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Chinese football league urged to keep order after flare-ups

Shanghai SIPG’s Brazilian forward Hulk has denied punching an assistant coach © AFP/File / Johannes EISELE

CHANGSHA, China, May 19 – A senior official called for “good order” between the Chinese Super League’s foreign and domestic players after allegations of racism and violence among a number of flare-ups involving top stars.

Zhang Jian, senior vice-president and general secretary of the Chinese Football Association, said the league needed balance between home-grown players and the highly paid foreigners, whose ranks have swelled this season.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, the world’s best paid player according to the Football Leaks website, was engulfed in a race storm this week, and Brazilian striker Hulk is being probed over an alleged assault on a coach.

Zhang, a newly anointed member of the powerful FIFA Council, said the foreign players were positive for China’s football ambitions but he acknowledged that not all has run smoothly.

“Generally I think it’s a very good thing for us,” he told AFP at the World Football Forum in Changsha. “We have so many very good players from Brazil, from Argentina and from Europe like Hulk and Oscar.

“It’s very good motivation for us and a very good engine for us and of course the clubs have invested so much money in them.

“So after they’re coming we should… be well governed and keep good order, and keep a good balance between the local players and the foreign players.”

Chinese officials have been at pains to accommodate the new arrivals, with China international Qin Sheng handed an extraordinary six-month ban for stomping on the foot of Tianjin Quanjian’s Belgium midfielder Alex Witsel.

– Hulk probe –

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Qin’s Shanghai Shenhua team-mate Sun Shilin was also banned for two games for sarcastically giving Tianjin’s Alexandre Pato a thumbs-up after he missed a penalty.

When Guizhou Zhicheng coach Li Bing accused Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk of being anti-Chinese and punching assistant coach Yu Ming, he departed from his role within days.

However, the CFA has since launched an investigation into the incident, which is denied by both Hulk and his club.

Lavezzi, meanwhile, triggered outrage online after publicity photos emerged of him pulling back the corners of his eyes in a ‘slant-eyed’ pose.

The CFA ruled there was no “malicious intent”, but urged the Argentina international to “regulate his words and actions more”.

Chinese clubs were emboldened to spend big on foreign players, smashing the Asian transfer record five times in less than a year, after President Xi Jinping decreed China should become a football power.

China’s dreams include hosting and winning the World Cup, although Zhang acknowledged that the tournament was unlikely to come to the country before 2030.

And he downplayed hopes that China, currently ranked 81st and with only one World Cup appearance so far, would be in a position to win the tournament on home soil.

“In China our football level is not very high now and we have a very, very long way to go. So if we want to become the (World Cup) winner, it’s very, very long-term,” warned Zhang.

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“We have a lot of potential but we’re not very good now,” he added.

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