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The 1980s: weight of football expectations
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Li Huajun, formerr Member of China National Football Team, said, "China was quite closed in those years. There was even some joking when we went abroad. One foreign friend asked us who was more powerful,

Mao Zedong or Bruce Lee. We couldn't help laughing.

That's how they compared us. However, it did show how strong the influence of Chinese kongfu was abroad."

In its first overseas tournament, the Chinese team found itself in the same group as Argentina, Czechoslovakia and Austria. They tried hard, but lost 2 of their 3 matches.

Amid all the gloom, the team did receive one piece of good news. Li Huajun was selected by a panel of FIFA experts as a member of the tournament's all-star team. He was also chosen as one of six "Hope Stars", a list that included Marco van Basten of Holland, and the Brazilians Romario and Bebeto.

Following his outstanding performance in the Undr-20s World Cup, Li Huajun was selected for the full National Team. He was the team's youngest member.

Li Huajun said, "The two characters for "China" on my shirt made me feel very proud. We were taught to win pride for our country. So what did we play football for? For the honour of our country. The two characters really made me feel proud."

On October the 1st, 1984, a grand parade was held in Tian'anmen Square, on the 25th anniversary of the founding of New China.

Among those taking part in the parade were a group of athletes who were recently back from the Los Angeles Olympics, held two month previously. Among them they had won 15 gold medals, which put China in fourth place on the medals' table. The Chinese women's volleyball team, by winning gold, had achieved a hat-trick of major international titles.

With 1984 drawing to a cheerful close, the Chinese National Football Team headed for Singapore for the Asian Nations Cup. They won easily in all their matches, right up to the semi-final. There they were due to play the strong Kuwait team. Li Huajun was in the starting lineup.

Lin Lefeng, formerr Member of China National Football Team, said, "Li Huajun had one outstanding attribute. He ran fast; he was clocked as the fastest sprinter in the whole team."

Mr Rong said, "He showed us, as an athlete and member of the national team, how fast we should run in a match. He was constantly on the go, from virtually the beginning to the end."

The match went into extra time, when China's Number 11, Li Huajun, scored the decisive goal. Although China lost to Iran in the final, runners-up in the Asian Nations Cup still represented the best result Chinese football had ever achieved.

The China National Football Team played its home games in the Beijing Workers Stadium. Every time they appeared there, Li Huajun and his teammates always received a warm welcome from the spectators.

Lin Lefeng said, "Designed to hold 80,000 people, the stadium was always full whenever the national team played."

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