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Did Tevez Cause China U-23 Group Stage Elimination?

To those with only a rudimentary ability at gaining a firm grasp on straws, it would seem as though host team China’s group stage elimination from the AFC under-23 championships last week had nothing to do with Argentinean Disneyland aficionado Carlos Tevez. However, to the more discerning journalist, a series of extremely tenuous links soon became apparent which allowed for the 33-year-old golf fanatic’s name to be clumsily shoehorned into headlines about the tournament.

“Obviously I could have placed the emphasis on this tournament being a demonstration that China’s latest generation of players are still some way short of the levels of their Asian rivals”, said one correspondent, “but that wouldn’t get nearly as many clicks as the headline ‘Did Tevez Cause China U-23 Group Stage Elimination?’”.

“Plus”, he went on, “rational discussion of why the team failed may seem like a good way to approach an article, but excessive focus on that wouldn’t have given me enough word space to groundlessly speculate that the money spent on Tevez’s salary could have somehow have helped this under-performing group of players with questionable temperaments play better.”

Elsewhere, focus has been on the more controversial aspect of China’s elimination which saw outrage at Iranian referee Alireza Faghani who apparently favoured Qatar as they edged to a 2-1 victory over the hosts in the final group game. There was fury as He Chao was sent off for a second booking in the first half while some Qatari players seemed to go unpunished for heavy tackles later in the game. Much of the controversy has centred on Iran and Qatar’s close diplomatic relationship, while counterarguments have been made to say that He Chao’s second booking was perfectly valid and the Chinese players simply lost their heads at the perceived injustice.

However, a different interpretation of the controversy has emerged thanks to one journalist who soon came to realize Tevez’s pivotal role in the incident. “At first I looked at the angle of how the over-reaction of Chinese players to the referee’s decisions was following a trend of previous generations who were combustible under pressure,” said the writer. “But, as an investigative journalist I was more interested in the possibility that the Qatari FA, or even government itself, may have used its close relationship with Iran to leverage the referee. Amazingly, though, after a thorough investigation into possible advertising revenue generated by page views, I realized that Tevez had to have played a role.”

“It didn’t take me long to hypothesize that Faghani, still angry at Lionel Messi’s late free kick at the 2014 World Cup denying his nation a famous draw, had a grudge against Argentina which transferred over to China thanks to Tevez.”

The argument seems far-fetched at best, but the journalist rationalized his claim.

“The motivation is primarily economic,” he said with a grin, “and not just for me. The ref was not only mad at all the money which was being pumped back into the South American nation directly through Tevez, but the mini-boom created in the golf coaching and beef export markets during the striker’s time in Shanghai. Of course there’s no real evidence for this and most of the article is about Qatar and Iran’s murky relationship, but at least I got Tevez’s name in the headline, introduction and conclusion.”

Not everyone holds Tevez responsible for what happened at the U-23 tournament, though, and one expert has begun to speak out about the Tevezization of Chinese football journalism, and how it is having a detrimental effect on the game inside the Middle Kingdom. “I wrote as many articles as the next man on how Tevez had some vague connection to something that was happening in Chinese football and gave undue weight to the Argentinian’s own off-the-cuff opinions, but now that he’s leaving and the bandwagon is slowing down I’ve realized that a serious over-saturation of stories related to him are stifling genuine insights into the Chinese game” said an expert on such matters.

“Indeed”, he continued gravely, “as the Chinese FA seems to place an undue emphasis on their image abroad, they themselves are starting to see the shadow of Tevez looming over everything and may be making ill-informed decisions accordingly. In fact, this phenomenon is so serious I’ve even given it a name – Tevez Emphasis Voiced Everywhere Zeitgeist. Obviously, as I feel so strongly about this, I will be writing a series of articles beginning with one in relation to recent event entitled “Did TEVEZ cause China U-23 Group Stage Elimination?”

Based in China for five years, Jamie has been exploring tiny little third tier Hubei cities without football teams or decent internet connections, but is now a regular at China League One side Wuhan Zall. A keen football afficionado, he regularly takes in the Chinese Super League, enjoying matches in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Nanjing. Jamie is also a keen observer of the fortunes of the Chinese National side.

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