Brazilian footballer Diego Tardelli fined, suspended for ‘disrespecting’ Chinese flag

Society & Culture

Brazilian footballer Diego Tardelli was fined 40,000 yuan ($5,734) and suspended one game for “inappropriate behavior” during the playing of the Chinese national anthem before his team, Shandong Luneng 山东鲁能, took on Shanghai SIPG FC 上海上港 on October 28.

Video footage shows Tardelli rubbing his face for during the anthem. Apparently this was enough to get him into trouble, as deemed by the Chinese Football Association (CFA):

Earlier this month, popular livestreamer Yang Kaili, 20, was detained for “insulting” the national anthem. Shanghai police said she violated the country’s “National Anthem Law.”

But how that law is applied appears to be erratic. And in this case, no one knows why the CFA chose to make an example out of Tardelli.

Angry Shandong football fans pointed out that in the very game in which Tardelli was punished, his fellow countryman on Shanghai SIPG FC, Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso, could be seen laughing during the national anthem:

Tardelli, a 33-year-old attacking midfielder, joined Shandong in 2015, when he was still in his relative prime. He had 14 appearances for the Brazilian national team, most recently last October. (He was selected as a backup for the 2010 World Cup.)

The Chinese Football Association ruled on Wednesday that Tardelli will miss the game against Changchun Yatai FC this Friday. The CFA cited the 104th clause in its Disciplinary Protocol — which, it won’t surprise you to learn, is written in very vague language, stating that actions not listed in previous provisions may be punishable at the CFA’s discretion.

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Shandong Luneng FC condemned the Chinese Football Association for its double standards. SIPG FC will be in Guangzhou to take on the defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande in the coming fixture, in a game with Chinese Super League championship implications: SIPG FC and Guangzhou are both at the top of the current standings.

The singing of a country’s national anthem before sporting events is not unique to China, of course. In the U.S., Colin Kaepernick famously took a knee in 2016 during the national anthem in a protest against racial injustice. Some people have interpreted his gesture as an insult against the flag, and Kaepernick has been out of the NFL for the last two seasons (he filed a grievance against NFL team owners for collusion in November 2017).

Needless to say, Tardelli was not making a gesture of protest. Rubbing his face will still cost him, though.