Future looks dark for Sun after ban

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 June, 2008, 12:00am

Sun Jihai - China's most successful soccer export and mainstay of the national side - is facing an inglorious end to his international career.

As his team attempt some semblance of face-saving when they meet Australia in their now-meaningless last World Cup qualifier on Sunday in Sydney - the Socceroos have qualified and China are out - Sun will be left alone to ponder his next move.

The 31-year-old former Manchester City defender (pictured) was red-carded for dissent, in which he apparently verbally abused the referee, during his country's disastrous 1-0 defeat by Qatar on June 7. He served his automatic one-match suspension in China's 2-1 loss to Iraq last week which saw the mainland's 2010 qualification hopes disappear. On Tuesday, he was handed an additional five-match ban by Fifa for the Qatar incident.

That suspension also means he cannot compete in the Olympics.

Sun's contract with English Premiership side Manchester City was not renewed at the end of last season.

With China's next official match - after Sunday's Australia clash - not until next year's Asian Cup qualifiers, it seems his international and top-flight club career are at an end.

But a defiant Sun told the mainland's Titan Sports newspaper he could still don the national shirt again.

'Yes, it will be a long time before I show up on the national team again, but anything is possible. I am not quitting yet and I still have the ambition to play for the national team,' he said.

He has been linked to England Championship side Stockport County. Dalian Shide, Sun's old club in the Chinese Super League, have approached the utility player about a possible return, while Australia's A-league side Gold Coast have also offered him a contract.