Chinese basketball fans were in despair on Thursday after the national team crashed out of the World Cup without winning a game, dubbing the dismal performance as “our deepest humiliation.”
China needed to win their final group match on Wednesday night and hope the other results went their way, but were outclassed 107-89 by Puerto Rico.
Fans vented on social media, where a hashtag about their three successive defeats in the tournament, co-hosted by Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia, racked up tens of millions of views.
“We’ve never failed to win a single game since we started taking part in the World Cup — this is our deepest humiliation for 45 years,” said one comment on the popular Weibo platform.
“Our performances couldn’t have been any worse, even if I’d been the one leading the team,” another user wrote.
Basketball is hugely popular in China and broadcasts of NBA matches typically draw huge numbers of viewers.
China’s women’s team is a global powerhouse, but the men have failed to meet expectations in recent years despite an infusion of naturalised overseas players.
“If I felt helpless during the first two games, I feel speechless after watching today’s match,” wrote pundit Jia Lei on Weibo.
“Perhaps all the expectation in moments like these gives us delusions (of grandeur),” he said.
China hosted the last men’s World Cup in 2019, but they finished 24th and did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and are currently ranked 27th in the world.
“If China wants to… rejoin the ranks of the strongest global teams, we must make our domestic leagues more competitive and (better) nurture the talent we have,” wrote sports pundit Ran Xiongfei on Weibo.
Rife corruption and investigations into match-fixing in the CBA, China’s top domestic league, have dampened many fans’ enthusiasm in recent years.
Some compared the national side unfavourably to an up-and-coming grassroots league whose amateur players include rural farmers.
“Is anybody going to say they even think the men’s team could win in the ‘CunBA’?” read one Weibo comment using the league’s popular acronym.
Others saw an opportunity to make oblique jibes about the country’s recent social and economic malaise.
“Why does watching the men’s team… feel like watching our (last) imperial dynasty playing against the Industrial Revolution?” wrote one Weibo user.
Another quipped bleakly: “Sport is a microcosm of our society.”