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Dong Fangzhuo: The Travelling Disappointment That Will Never Give Up

If you ask your Chinese friend who is Dong Fangzhuo, you will probably learn a new Chinese phrase: 傻B (idiot) – (it literally means something rather more obscene – ed.)

Dong Fangzhuo, in the heart of most Chinese football fans, is like the Ryugyong Hotel of North Korea and Francis Jeffers of English football.  Dong is the shame of Chinese football that no one wishes to mention.

What makes the Chinese fans have such sentiment toward Dong? For those who don’t know who King Dong is, he was the first Chinese footballer to play for English Premier League’s Manchester United.

England – Manchester United

In 2004, out of nowhere, Manchester United suddenly announced they will be signing a prominent Chinese star named Dong Fangzhuo.  There wasn’t much information about this young talent, the fans only knew he played for Dalian Shide and he has amazing speed.

The Chinese fans had high expectations of the young lad.  If this nameless kid was chosen by Sir Alex Ferguson, he must have something to offer for the team.  Sun Jihai had already  gained much attention playing for Manchester City F.C.,  increasing Chinese fans desire to see more Chinese stars on the English pitch.

Because of a work permit problem, Dong was immediately loaned to Belgium’s Royal Antwerp.  He performed well there, scoring 34 goals in 67 appearances.  His fiery performances also earned praise from the Manchester United fans who greatly anticipated his return from Belgium.

Finally, Dong got his wish, and in 2006 he was recalled back to England, and this is where his nightmare officially started.

Dong’s tenure at Manchester United was fruitless however.  He never made it to the first team and rarely appeared on the bench.  He played mostly for the reserves and only played in the Asian summer tour friendly games.  This made the fans question whether Dong’s skills were good enough for a club of Manchester United’s stature.  Dong’s only Premiership appearance was on May 9th, 2007, when he started at home against Chelsea.  However, it is worth noting that Manchester United had already won the Premiership title before this game.

Dong’s nightmare worsened in the 2008-2009 season.  A rumoured loan to Watford was dismissed by Sir Alex Ferguson.  He was not given a shirt number and his contract was mutually terminated.  Without a club, Dong Fangzhuo went back to China to play for his old club, Dalian Shide.

Back to China – Dalian Shide

During his tenure in Dalian Shide, he was played out of position, mostly in the attacking midfielder instead of a striking role.  Even wore, he had now not scored a goal for almost three years.  He ended up with only one goal for Dalian Shide in two years.  His dismal performances saw him lose his spot on the national team.

Poland – Legia Warsaw

In 2009, Dong left Dalian Shide to seek football elsewhere.  Again, out of nowhere, he suddenly signed for Poland’s Legia Warsaw.  This made him the first Chinese to play in the Poland Ekstraklasa.  Many fans believed he undergo a career revival in Poland, since he scored a couple of times in Legia Warsaw’s friendly games.  However, much to everyone’s surprise, Dong only played for four matches and his contract was mutually terminated again.

Again, without a club, Dong’s reputation fell again.  His reputation was so bad that Guangzhou Evergrande, one of the richest clubs in the Chinese Super League, immediately denied any interest when Dong was linked with the club.

Portugal – Portimonense S.C.

Dong, out of nowhere again, was suddenly signed by a Portuguese Superliga club named Portimonense S.C.  It was rumoured that Portimonense asked Dong’s former teammate, Cristiano Ronaldo, for his recommendation before signing the Chinese striker.  Dong eventually signed an one year contract and became the second Chinese player to play in the Portuguese Superliga, after Uniao Leiria’s Zheng Chengdong.  On October 17th, 2010, Dong finally scored his first goal in two years in the Taca de Portugal match against CD Cinfaes.



However, in the midseason, Dong found he no longer featured in the club’s plans. Talk about déjà-vu. Dong immediately left Portmonense and he was briefly linked with Serbia Superliga’s FK Sloboda Point Sevojno.  Dong impressed again in Sevojno’s friendlies and the Serbian news mentioned he was close to signing a contract.  Sevojno offered a long term contract to Dong, but the player only wanted a short term deal.  Dong was reported to be asking for 10,000 Euro a week, but negotiations brokedown and he was on his travels again.

And most recently, Armenia – FC Mika

Again, out of the blue, Dong signed for FC Mika of Armenia.  He scored on his debut  against Ararat on March 19th, this year, and another goal against Banants in the Armenian cup.  A good start, but will it end bad and lead to yet another case of déjà-vu for Dong?

Even though Dong remains a laughing stock for many fans, there is something we all  respect Dong for: his hardworking heart.

He never gave up, despite a career high at Royal Antwerp and a career low in not scoring a goal for almost three years.  Dong says he wants to stay in Europe and is determined to return to a top-tier league.  Let’s hope Armenia will make him the second Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Ever since witnessing Yang Chen’s near goal opportunity in the game of China vs. Turkey in World Cup 2002 from his bed at 3am, Smari has developed an avid interest in following the Chinese national team. He had seen how the Chinese team was worshiped as gods during the World Cup 2002 and Asian Cup 2004, and how they are treated like shit since the failure to qualify for the World Cup 2006. Smari joined Wild East Football as a contributor because he realized there is a need for the world to know about Chinese football. There is an almost bare minimum amount of English language forums or websites that strictly talk about Chinese football, the Chinese Super League, the Chinese national team, etc. The world needs to know that Chinese football is not about Shaolin football, corruption, diving, and cheating; we are about playing with our heart to bring smiles to our already embarrassed fans. Smari hopes he would be able to witness the improvement of Chinese football and spend all his life savings to watch Guojiadui’s second World Cup appearance at whatever venue, even a warzone. Apart from writing/translating Chinese football news, Smari loves playing mahjang, imitating how Samri Nasri dribbles in the Emirates pitch, watching how Adam Johnson terrorizes his rivals, learning bar tending to make up his reason for consistent drunkenness, being artistically weird by shooting abstract photos, and defeating boringism in his mundane life. He also loves traveling, and he hopes to have his own apartment that is filled with national team jerseys from every country he visited. Smari often attributes his depression to the current dire state of Chinese football, let’s hope he won’t turn insane soon.



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