, and some fans argue the female players deserve better pay.

"The male players earn a lot more than the female players but they are not able to qualify for any major competition … that does not make sense," another fan wrote on Weibo. "The women deserve better payment."

Finishing as runners-up in Atlanta, US in 1996 remains the women's team's best performance at the Olympic games. They also qualified for a World Cup in 1999, but the team has been less successful in the last decade. 

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