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Footballers’ restaurant rumpus excites local media

The fallout from Shanghai Shenhua’s final day championship debacle continued today when news emerged that two of its players were involved in a late-night drunken brawl following their fateful match with local rivals Zhejiang Lvchang on Sunday.

The Shanghai Daily, that curious hybrid of advertorials, petty local crime stories, absurd editorials written in Chinglish, and a UK-like obsession with weather reports, revealed that promising winger Mao Jianqing (23) and team mate Liu Yintao assaulted 25-year-old Xu Jianping after he approached a woman in their party who he recognized as a former colleague. The errant pair were assisted by TV sports commentator Xu Yong in the beating of Xu Jianping after warning him not to continue speaking to the woman. The fracas happened at 4.50am on Monday morning at Biefeng Tang on Changle Lu – a chain restaurant popular with revellers as a preferred spot for getting something to eat after a hard night’s drinking.

Sohu has footage of a police officer giving an official account of the protagonists wrongdoings – and revealing the amusingly small 500rmb fine each had to pay. Mao will be detained for seven days however, and Liu five days.

It’s unfortunate to see that the Shanghai Daily chose to highlight the misdemeanors of two Shanghai Shenhua players on the front page of its website. Particularly considering that your correspondent found no pre-match coverage of the fact that Shenhua football club, the nearest thing the city has to a competitive sports club reflecting local pride and identity, had a reasonable chance of winning its first national championship for five years. Only post-game reports were found, buried amongst a cascade of other football stories about top European teams with no connection to Shanghai.

All observers agree that the standard of Chinese football, and Shanghai Shenhua, leaves something to be desired. But that isn’t the point – support for local institutions should be a given for local newspapers, however in this case, the Shanghai Daily ignored a great, but ultimately unsucessful season by its local team and instead appeared to focus only on the misbehaviour of two of its players on one drunken evening.

Whilst there is never any excuse for violence, it must be said that footballers brawling, or anyone brawling after a night out, is nothing new in China or, more to the point, anywhere else. Especially after blowing the league title. It all seems so British, the quintessential football-related, alcohol-fuelled dust-up over a woman in the kebab shop. In other words, is it really big news? Or is it just yet another attack on the media’s favourite punch-bag, Chinese football, because its the only thing they are allowed to slag off?

This post was originally published on Shanghaiist.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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