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WEF Exclusive: Shanghai Shenhua squad in training rebellion over unpaid wages

Shanghai Shenhua’s entire squad staged an open protest in the full gaze of the Chinese media today, reportedly due to wages going unpaid as part of the ongoing equity share dispute.

Not for the first time this season, the club became the setting for a bizarre spectacle as players turned up for their daily training session in casual clothing and walked slowly around a running track rather than engage in any vigorous activity.

According to Shanghai Online news portal, local media who regularly attend the club’s training sessions were “shocked” by the odd scenes. The club’s Chinese players turned up late, with Nicolas Anelka, Joel Griffiths and Brazilian defender Moises turning up even later to join in the leisurely stroll.

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After 20 minutes, the players stopped walking and simply hung around checking their phones or chatting. Wang Dalei, dressed in “hip hop” attire according to the report, played an informal game of basketball with Anelka. Head coach Sergio Batista was also pictured talking with the players and appeared to be in support.

The report quoted Shenhua press officer Ma Yue who said the players were expressing their dissatisfaction at having not received wages, and that the club’s boardroom had witnessed the protest and “understood” why the action was taken. It was not specified how much wages are in arrears. However Shenhua have been engulfed by an equity share dispute for the past month or so and it was initially feared Drogba and Anelka’s wages would not be paid and lead to their early departure from the club.

Confusingly, Drogba, who is currently away on national duty with Senegal, previously went on record to international media to confirm he has been paid. However Columbian midfielder Giovanni Moreno, who allegedly was prevented by club owner Zhu Jun from playing a match several weeks ago due to Shenhua not being able to pay an installment on his transfer fee to Argentinian side Racing Club, was notable by his absence from the report. Last week a letter purporting to be from Shenhua’s lawyer to Moreno’s agent, asking for “understanding” that Moreno’s wages could not be paid on time, was leaked on weibo.

does not believe the dispute will result in Anelka or Drogba leaving the club, but it is clear the issue is unresolved and having an impact on morale and therefore performances on the pitch for Shenhua. The local media has been devoid of any particularly new or revealing information on the share dispute in recent weeks, it would appear Zhu Jun and the other board members may wish to try to sweep matters under the carpet.

But this latest protest has obviously been planned in advance and planned to be carried out under the glare of the media – the fact that Shenhua have only three games left and nothing to play for at all, suggests the issue has been brewing for sometime before the players decided to make a public protest.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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