I will always remember that cold night on Sep 15, 2001. China beat Uzbekistan 2:0 at Shenyang Wulihe Stadium in the last match. Qualified for World Cup 2002 finally - the first time and possibly the last time.
It was 4:00 AM already after the match ended. I shouted in the crowds like a fool, then wandered in the street like a ghost, waiting to be the first one to buy Sports Weekly - the most popular newspaper about soccer at that time. At 8:00 AM newspapers appeared with the headline of “WC2002: WE ARE IN!”. The Magic Coach Milutinovic and the China National team players became “heroes who changed history today!” - says the former president of China Football Association, Shiduo Yan. Then 1:1 bronze statues located at Wulihe Stadium to honor these heroes. That would be one of the happiest memories of Chinese soccer fans, as most of the time, we just drank the cup of bitterness.
6 years later, at 2007, Shenyang Wulihe Stadium exploded into ashes as it was not qualified for 2008 Olympic Games. It’s OK, though many soccer fans were hurt slightly or deeply.
But 9 years later, at 2010, Jin Jiang, best goalie of China in 2001 and once won best goalie of Asia, tall and handsome, go to jail. Hero became criminal and got released in 2015.
Hong Qi, middlefielder, who made great contribution in 2001 Qualified Matches, go to jail. Hero became criminal and got released in 2016.
Si Shen, one of the best middle fielders at that time, go to jail and got released at 2017.
But this is not the end. These 3 national team players were deeply involved in match-fixing, still, they are not the big fish.
Jun Lu, best football referee of China, Golden Whistle Award winner, who refereed two matches at World Cup 2002, go to jail.
Yong Nan, president of China Football Association, go to jail and would stay there for 10 years.
Yalong Xie, “King of Dragon”, the most powerful man of China soccer, go to jail and would stay for 10 years and 6 months.
Still, this is not the end. No one knows exactly how many criminals there are. The glory became a joke, blackhead grew in the face of wonderful memories - even Shakespeare cannot compose such a drama. You can imagine how I was shocked at first when I got to know these heroes became criminals.
But I always remember another thing.
It was June 8, 2002, and I was running to the dorm to watch the game between China and Brazil. And I met an evangelist, actually for the second time. And I was evangelized this time. And I go to church continuously then. And Brazil beats China 4:0.
They once are true heroes, at least at soccer field, at least in some unforgettable matches. They have ignited my passion and made my life connected to soccer so deeply, as this is never just a simple sports game. However, idols are still idols, men are just men. We call them heroes because they met our desire of idols, but when idols break into pieces, we would either keep seeking new idols, or return back, and go to The Eternal One. When Jin Jiang sat on a chair with greying temples grew in a very short period of time, when the criminal goes out the prison, which direction he would go in the future?
I don’t know. What I know is you just cannot remove those blackheads easily, as these products would do.