The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature.
With his Espanyol side sitting at the foot of the Spanish La Liga table, Wǔ Lěi 武磊 has not had much to shout about this season. The former SIPG star and second-highest Chinese Super League goalscorer of all time has had a fairly difficult season, with the 28-year-old struggling to hold down a place in the starting lineup for the Spanish side.
But last weekend provided a moment that Wu will never forget, as he became the first Chinese player to score against FC Barcelona.
Coming on the field in the 74th minute with his team down 2-1, Wu immediately brought energy and pace to Espanyol. The Chinese international, making his second appearance in the Barcelona Derby (the clash between crosstown rivals FC Barcelona and Espanyol), almost scored within five minutes as he had a close range header well saved.
It was in the 88th minute when Wu broke through the Barca defense to slip the ball past Neto’s outstretched hands and nestle it in the far corner of the goal.
Spain’s largest sports daily newspaper proclaimed the next day that the goal had been seen by “one billion people” despite the fact the game was on at 4 am Beijing time. The goal did indeed get a fair bit of traction with Chinese fans, as it trended on Weibo. There was also an increase in Chinese media coverage of the game, which had not been widely previewed.
North v South in CBA All-Star Weekend as Jeremy Lin to sit out January
Jeremy Lin of the Beijing Ducks will take January off, as agreed upon before the season, to make way for seven-foot Croatian-American center Justin Hamilton. Teams in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) are allowed only two active foreign overseas players on their roster.
The timing couldn’t have been better, as Lin has been beat up all season. He is the fifth-most fouled player in the league, according to SCMP, though despite that has maintained healthy averages of 24.9 points, 6 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and two steals per game.
Hamilton showed quality earlier in the season, and will join Ekpe Udoh, the Nigerian power forward, as the two foreign players in the Ducks lineup.
Lin will return after Chinese New Year for the Ducks’ game against the Liaoning Leopards on February 1. But of the eight games Lin is scheduled to miss, the CBA All-Star game is not one of them, as he’s expected to represent the North side on Sunday in Guangzhou.
Lin was the leading vote-getter for his side. He’ll be joined by his teammate Zhái Xiǎochuān 翟晓川 and former Houston Rockets center Zhōu Qí 周琦.
Nike announce new long-term partnership with Chinese athletics
Nike and the Chinese Athletics Association have agreed on a long-term extension to their current partnership. The extension will last until 2033 and cover the next four Olympics.
The current sponsorship agreement was signed in 2013 and was slated to last until 2021, but with this extension, announced by CAA president Duàn Shìjié 段世杰 and Nike Global Sports Marketing executive vice president John Slusher, will see the deal continue in the long term.
Alongside the agreement for Nike to supply the gear and supplies for the national team, the corporation also announced the establishment of overseas training bases and the training camps with high-profile international coaches for Chinese athletes.
The deal is a positive step for Nike, which has seen a challenge to its place in the market from local Chinese sportswear companies in the past decade. The growth of homegrown companies such as Anta and Li-Ning has been significant in recent years, with both companies now sponsoring and providing the sportswear for a number of high-profile teams. For example, Chinese national teams, including winter sports and gymnastics, are now kitted out in Anta.
In other Nike-China news, the sportswear giant also revealed its year-of-the-rat footwear collection this week. If garish sneakers are your thing you can check out the designs and shoes here.
The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.