This article was cross-posted in Chinese at Yahoo! Sports China.
When Huang Bowen left Beijing Guoan after the 2010 season to ply his trade in Korea with Jeonbuk Hyundai, he made a promise, if and when he returned to China, he would return to Beijing Guoan. It’s a promise that has become more and more common among Chinese players in recent years, it’s also one few players have bothered to keep.
Over the weekend, Huang signed a deal to return to China and join big money league leaders Guangzhou Evergrande, breaking his promise to Beijing fans. Some fans are saying that Huang should be forgiven, that as a professional footballer, this is just part of life and that a player must do what’s best for his career and his family.
I agree that a professional footballer has a short career span and must maximize it as much as possible, making all the money he can. What I don’t agree with is forgiving Huang. I was at Huang’s Guoan debut, I saw him score his first goal and he was long one of my favorite players.
When he left the club in 2010, I was fine with that, moving to Korea looked to be a good career move for him and I was appreciative of his service to the club. However, when he made his tearful promise to return, I believed it.
Fans understand the nature of the game and that players come and go, there’s nothing wrong with a player leaving. There is no need for a player to tell fans that he’ll return to the club if he comes back to China. It’s a “promise” that shouldn’t be made unless the player absolutely means it.
Huang is making up excuses for why he didn’t follow through, but no excuse is going to cause the fans in Beijing to forgive him. This is not the way to treat fans who supported a player for a number of years, from his first experiences in professional football.
It is also in stark contrast to another former Guoan player, Shao Jiayi, who promised he’d return to the capital club when he was ready to come back to China. Shao spent 10 seasons in Germany and when he was ready to come back to China this winter, there was only one club he considered, Beijing Guoan.
That kind of loyalty has guaranteed Shao is a fan favorite, beloved by those who watched him in the late 90s as well as by a new generation. It seemed fitting that on Saturday, the same day Huang signed for Evergrande, Shao scored the winning goal for Guoan.
Shao’s example of loyalty and love for a club is something that a guy like Huang can never understand. I look forward to properly greeting Huang when he comes to Worker’s Stadium on the last day of the season with the one word to describe him: TRAITOR.