Chinese Football Association mocked over disciplinary code that shows 'sensitivity over criticism'
Published: Mar 17, 2021 10:35 PM
Chinese men's soccer team captain Fan Zhiyi (left) and Yang Ming, head coach of CBA Liaoning Flying Leopards, perform at the Chinese variety show <em>Roast!</em> Photo: Screenshot of Tencent Video

Former Chinese men's football team captain Fan Zhiyi (left) and Yang Ming, head coach of CBA Liaoning Flying Leopards, perform at the Chinese variety show Roast! Photo: Screenshot of Tencent Video

In big contrast to the nearly always disappointing performance of the Chinese men's football team on the pitch, a former football player has recently delivered a spectacular blow at a talk show by lashing their fellow basketball players who suffered public criticism after their embarrassing failure to defend the home court during the 2019 World Cup in China.

In an episode of the Chinese variety show Roast! aired on Sunday, former Chinese men's football team captain, Fan Zhiyi, ridiculed the performance of the Chinese men's basketball players who lost to Poland and Venezuela in the 2019 Basketball World Cup, citing many bitter comments from netizens.

Following Fan, Yang Ming, head coach of basketball team the Liaoning Flying Leopards, also made jokes over the disappointing national football team. 

Netizens took quite a laugh from the exchange of words between the two, and some sharp eyes mocked that clearly, the 'next-to-never-winning eleven of China' put in more work to save their faces than goals, as the Chinese Football Association (CFA) rolled out a code banning players from openly inciting animosity. 

The CFA's yearly discipline code was unveiled on Tuesday, just days after the players openly made fun of each other and triggered a large scale public discussion. The code further emphasizes zero tolerance for on-court violence. One separate clause, however, caught the public's attention.

Article 59 of the code indicates that players or officials who publicly incite others to hostility and violence will be severely punished. Violation of this provision will result in a minimum suspension of one month and a fine of at least 200,000 yuan (about $30,000). 

In fact, this is not a new modification. The CFA's official website shows the clause has been a part of the disciplinary code since 2015, but it has never sparked such controversy. 

Netizens said the clause shows "sensitivity over criticism."

"Does it mean that in the future, neither players nor coaches can criticize the performance of others or unfair penalties? Can they only praise each other?" a netizen wrote on China's Twitter-like social platform Sina Weibo. 

On the scoring platform Douban, the rating of the show on Roast! went up by 0.1 points in a day.

After the show aired, some netizens said that losing a game was a national disgrace and should not be used for fun. Some believed that Chinese football players are also disappointing, and so they are not qualified to criticize Chinese basketball, which has a better record. 

Others pointed out that failure should be faced head-on, which would facilitate progress in the future. 

State media organization Xinhua News Agency published a commentary on Tuesday saying that Chinese football and basketball should not joke about each other's scars.

"The person being trolled over their scars has to be laughing on the show, which is uncomfortable to watch," Xinhua wrote. "It reminds Chinese fans of the painful memories for a laugh."

However, national TV broadcaster CCTV sided with the show, noting that people watch it for a laugh, and it has not broken the bottom line.

"The jokes about men's basketball and football are not just for today. Through a program, the public vents emotions. The industry should listen to the demands behind this voice, rather than mute it," CCTV wrote on Wednesday. 

"In athletics, losing is the original sin. If it is too embarrassing ... go on the field and win it back," said a comment by a Sina Weibo user, which won "likes" from many other net users. 

There are also some who defended the CFA rule, arguing that its original intent was not to ban all criticism.

"Contrary to the public's overwhelming understanding, the rule is not meant to restrict players, but to protect them," wrote William Aliang, a key opinion leader in sports on Weibo, noting that the code is designed to help players and coaches to focus more on the game instead of emotion-led, off-court spats in the season.

After the Roast! episode sparked wide discussion, Fan Zhiyi responded by saying he hoped his harsh tirade would inspire Chinese men's basketball players to further improve.

"I believe every Chinese grows up with an emotional tie to Chinese basketball and football. If my bitter words can help them, all my purposes will be achieved." Fan said.

The day after the episode aired, basketball guard Guo Ailun, the target of Fan's roasting, led his team to a win in a Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) game. He scored 17 assists in the game, a new career high.