The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature.
Guerschon Yabusele, a French basketball player on the Nanjing Monkey Kings, has been fined 10,000 yuan ($1,400) and given “a serious warning” by the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) for not looking at the Chinese flag during the national anthem before a game last Friday against Zhejiang.
Guerschon Yabusele is fined by Chinese Basketball Association for ¥10k ($1.42k) for not saluting the Chinese national flag during the national anthem ahead of the game against Zhejiang Golden Bulls. It is a courtesy that one should comply with persuant to the league handbook. pic.twitter.com/8e9za2oLs5
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 7, 2019
As you can see in the GIF above, Yabusele made the unforgivable faux pas of bowing his head instead of staring straight at the flag. As expected, this decision by the CBA has been highlighted by the international press.
I happen to know a recruiter of foreign basketball players who does work for a different CBA team. “When a team tries to bring foreigners to China, we do our best to make them feel like moving here will be easy,” he told me. “Every time something like this appears, it makes my job harder, or makes the player we want to sign more expensive. I feel like these things put a 5 percent increase on the contract.
“It just makes [the foreign players] think that the league is controlled by the CPC, or become worried about the fans who get angry at these things. I wish the people in the league were more chill about minor things like this, which most fans don’t care about. They just want to see exciting foreigners and good basketball.”
The former Boston Celtic Yabusele defended himself to TMZ Sports:
“I have the same routine, I’ve been doing this my whole career, and I wanted to apologize for the people that took it personal because it was not my point.
“I will show my respect during the Chinese national anthem and keep my head up for now on, Love you guys.”
Over-the-top reactions to seemingly innocuous comments and actions are not exclusive to the CBA, of course. The Chinese Football Association has also been on form this year with stupid reactions to minor incidents. Guangzhou R&F head coach Dragan Stojkovic was suspended for the final three games of the Chinese Super League (CSL) season after he made a throwaway comment at the end of a press conference last month. The former Serbian international quipped, “How many national teams do China have? Is my player called into the B-team or the C-team?” and was duly suspended for “inappropriate language.”
Chinese national soccer team continues to disappoint
Following on from Stojkovic’s quip about China’s extraordinary number of national teams, China’s national B-team has been playing in the EAFF-E1 Championship in South Korea. The tournament is a four-way round robin between China, South Korea, Japan, and this year’s qualification winners, Hong Kong.
The big three teams are all playing with weakened and experimental squads at the tournament, with all European-based players absent due to the tournament falling outside a European international break.
Subsequently, the tournament has an irrelevant feeling to it, with small crowds in the two stadiums in Busan. However, the tournament is intriguing for Chinese supporters, as it gives the CFA a chance to test out Wuhan Zall FC head coach Lǐ Tiě 李铁. The national team has been without a head coach since the resignation of Marcello Lippi last month, and Li has been touted by many in Chinese soccer as a potential replacement. The Chinese coach, who had a brief stint with Everton in the Premier League, led Wuhan to an unlikely sixth-place finish in the CSL this season.
Unfortunately for Chinese fans, the national team was woeful in a 2-1 loss to Japan, which controlled the game. Any Chinese fan watching and hoping to see a potential diamond in the rough was left disappointed. There was a gulf between the two teams, with China’s only goal coming in the game’s waning moments. At least the Chinese players showed some fighting spirit:
Jiang Zhipeng's explanation in the post-match interview regarding the foul: I was not intending to injure anyone. It's me who touch the ball first and his head collided with my shoes afterwards. I don't think it is a stamp towards a rival player so a red card is impossible. pic.twitter.com/1vcZhSPSe7
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) December 10, 2019
OK, maybe too much.
Ding wins UK snooker championship
Dīng Jùnhuī 丁俊晖 claimed his first ranking title in more than two years with an impressive win at the UK Championship. Ding had fallen outside the top 15 in the world, but his victory at the UK Championship has him back in the global top 10 (at No. 9).
The UK Championship is one of the most prestigious events on the snooker calendar, sitting behind only the Masters and World Championship in the Triple Crown.
In the final, Ding overcame Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 10-6 to lift his third UK Championship and claim the £200,000 ($263,000) prize.
On his way to the title, Ding knocked out top seed Ronnie O’Sullivan as well as the 19-year-old Chinese sensation Yán Bǐngtāo 颜丙涛. The teenager Yan, currently ranked 19th in the world, dispatched the Australian world No. 4 Neil Robertson and Scotland’s fifth-ranked John Higgins en route to the semis.
After the victory, Ding told the BBC that he hoped his win would help inspire kids take up the sport in China.
The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.