In a stunning and unexpected development, Shanghai Shenhua have again shown their determination to grab international headlines by persuading former Spurs, Leicester and England goalkeeper Ian Walker, 41, to come out of retirement to act as an emergency goalkeeper.
Walker was brought to the club as goalkeeping coach a little under a year ago by his former Bolton team-mate Nicolas Anelka, as part of a bizarre experiment which saw the Frenchman become player-manager of Shenhua. But now the custodian will soon find himself back between the sticks thanks to a freak injury to the club’s regular keepers.
Shenhua’s China international keeper Wang Dalei, 24, injured himself after falling off the back of reserve keeper, Qiu Shenjiong. Inspired by an online video clip of a bucking bovine at a US rodeo, Wang, and Qiu, nicknamed “Da Niu” (big bull) by the Shenhua fans due to his bulk, decided to mimic the event during a post match warm-down following last night’s Shenhua – Liaoning match.
The horseplay ended in disaster however when Qiu quickly shook off Wang, who landed awkwardly on top of him, resulting in a pulled thigh muscle for Wang and a sprained wrist for Qiu. Both will be out for several weeks at least.
Shenhua, currently struggling in a financial crisis due to a boardroom power struggle, face severe budget constraints and appear to have found it a logical step to persuade a player already on the club’s staff, to come out of retirement. Shenhua owner, the eccentric and deranged video game mogul Zhu Jun, issued a decree authorizing the application for Walker’s registration as a player whilst being carried in his sedan back to his corporate hospitality box, having been taken to the changing room to examine the pair’s injuries.
“In the circumstances we think this is the most appropriate replacement and ensures that once again Shenhua have former Premiership stars in our line-up, said Shenhua spokesman Lang Feiqian, adding, “The impressive performances of our new Argentine defender Rolando Schiavi has proved that players in their 40s can perform at CSL level so we had little hesitation in asking Ian to don his gloves once more.”
Shenhua fans took to the forums to welcome the club’s latest foreign star and some questioned why Walker was not at least deputizing for his young charges already. Long-time fan, Zhang Qingxin, said “I heard that Walker has the best curtains in England, all he needs to do is pull them over the goalmouth and we will be just fine.”
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