SHANGHAI, China, October 18 – Former Chelsea star Didier Drogba was set to return from international duty Thursday and into a row at his Shanghai Shenhua squad that has seen teammates reportedly refuse to practise over unpaid wages.
Shenhua players were said by Chinese media to have protested on Monday over the pay dispute, turning up late for practice at the club’s training ground and taking a leisurely stroll around a running track. Media reports have said payments to some players were skipped.
However, the team will play its next game on Saturday as scheduled, club and league officials said Thursday, in comments suggesting the dispute had been laid to rest.
Training had returned to normal after the one-day protest, a club official told AFP, declining further comment.
Drogba returns after scoring twice in Ivory Coast’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal on Saturday that had to be abandoned in the second half because of rioting fans.
A spokeswoman for the Chinese Football Association told AFP that a scheduled match between ninth-placed Shenhua and Changchun Yatai, who are two places higher, would kick off as scheduled on Saturday.
“The match will be on as planned,” he said.
Chinese media have reported that Shenhua’s chief investor Zhu Jun has threatened to withhold salaries of players unless he is granted majority control of the club.
It was not clear whether the threat was the reason behind the reportedly unpaid wages.
In a posting on his microblog on Wednesday, the flamboyant online gaming tycoon said he “solemnly respected and understood” the action by the players on Monday.
Previous reports had said that under a 2007 deal, Zhu’s 28.5 percent stake in Shenhua would to rise to around 70 percent if he invested more than 150 million yuan ($24 million). He has reportedly spent 600 million yuan.
China’s Soccer News newspaper reported Thursday that the dispute was likely to be settled by the end of this year with major shareholders allowing Zhu’s share of the club to increase to above 70 percent.