Shanghai Shenhua’s eccentric owner Zhu Jun is set to heap embarrassment and ridicule on his side again by appearing for his club on the pitch in tomorrow night’s friendly with Manchester United at Shanghai Stadium.
According to a report in the Oriental Sports Daily, the overweight 45-year-old will line-up upfront alongside Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to form a somewhat unconventional strike force to face a Red Devils defence featuring former England centre-half Rio Ferdinand.
Zhu is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with the world’s greatest players on the pitch – he famously appeared for Shenhua against Liverpool in a friendly match in Holland in 2007, and also lined-up alongside Anelka during a pre-season practise match earlier this season.
The Oriental Sports Daily reports that the Shenhua fans are largely supportive of their self-indulgent chairman, stating “As regards Zhu Jun’s desire to play, the fan’s mood is very supportive because he has brought the biggest name every to play in the Chinese Super League, Didier Drogba.
“Currently Shanghai Shenhua fans are feverishly discussing for how many minutes Zhu Jun will appear on the pitch.”
This above statement is simply not true – a quick scan of Shenhua fans on weibo reveals a range of views including some which are openly hostile to the prospect of Zhu Jun stepping into the turf.
Meanwhile Sina Sports also carries a report, saying Shenhua manager Sergio Batista which did not rule out the possibility of Zhu appearing.
“He’s played in games before to let us see his love for football. No matter if he appears on or off the pitch, I look forward to him standing shoulder to shoulder with us in battle,” said the Argentinian.
With Chinese football in the world spotlight and craving international credibility, Zhu once again risks turning Chinese football into a laughing-stock.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015