Long lock, hairstyle rule: how china is harassing its footballers

Honor where credit is due: Wu Lei will get one on November 21st price for scoring so many goals for China’s soccer champions Shanghai SIPG.

If it is up to China’s president, his country wins the world championship title in football. But the league cannot act professionally – also because government-controlled projects are taking place. In addition, the professionals are harassed with absurd regulations – such as how their hairstyle should look.

There were moments this year that were perfect for polishing the tarnished image of Chinese football internationally. The 5: 4 victory of Shanghai SIPG at the series champion Guangzhou Evergrande three matchdays before the end of the season put the crown on an exciting duel in the Super League. One round later it was clear at the beginning of November: For the first time since 2010, the country’s best team has not come from Guangzhou but from Shanghai. The prestigious Beijing Guo’an won the cup with the German coach Roger Schmidt in two thrilling finals against Shandong Luneng and returned straight to the Asian Champions League. And China’s executor on duty, Wu Lei by Master Shanghai, far outshone all highly paid top stars from abroad with his 27 goals of the season.

Cup winner with Beijing Guo’an: Roger Schmidt, who coached Bayer Leverkusen from 2014 to 2017.

This is good news for a league that wants to go up in a country that wants to go up. As a reminder: China is the country whose president wished to win the world championship title. But the goal is only approximately realistic if the domestic professional league can be raised to a level at which young talents can develop international class. What the league needs is an association that pulls the strings behind the scenes so that the clubs can work in peace.

But the opposite is the case. 2018 goes down as the year in China’s football history that undermined belief in the professionalism of the industry. For, instead of the fact that the officials had tried to pave the way for creativity and a sufficient degree of individuality as sources of top-class football, they resorted to ancient Maoist traditions and gathered their bearers of hope in a military camp lasting several months. At the beginning of October, the association recruited 55 Chinese players under the age of 25 from the first and second leagues. Regardless of the current season in the Chinese Super League, the clubs had to make their players available and continue to pay. For several weeks, the young professionals saw no ball for it. Instead, they were seen bare-chested in the snow in photos.

"Healthy cultural education"

Military camps for Chinese soccer players have been around since 1950-Years of tradition in China, the breakthrough into the top of the world did not occur. There was a comparable drill last in 2007. The national team nevertheless failed in the longed-for qualification for the 2010 World Cup. It is said that the 55 professionals will be divided into two teams next year and compete against the clubs of the first and second league. Your opponents should do without their foreign stars. The meaningfulness of the project has been discussed since then, but there is no public, plausible strategy on the part of the CFA association.

Any idea about football? Reinhard Grindel.

"When does the CFA finally stop shooting itself??", asks Jonathan White from the one published in Hong Kong "South China Morning Post". "It is definitely the least predictable organ in all sports." It is believed that politics also plays a major role in the background. The Ministry of Sports provides non-specialist officials such as the former table tennis player Cai Zhenhua to the top of the coming association and possibly the ex-basketball hero Yao Ming. Reinhard Grindel from the German Football Association is also not very knowledgeable. But to him stand Experts at your side who can advise and make your own decisions. The CFA, on the other hand, is a strictly hierarchical construct that has to bow to the instructions of the ministry.

So it is probably also political officials who dictate to the international players what they should look like if they want to run for China. Tattoos must be covered with skin-colored arm socks and hair must be worn short and black. Blonde highlights or braids are no longer tolerated. Chinese media described the instruction as a measure under a "healthy cultural education". With the mallet method, the CFA bludgeons everything that does not meet the norm.

Example on "Chinese ribery" statuiert

The main players suffered were their own national team. It was recently hit by the highly talented U19 international Zhou Junchen. The CFA blocked the "Chinese ribery", as some experts call them, for twelve months. During this time, he is not allowed to appear for the national team or for his first division club Shanghai Shenhua. His offense was comparatively harmless. Zhou had left the team hotel with some teammates after a losing international game against Jordan (0-2) in Thailand without consulting the coaching team. But while the other evildoers got away with much shorter barriers, Zhou hit the full force of the authorities. He was unreasonable, it is said from association circles.

"The CFA is apparently on a new campaign. Such a penalty is completely exaggerated and it damages the development of the player", says Brandon Chemers from Beijing, who has been reporting on Chinese football for many years. The American believes that Zhou was punished so hard to make an example of him. The officials accept that one of their greatest talents will lose touch if they are unable to compete for so long.

Neck chains? Twelve month lock!

International necklace: Wang Shenchao.

A national team player had been hit just as hard before. Wang Shenchao came on in the international match against Myanmar. He put on a necklace in the field and thus violated FIFA regulations. In this case too, the national association pronounced a twelve-month ban without further ado and, above all, harmed its own selection. Because Wang must therefore watch the Asian Championship early next year.

The discipline also caught foreigners. Shandong Luneng’s Brazilian Diego Tardelli has been suspended for a game because of his face during the national anthem. A gesture that anyone considered disrespectful to the Chinese anthem. In a statement published in Tardelli’s name in Mandarin, it said: "I apologize for my disrespectful behavior towards China. I hadn’t intended that. I have been living and working in China for four years and I love and respect this country deeply."

The standardization and discipline of all soccer players in the country seems to be incompatible with the dream of winning the World Cup. Since 1930, the world champions have not developed a desire to play and excellence by making them all look the same and nodding decisions by coaches and associations without exception. But China always stresses that it wants to go its own way, socially, politically, culturally. In 2018, the country’s football consistently followed this path.

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