Kunming, blessed with a year-round cool climate, is the City of Eternal Spring.
It is a horticulturist’s paradise and world renowned for its flowers.
Steeped in history and gifted with picturesque landscapes, it serves a neat package for tourists.
But surely, Singapore coach Rodojko Avramovic isn’t thinking of taking his Lions there for a holiday when they meet China in their first Group A match of the third round of the Asian Zone World Cup qualifiers on Sept 2.
Under the Serb, Singapore lost once and drew twice against the Chinese — 1-0 in Tianjin and 0-0 here in the Asian Cup qualifiers in 2006, and 1-1 in a friendly three years later at the former National Stadium.
So, head to head, they are logically in with a shout in China.
With Iraq and Jordan also in the group — opponents the Lions have performed well against — there is a real chance they can advance to the next level in the qualifiers.
But Kunming has given China an edge over everyone else, at least in their home matches.
Rising almost 2,000m above sea level, the air is thin and carries less oxygen in the south-western city.
The advantage in a 90-minute football match lies with the home side camping and training there longer than visiting teams scrambling for time to acclimatise their players to the low pressure atmosphere.
Only the naive will believe the Chinese Football Association are using these qualifiers to sell Kunming as a destination during their home games.
There are world-class arenas around the country and for the world’s most populous nation, surely the 80,000 seat National Stadium, built for 2008 Beijing Olympics, is ideal than the Kunming’s Tuodong Sports Centre, which is half the size.
But the Chinese FA have not breached any regulations.
FIFA do not stipulate in their regulations where a country can host an international match within its territory.
Tuodong Stadium was approved by FIFA because it also staged the South Africa World Cup qualifiers between China and Australia, which ended 0-0.
Inspectors from the world governing body ticked all the boxes from pitch size and turf condition to lighting and spectator safety for it to stage the qualifiers again.
A change of venue needs six months’ clearance.
China isn’t breaking the rules that have been laid down by FIFA, that’s for sure.
But is it fair for a host to choose one that puts their opponents on the back foot when there are a host of world-class stadiums in the country that would have allowed a level-playing field?
Not all rules are or can be written down. A lot of how we conduct ourselves every day is dependent on our natural ability to know objectively what is right thing to do.
This is so true in sport as well and in football a player can’t smoke while he is playing although you won’t find it reflected in the rule book or regulations.
Under FIFA’s code of conduct issued in 2002, the governing body said that:
“Winning is without value if victory has been achieved unfairly or dishonestly. Cheating is easy, but brings no pleasure. Playing fair requires courage and character. It is also more satisfying. Fair Play always has its reward, even when the game is lost. Playing fair earns you respect, while cheats are detested. Remember: It’s only a game. And games are pointless unless played fairly.”
It went on to add that fair play “means respect. Without opponents there can be no game. They have the same rights as you have, including the right to be respected”.
At the 2008 Olympics we saw how China spared no effort in making the event an overwhelming success and becoming the leading sports nation on earth.
But at Kunming, have they gone south in an attempt to get to the World Cup Finals again after their last and only appearance in 2002?