Here is today’s China Sports column for SupChina, which you can read in full here. Below is a summary of what went on this week.
Tevez can’t keep his mouth shut, enrages Chinese fans
To be clear, Shanghai Shenhua got badly burned by the failed Carlos Tevez experiment. Don’t believe any of the numbers you’ve heard or seen about what he was being paid to play in China, because the truth is that only Tevez and the club know exactly how much money changed hands.
Whatever the amount, though, he was undoubtedly rewarded very, very handsomely for what was, at best, a very, very underwhelming performance on the pitch and, at worst, a show of willful disrespect to both the club and its fans, such as this spell in a game where he stood practically motionless in the middle of the pitch while play continued around him.
So when Tevez returned to Boca Juniors in his hometown of Buenos Aires with a large pile of cash, you might think he would take the opportunity to appease those fans he had let down in Shanghai.
Not a bit of it.
While he did admit to Argentinian TV station TyC Sports that those at Shenhua had a right to criticize him, he readily joked that he had simply been on holiday in China for seven months. Coming soon after comments from Argentine and Boca legend Diego Maradona (who himself struggled to get paid in China) calling Tevez’s China strategy “perfect”, because he “went to China, filled up Santa’s sack with dollars and came back to Boca”, the incident left Chinese football fans fuming.
Some of the comments were unprintable, others were more inventive. To read some of the better ones – as well as to find out what the long-term effects of this sorry saga on Chinese football might be – head over to SupChina now.
Just how serious is the CFA about its new transfer tax?
One player who might be arriving in the CSL is Villareal’s Cedric Bakambu, who, if his move to Beijing Guoan goes through, could become the most expensive African player of all time, something I discussed on BBC World Service Radio here (from 41:00). However, as the transfer continues to drag on with no official confirmation from Guoan, the club may be trying to maneuver around the CFA’s new transfer tax – which effectively doubles the price of expensive foreign players – by, for example, pleading its case to the league that its outbound payment to Villareal is in fact simply designed to trigger Bakambu’s release clause, rather than a standard transfer fee per se. It’s the first time the tax has really been put to the test, but rest assured that if this strategy doesn’t work, CSL clubs will keep trying to find workable loopholes.
Beijing Evening News reporting that a third-party company paid the €40m necessary to trigger #Bakambu's release clause, leaving #BeijingGuoan able to sign him up on a "free" transfer. Bold move to skirt CFA's transfer tax. Waiting for CFA's response. pic.twitter.com/AVivWorsLU
— Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) January 19, 2018
Meanwhile, Bakambu told French cable channel Canal+ that he’d heard Beijing was a very polluted city and he didn’t really want to go there, but that “financial circumstances” had persuaded him to change his mind.
Head over to SupChina to read the full column and to see which other players could be on their way in or out of the CSL.
U23s flatter to deceive
China’s U23 team went from hero to zero in the space of a few days, as the hosts failed to progress out of the group stages at the AFC U23 Championships. After beating Oman 3-0 in the opening fixture, the State General Administration of Sports (SGAS) published a statement praising Chinese football and toasting the country’s successful reform plan.
Turns out they jumped the gun.
A 1-0 loss to Uzebekistan left China needing a result in the final group game, but the youngsters lost 2-1 to Qatar. SGAS quickly deleted the statement.
After beating Oman at the first round, the State General Administration of Sports has published an official statement where they "highly praise the Chinese football, the reform has finally proven itself". After U23 China team got knocked today, it was deleted.
Sums it all up. pic.twitter.com/zSwQgiMv15
— Roy Tadmor (@RoyTLuo) January 15, 2018
Usually it’s the players who get it in the neck after a national team disappointment, but this time it was the referee. Click here to watch the highlights and to find out why Chinese fans decided to boycott the rest of the tournament.
Where, oh where, will the next Li Na come from?
Six Chinese women made the main singles draw of the Australian Open, but none of reached the third round. Zhang Shuai beat US Open champion Sloane Stephens in a first-round upset, but then lost to Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova, while Duan Yingying – the only other player to win her first round match – then fell to seventh seed Jelena Ostapenko.
With five players ranked in the world’s top 100, and another five in the top 200, China’s strength in depth should at some point produce another standout player – with that goal now aided by the WTA’s season-ending showcase tournament moving to Shenzhen for the next ten years (due, of course, to $$).
But, as ever, the men’s side looks a whole lot less promising. The highest-ranked male player lies at 181, and not a single Chinese man made the main draw in Melbourne for the second year in a row. 18-year-old Wu Yibing is the current US Open boy’s singles champ, but he’s yet to break into the top 300 in the pro ranks, so needs some more time before he can truly make an impression
Olympic entente moving closer
This AFP article, in which I am quoted, explores the global shift as the Olympics set up shop in Asia for the next three Games, and the eyes of the world have turned towards the entente between the two Koreas, with the IOC expected to approve their joint decision to march in Pyeongchang behind the Korean Unification Flag – for what would be the fourth time at an Olympics, following joint marches at the 2000, 2004 & 2006 Games.
This is the Korean Unification Flag, used in 1991 when there was a single Korean team in World Table Tennis Championships in Japan & World Youth Football Championship in Portugal. Presumably will be the same one for @pyeongchang2018 pic.twitter.com/UCHWDDMaT6
— Mark Dreyer (@DreyerChina) January 17, 2018
The other headline news is that the women’s ice hockey team also looks set to be approved, but questions remain: will the squad limit be kept at 23, with some South Korean players dumped to allow some Northern sistren in? Or if the squad limit is expanded, would there be pressure to ice some weaker players from the North (because coach Sarah Murray sure as hell hopes not)?
For all the positive press this is garnering for the IOC – and, boy, do they ever need some – the South Korean public is not very supportive, nor are some of the others teams – click here to find out more.
This week’s full column can be read here, while there are also links to stories about China’s first genuine NHL prospect, “Rock Star“, who had his shoulder broken in dubious circumstances, a profile of Chan Yuen-ting, who made history in 2016 as the first female soccer coach to lead a men’s team to a top-flight title and the heartwarming story of Mr Ma from Anhui province, who named his daughter Maserati – much to his wife’s dismay.