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Cheng: After the crash, Zhang Xiuwei needs to keep his career on right path

Media reports out of Tianjin are that Tianjin Quanjian’s young starlet Zhang Xiuwei was drunk driving on Tuesday morning (at 4:40 am no less) and was involved in a seven car accident. Fortunately there appear to be no injuries, but, days later, his club has yet to take a public stance about the incident.

According to police reports, Zhang’s blood alcohol was way over the legal limit when he rammed his Porsche into the side of another car, causing the pile up. Zhang is one of the league’s most promising U23 players this season and is likely looking at some time in custody as the local PSB has opened up an investigation into the incident.

His club has stayed relatively quiet about the matter, though a representative stated that Zhang wasn’t drunk driving and that it was a “regular accident”, albeit one that happened in the small hours of the morning. He went on to say that there was no way Zhang could be drunk because he proceeded to take part in practice that day, though he wouldn’t be the first to have practiced under the influence.

The story of Zhang’s crash reminded me of an accident of a fellow young player named Zhang, Zhang Yuning, many years ago. In 2000, the youngster was driving drunk with teammates in the car and got into a serious accident. While he walked away with only minor scrapes, his team mate Qu Leheng was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair due to injuries sustained during the incident. Zhang never received any punishment for the incident and played regularly throughout the season.

Following the accident, Zhang went on to be a good player, but never topped the seasons he had before the accident. He is not the only player in China who has been felled by drink over the years, it seems that every few seasons a promising young player is brought down by his off-field habits.

One of the more well known is Mao Jianqing, who was involved in a late night restaurant brawl after the last day of the season in 2008 that led to the start of his years in the wilderness, struggling to return to the form and promise that he showed in his initial seasons with Shenhua. In Beijing, its been a similar story with Piao Cheng, who looked like a sure thing for the national team after his arrival in the capital, but whose late night habits have frustrated managers and have held him back from developing into the player he could have been.

Unlike in other countries, there is no players union in the CSL or any kind of training about money or good habits to protect young players. Many of these young players are often in a major city and living on their own for the first time, making monthly salaries that put them in the 1% of the country. In some cases, the players around them will serve as positive role models, but often that isn’t the case.

We don’t yet know what will happen to Zhang, but I think its important for the club not to stand up for him with lies, but seriously help him with whatever issues he is facing. Off the field, it looks like he could be in for some time in jail through the legal system, the team should help him face it and deal with the consequences of his decision. However, its equally necessary that they assist him in understanding his mistake and help him keep his career on a positive path, continuing the success that he’s had so far.

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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