China loses next year’s FIFA Club World Cup hosting to Japan

Society & Culture

Also: Jeremy Lin left the Beijing Ducks at the end of last season to pursue one last shot at an NBA run. But he remains unsigned, fueling speculation that a return to China may be in his future.

The 2021 FIFA Club World Cup will be moved to Japan from China next summer, the soccer’s global governing body announced on Friday.

FIFA had planned to expand the tournament from the usual seven teams to 24 teams, but postponements of Euro 2020 and Copa America 2020 to next summer has caused next year’s FIFA Club World Cup to be postponed. No exact date has been set.

The Club World Cup features the champions from each of the world’s six continental club competitions, AFC Champions League (Asia), CAF Champions League (Africa), CONCACAF Champions League (North America), Copa Libertadores (South America), OFC Champions League (Oceania), and UEFA Champions League (Europe), as well as the host country’s national champion.

This year’s tournament, which was supposed to start this month in Qatar, has been moved to next February.

China was supposed to host the inaugural 24-team tournament, which would have featured more of the top teams from Europe and South America and would have resembled a structure similar to the FIFA World Cup. But the idea of expansion has been put on hold.

Addressing the FIFA Council, FIFA President Gianni Infantino explained that a new date for an expanded tournament would be announced later and that plans for “the best club competition in the world” remained in motion.

In a statement, FIFA explained, “Following the postponement of the revamped FIFA Club World Cup, initially planned to take place in 2021 in the slot previously reserved for the FIFA Confederations Cup, the Council decided that a Club World Cup, in the current format with seven teams, be organized for late 2021 and the hosting rights for this competition be awarded to Japan.”


Jeremy Lin still a free agent

Jeremy Lin

Rumors continue to swirl around the future of Jeremy Lin.

The 32-year-old left the Beijing Ducks at the end of last season to pursue one last shot at an NBA run. However, the free agent has yet to pick up with a team in the U.S., and now a CBA return looks like an option again as the December 23 NBA regular season start date approaches.

During his time out of the game, Lin has been actively updating fans on social media about his status. In early November, Lin was pictured practicing with his former team the Golden State Warriors, but nothing came of it.

Responding to a comment on his Instagram yesterday, Lin admitted that there was no news to speak of. “You‘ll know when i know!!” he posted.

At the end of last month, CBA reporter Jia Lei posted an update on Weibo that “Beijing Shougang [Ducks] is actively pursuing Jeremy Lin, trying to persuade Jeremy Lin to give up the NBA, return to the CBA, and join Beijing.”

With time running out on the NBA free agency window, a return to the Beijing Ducks remains a solid option if no NBA offers materialize in the next couple of weeks.


Semifinal runs put to bed Ding criticism

Lu Ning and Zhou Yuelong
Lu Ning and Zhou Yuelong

Superb semifinal runs from China’s Zhōu Yuèlóng 周跃龙 and Lǔ Níng 鲁宁 in the UK Snooker Championship came to an end this weekend as the two young stars fell to the imperious Neil Robertson and Judd Trump.

In the build-up to the tournament, last year’s champion Dīng Jùnhuī 丁俊晖 was critical of some of China’s young snooker pros’ work ethic. “At the moment, I don’t see many following in my footsteps. Maybe in three or four years,” China’s snooker star told the BBC at the start of the tournament.

“We can’t put too much pressure on them because people have different lives. It’s hard when we leave our homes, parents, our culture and there’s nobody to look after you here. You have to look after yourself.”

However, after the eye-catching run of Zhou, 22, and Lu, 26, perhaps the younger Chinese players will feel vindicated.

Neither player had reached a quarterfinal of any major snooker tournament before last week, but both have shown glimpses of a bright future. They’ve both followed Ding’s example by moving to the UK to be closer to the sport’s major competitions.

Lu Ning, who has had a stop-start early career, claimed wins against snooker legend Ken Doherty in the opening round, followed by a comfortable 6-0 win over the top 30 ranked Matthew Selt. Victories over world No. 18 Joe Perry as well as compatriot Pang Junxu rounded off a great tournament. Pang, ranked outside the top 100, incidentally also had a great tournament, defeating six-time winner and 10th seed Stephen Maguire.

Meanwhile, Zhou Yuelong’s run included wins over Jack Lisowski, John Higgins, and Jimmy White. The victory over the 8th-ranked  John Higgins was a real highlight.

Despite Ding’s pre-tournament comments, China has a bright future in the sport. Alongside Zhou and Lu, 20-year-old Yán Bǐngtāo 颜丙涛 currently sits at No. 12, while teenagers Sī Jiāhuī 司家辉, Fàn Zhēngyī 范争一, Cháng Bīngyù 常冰玉, and Gao Yang all qualified for the main draw.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.