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Zhao Junzhe: My Family Had Only Two Words To Describe My Time at Liaoning “Blind Loyalty”

Zhao (R) with Yu Hanchao (L) during happier times

Zhao Junzhe is an interesting character, he’s spent his entire career with Liaoning, first with their youth team and, starting in 1999, with the professional team. His childhood home’s not far from where Liaoning currently plays at Tiexi. He’s risen within the club to captain the team for many years and lead the team through highs, and more commonly, lows (including relegation in 2008). This year, he played in his 300th professional game for the club and is one of the lions (or shall we say tigers) of Liaoning football, the only one who spent his entire career on the team. He’s also a descendent of Manchu emperor Nurhaci. However, after Liaoning pulled out of the Asian Champions League, this loyal field general had some very harsh words for his club when he sat down with Beijing News. The following is a translation of that interview.

Beijing News: It’s been a few days since Liaoning’s decision to withdraw from Champions League qualifying, are you doing better emotionally?

Zhao Junzhe: I’m at peace now, but this was a really big blow. Over the years, I’ve had to reduce my goals, in the end I just wanted to play in the Champions League, but because of management’s decision, I won’t even get the chance, what can I say?

BJ News: Your contract’s up at the end of the year, what options are out there for you?

Zhao: This is something I still have to discuss with a number of different people, the club, the sports bureau, and of course my family. If these conversations go well, I’ll stay with Liaoning, after all I’ve stayed all these years already. Right now I do have a lot of options and I’m not going to rule any of them out at this time.

BJ News: What are those options?

Zhao: The Sports Bureau said that I could be in charge of the team for the 2013 National Games. I could also go overseas to play. But this is something I really need to think about right now.

BJ News: You’ve persisted so long with Liaoning, now do you think it was worth it?

Zhao: Ah, whether it was worth it or not, I already know, my family used two words to describe my time here: blind loyalty. When I was 23 or 24, the age to leave on a free transfer was 26. When I was 26, the CFA said you needed the permission of your club to leave. The rules keep changing on me.

BJ News: Yes, now there’s finally a free transfer system.

Zhao: Yeah, when I was younger the team wouldn’t let me go, now that I’m older, the team only wants to sign one year contracts with me, it’s kind of awkward. I’m just one of the sacrificed on China’s wave towards professionalism, I’m just a piece of sand in the sea.

BJ News: You’ve become a “big banner” of Liaoning football.

Zhao: Honestly, what rights does a banner have beyond waving in the wind? I can’t help but feel sad when I look at how other clubs treat and take care of their veteran players.

BJ News: What are your plans when you go into negotiations with the club?

Zhao: I think it’s a question of sincerity between the parties. There’s already no need for me to prove my sincerity to the club, all my years here are the best evidence. I hope the club will show their sincerity to me through their offer, the contract they offer me is their best way to prove to me their care. After all, I have to raise a family and I’m no longer a kid.

BJ News: How many more years do you think you can play?

Zhao: My ability and body are not a problem, I don’t think another two or three years would be a problem, but it requires all sides. All these years, I’ve been very unselfish, maybe if I’d been a little more selfish, the situation wouldn’t be like this.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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