China’s head men’s soccer coach Marcello Lippi announced his resignation Thursday after his team was defeated at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifier in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“When a team arrives on the pitch, they should fully carry out the tactics set by the coach,” Lippi said at a press conference after the game. “If the players are afraid on the pitch, with no morale, and cannot play out what they have been trained to do, then I, the head coach, am responsible.”
China lost to Syria 1-2 in Thursday’s crunch game, meaning the Chinese team now sits five points behind the Middle Eastern nation in their qualifying group for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. With only eight group winners and the four highest-scoring runners-up progressing to the next round of the byzantine Asian qualification process, China is in real danger of missing out on yet another tournament.
The Chinese Football Association said that it has accepted Lippi’s resignation and apologized for the “disappointing performance” of the Chinese men’s national soccer team during the last two qualifiers.
Before Thursday’s defeat, China had tied 0-0 with the Philippines on Oct. 15. While the Chinese women’s team has competed in the FIFA Women’s World Cup multiple times, the men’s team has not played in the FIFA World Cup since 2002, when they failed to score a single goal.
Lippi’s resignation Thursday marked the second time that the 71-year-old — who led Italy to glory at the FIFA World Cup in 2006 — has left the role as China’s head coach. He first took charge of Team China in 2016, then left the role in January this year when his contract expired. China had lost to Iran in the AFC Asian Cup that same month.
Lippi returned as the head coach of the national team again in May.
The soccer coach also made headlines regarding his paycheck. Lippi’s annual salary as head coach was reported to be an estimated $28.1 million in 2018, making him the second-highest paid coach in the world after Manchester United’s Jose Mourinho.
“My salary is very generous,” Lippi said at the press conference. “I take all the responsibilities. I’m resigning now as the head coach of China.”
Chinese soccer fans have also voiced their disappointment over their team’s defeat online.
China’s goal of becoming a soccer superpower has attracted massive investments and political interest in recent years. The country earmarked an estimated 20 billion yuan ($2.9 billion) for the development of the sport from 2015-2017, with plans to build 60,000 soccer fields by 2020.
Earlier this year, China’s education ministry also announced plans to set up 3,000 “soccer kindergartens” across the country by the end of 2019 in an effort to realize the country’s soccer ambitions, which includes winning and hosting the World Cup.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Marcello Lippi leaves the stadium after China lost a FIFA World Cup qualifier to Syria in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 14, 2019. VCG)