Journalists following the Women's Olympic Football Tournament could
hardly find a more fitting interviewee than Sun Wen, who has been
deeply involved with each of the four competitions since the first in
Atlanta in 1996.
The world's all-time scoring great, now 35, figured prominently in the
inaugural event 12 years ago, when she won the Olympic silver with
China. Four years later, she played in her second finals and despite
the Steel Roses' early exit in the group stage; she scored four goals
to scoop the top scorer prize.
Her ability off the pitch was discovered after she called time on her
playing career in 2004. In Athens four years ago, Sun Wen worked as a
reporter for a newspaper in Shanghai, her home city. Here at Beijing
2008, she is busying herself as a member of the local organization
committee (LOC) in the Shanghai venue.
"I am working as the venue general coordination on behalf of the LOC
and my job is to assist my FIFA counterparts with the organization
work," she said, admitting that her current job is much more difficult
than scoring goals. "For a striker you do your job well as long as you
score goals, but as an organiser I can see that to make a tournament
successful requires sustained hard work by FIFA, IOC, LOC and all
While the women's competition this time ended up with near carbon copy
to the final four years ago, with the USA prevailing over Brazil for
their third Olympic gold, Sun Wen was quick to point out the general
progress made by all the participating teams.
"What has impressed me most so far is that the competition was more
difficult and even than in the Women's World Cup last year. World
champions Germany has trouble scoring against the likes of Nigeria and
Japan. The traditional underdogs have made rapid progress and are
closing in on the powerhouses."
Sun Wen's conclusion was best illustrated by Japan and Korea DPR's
brave performances. The Koreans carved out a 1-0 win over Nigeria while
the Japanese broke further ground by storming into the semi-finals.
"It has long been difficult for Asian teams to play against the
physically stronger European or American opponents but the Japanese
players here showed the way," she remarked, citing the Nadeshiko's 5-1
thrashing of Norway.
The hosts' hopes
A 2-0 defeat to their regional rivals Japan in the quarter-finals ended
the hosts' hopes of a football medal. The disappointment did not,
however, dent Sun Wen's faith on the young Steel Roses under coach
"Despite the result, I am glad to see the team has been moving in the
right direction. They rediscovered their fighting spirit during the
campaign, a legacy left by the old generation. With coach Shang in
charge of the team, they can develop back into the world's most
Having said that, Sun Wen admitted there are areas where the team needs
to improve. "The Japanese are leading Asia in terms of techniques and
tactics so we have to work hard to catch up with them. We (China) have
a physical edge in Asia therefore we will be more than capable of
maintaining our place as continental powers if we hone our skills to a