Beijing Guoan snags former West Brom boss Slaven Bilic

Society & Culture

Also: Jeremy Lin officially returns to the U.S., and the PGA Tour China season has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Croatian manager Slaven Bilic has been announced as the new Beijing Guoan manager, just three weeks after his sacking at Premier League relegation candidate West Bromwich Albion.

Bilic replaces former French head coach Bruno Genesio, who led Beijing to a third-place finish in the Chinese Super League (CSL) playoffs last season. Guoan also reached the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League, losing to eventual winners Ulsan Hyundai.

The arrival of Genesio during the 2019 season lifted Beijing to within a whisker of the title that season, just losing out on their first title in a decade by two points on the final day.

On the other hand, Bilic found success with West Brom last season, leading the English midlands club back to the Premier League in the 2019-20 season. However, the club struggled to maintain last season’s form in England’s top flight this season, winning just once in 13 games before the Croatian lost his job in December.

Speaking to British radio station TalkSport, Bilic explained his decision to move to China: “I was open to go there when I left West Ham because one of these connections was attractive for a few reasons.

“Of course the finances are very important for people going there, but also the size of the club was important for me, and I’m going to a massive club there.

“I was ready to go there two years ago. It didn’t happen then. It’s happened now. It was never in my plan to have to go there but it was always one of the destinations that I was considering at least. I’m happy.”

The start date for the 2021 CSL season has yet to be announced by the league.

~

Houston Rockets back on Chinese streaming service, but Daryl Morey’s new team, the 76ers, still blacklisted

The Houston Rockets are back on Tencent. Ever since then-Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s anti-government protests last October, the Rockets have been absent from broadcasts on the mega-streaming service. But on Monday morning China time, reports SCMP, the Rockets’ game against the Lakers was broadcast live.

But China has not so easily forgiven: the Philadelphia 76ers, who currently employ Morey as their GM, remain blacklisted from Chinese screens.

~

PGA Tour China season canceled

The PGA Tour has canceled its China season for 2021 due to the pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions in China. The series was canceled last year as well.

PGA Tour China, one of the PGA’s development leagues, was one of the first golf tours in the world to be suspended last year after the outbreak of COVID-19.

In a statement, PGA Tour China executive director Greg Carlson said: “We remain committed to the region and want to do everything we can to give competitive opportunities for players in Asia and from the Pacific Rim.

“We are trying to pursue other opportunities for our players to play in 2021. We will also take this pause and evaluate what we might be able to do in 2022.”

A recent rise of COVID-19 cases inside China has seen a tightening of restrictions both on internal and external travel in the country.

Other top professional leagues in China have been confined to bubbles. The entire Chinese Basketball Association, for example, is stationed in Zhuji, Zhejiang for the season.

~

Lin completes home move

Jeremy Lin, who has been a free agent since he left the Beijing Ducks in the summer, has officially left China for one more shot at the NBA. He was unveiled by the Santa Cruz Warriors on Saturday, ending months of speculation as to where he’d end up.

After social media clips emerged of Lin training with Golden State Warriors players, rumors intensified about the 32-year-old guard’s imminent return to the Warriors and their G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz.

A deal was close in December, but early negotiations with the club fell through. However, talks heated back up as the free agency deadline approached, and a deal was agreed to last week (though there was an accounting delay).

In a live Q&A with Chinese fans on Douyin, Lin explained why he chose the G-League team instead of the Beijing Ducks, who had also been vying for his signature. “My dream is not to stay in the G League. I play well, NBA teams will want to sign me and I can join whichever NBA team who wants me, although

I am playing in the Warriors’ G league team.”

However, during the session, Lin also signaled his intention to return to China and to the Beijing Ducks in the future.

“Regardless of success or not, I don’t know what I will do next year. If no NBA team wants me, if you asked me today, I really want to go back to the CBA,” he said.

“I always want to go back to CBA some day, that’s for sure. I get on well with Shougang boss, players and coach. If I am successful in NBA, then even if I have an NBA offer next year, I can’t agree to go to the NBA immediately, because I really enjoyed my time with the Ducks.”

The G League will start in February.


The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.