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Tan Long: My first season in the MLS

This is a translation of a news article from Liaoshen Evening News, we tried to stay as true to the original as possible, though some words might be added or modified to increase readability. Wild East Football and Smari are not responsible for the authenticity of the content and are not to be held for any misrepresentation of the translation.  The paper recently interviewed Tan Long, the first Chinese to play (and score) in the MLS, about his first season with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Liaoshen Evening News: I heard that you just renewed your contract with the Vancouver Whitecaps?

Tan Long: Yes, in the final half of the season I played pretty well for Vancouver, so we’ve agreed to a 4-year deal with the team just before I returned to China for vacation.

Liaoshen Evening News: What are your future plans?

Tan Long: First, I want to establish myself in the team. If there is an opportunity, I’d like to play in Europe, but I’d be happy to spend my career in the MLS.

Liaoshen Evening News: Many football fans are concerned that playing in the MLS, you might change your citizenship.

Tan Long: No doubt my citizenship is still Chinese, and I have never considered changing that. It is my childhood dream to play for the Chinese National team. (Smari’s note: Tan Long’s step-father is an American and Tan currently has a green card.)

Liaoshen Evening News: You’ve yet to get called up to the national team, what do you think you can offer Camacho?

Tan Long: I believe my primary advantage is my speed, my technique is also OK. During Whitecaps practices, the coaches often suggest I use my speed to contain defenders or look for an opportunity for my teammates to send me a through-pass. However, it’s too bad that the Chinese media ignores the MLS.

Life in Vancouver

Tan’s done a lot to move in front of the other Whitecap strikers, including designated player Eric Hassli.  When Tan first joined the Whitecaps, he failed to join the first team and was just a substitute.  Because the other strikers were playing well, Tan was further demoted to the reserve team and later, even worse, the youth team.  As a 23-year old, Tan’s time with the youth team was cause for frustration.

“During that time I really want to give up on football, but I was lucky to have a mother that always encourages me”. Under his mother’s advice, Tan decided to train harder and play better, so he could prove himself to the coaching team.  With the youth team, Tan scored in almost every match and was quickly recalled to the reserve team.

Opportunity Comes

In July’s reserve team matches, Tan scored goals in three consecutive matches and this caught the attention of Tom Soehn, the caretaker coach, who brought Tan to the first team.

Even though Tan made it to the 18-man roster, he spent most of his team on the bench, only getting ocassional minutes as a substitute, though he maintained the right attitude and continued working to earn more playing time.  In an August match against the Houston Dynamo, Tan was given a run out in the final 10 minutes of the match and assisted on a late winner for the Whitecaps, a rare win in their first season.  His play led the manager to trust in him more and give him more minutes.  “After that assist, my confidence is back, and I felt more relaxed in training”, Tan mentioned.

Celebrating Tan's winner

Tan’s first goal finally came in October, a game winner in a tight 2-1 match against DC United (watch it here).

In October, Tan Long finally scored his first goal against DC United in front of the Whitecaps crowd. Tan’s header turned out to be the winning goal and Whitecaps won the game 2-1.

David Beckham

Major League soccer is filled with big names like Theirry Henry, Robbie Keane, and most of all, David Beckham.  Tan has always been a fan of Beckham so when his side played the LA Galaxy (Beckham’s team), it was one of his happiest, and most embarassing, moments with the Whitecaps.  “During the match between Whitecaps and LA Galaxy, I was on the bench during the first half, my eyes were locked on Beckham the whole time. Afterward, my teammates beside me made fun of me and asked: ‘Long…can you be a bit professional?’”

Before the match, Tan tried to persuade his teammates to help him to take a photo with Beckham, but they all laughed at him and rejected the request.  He wondered why this was and asked them, “you guys don’t like David Bechkam?”  One of his teammates responded that he was a fan, but “right now isn’t the best time to do it, they’re our opponent.”  He didn’t get a photo with Beckham, but Tan got a lesson about what being a professional is about.


Tan is impressed with how the MLS player’s union operate efficiently and believes the power and ability of the union can be compared with the one in the NBA.  Every year, the union emails a questionnaire to each player, asking them about wages, hospitality at away games, the food, etc. If the majority of players give a negative response in one section of the survey, the union will try to negotiate immediately.  The away game arrangement appeals to Tan the most. Every player attending an away game will be given a per diem of $100.

Currently Tan Long is on vacation in his hometown, Dalian, but plans on returning to Vancouver in January.  He’s been given “protected player” status by the club so that they can guarantee he’ll remain a Whitecap through the draft and transfer window.

Report Card

Starts – 4
Played – 13 (351 minutes)
Goals – 1
Assists – 2

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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