China's national football team at the Asian Cup preliminaries aired on China Central Television (CCTV) for the full 90 minutes live, in a sign the sport is witnessing resurgence on the national stage after years of being plagued by scandal.
China beat nemesis Iraq in the second round 1-0 in a stoppage time by a corner that was volleyed by wing forward Yu Dabao after midfielder Zhang Linpeng's header failed to find the net on a rainy Friday night in Changsha’s Helong Stadium of Central China.
The team secured 3 points with the win over Iraq after losing to Saudi Arabia in the round-robin stage. After wo rounds, China was ranked second in the group.
Xinwen Lianbo, the daily primetime news program on CCTV-1, which is regarded as China's most authoritative broadcaster, reported the game result the following day. On Friday the on-spot report featured pre-game images and China's preparation work minutes before the game kicked off.
The whole game was screened live.
According to Jiang Heping, director-general of CCTV - 5, CCTV's sports program, it was the first time that Xinwen Lianbo broadcast a pre-game report of the team, known as "Guozu" in China.
"It was surprise for us to have 'Guozu' aired in Xinwen Lianbo for two consecutive days," Jiang said, adding CCTV top officials had decided to spare time for "Guozu" playing in a continent tournament in Xinwen Lianbo.
Friday was the day of another climax – the first game of China Basketball Association (CBA) final between Guangdong and Shandong, which was played side by side with football. CCTV-5 dropped the basketball game to make way for "Guozu" which received an audience rating of 1.05%.
The new season of China Super League (CSL) games captured more of the central TV's prime time than previous years.
CCTV began to live broadcast CSL games in 2006 after failing to secure the television rights in the first year of the league in 2004. The central TV then banned all programs of Chinese football including news report of game results for three years from 2008 fearing the match-fixing scandal would erode the image of the sport.