Leaving China for a new club in Japan, Honduran international Saul Martinez has bemoaned the state of China's Super League, saying playing in near-empty stadiums was "depressing." "Shanghai is a great place to live, but it is not at all exciting in terms of soccer anymore," Martinez, who played three seasons with Shanghai Shenhua, was quoted as saying by the Shanghai Daily newspaper. "Now, even the championship dividing match does not fill half of the stadium ... it's depressing," Martinez said.
Confounding soccer's enormous popularity in China, the top-flight Super League has floundered amid a loss of sponsorships, poor attendance, widespread cheating allegations, and a lack of local talent.
Shenhua's prospects have mirrored the overall trend. The team won the 2003 championship, but slid down the ranks over the next two seasons amid constant coaching replacements.
Martinez will play next season with J League Division One side Omiya Ardija for a reported salary of US$400,000 (331,000 euros), reports the AP.