Bamboo Goalposts

One Man’s Quest to Teach the People’s Republic of China to Love Football

Rowan Simons
Bamboo Goalposts

‘The set text on the troubled growth of Chinese football’ Guardian 2016

Rowan Simons has lived (and played football) in China for decades and Bamboo Goalposts is his hilarious and insightful account of what it’s like to live, work and play there. Rowan presents for Beijing TV. But his real passion is getting China to embrace the social and health benefits of amateur football, which isn’t easy in a country where for decades it was illegal for more than ten people to congregate for the purposes of recreational sporting activity. Rowan has gone about getting China to play football the hard way – he built a pitch and clubhouse and now heads Club Football whose growing membership has given him genuine hope that he might be getting there. No other book communicates more clearly what contemporary China is like when viewed through Western eyes. Bamboo Goalposts is a personal odyssey inspired by the selfless pioneers of amateur football, who took the game around the world in centuries past, but somehow missed China.

‘Profound, wise and funny’ Times

‘Fascinating, often hilarious’ Mail on Sunday

‘It manages to transcend its genre – the ‘isn’t football odd yet oddly similar to how it’s played elsewhere’ travelogue – by virtue of an idiosyncratic voice and a sharp eye for the absurd’ Observer

‘Deserves to be bracketed with some of the very best books about global football. Simons’ fascinating insights – he reveals how Chairman Mao used football in the 1950s to forge better relations with Eastern Europe, and that Deng Xiaoping invited Western outfits including New York Cosmos and West Brom in the late 1970s in order to convince the West he was committed to sweeping away the worst aspects of Mao’s crushing ‘cultural revolution’ – are mixed with first-hand accounts of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Fascinating and compelling.’ FourFourTwo (leading football magazine)

‘Bamboo Goalposts joins the tradition of football-in-one-country accounts led by David Winner (on Holland) and Alex Bellos (on Brazil). Football once again proves an intriguing key to a country.’ Financial Times

‘After 20 years of living and working in China, Simon’s has played a blinder in passing on his passion for all things football. His book explores the human pleasure of the game while revealing the power struggles off the pitch’ Sunday Express

‘Simons’s book is an important one this year. Simons says what so many actually involved in sports in China think, but can’t openly say about the Olympics – what could have been the biggest imaginable catalyst for mass sports participation (perhaps in the world) hasn’t quite turned out like that. A very funny and insightful book on China’s development over the last 20 years, one foreigner’s experiences and, of course, the development of sport during that time. Bamboo Goalposts is a story of a man who likes where he lives, obsesses slightly more than is probably good for him about his passions, but has sat back and drawn some useful lessons from them. Well worth a read – even if you hate football.’ Access Asia


  • Macmillan UK
  • Record Brazil
  • Lian Ban Books and Periodicals Publish Co. China
  • Editions Intervalles France

Material: finished copies of UK edition (377pp)