PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 12:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 1:03pm

WCBA coach calls basketball player 'scum' for playing for Japan

"It doesn’t matter she goes by Li Mingyang or some other nasty Japanese name, she is the one despised by millions of Chinese basketball fans. This person doesn’t love her own country, doesn’t sweat for her own country, and she is the scum of Chinese basketball," said the coach


Amy Li began her journalism career as a crime news reporter in Queens, New York, in 2004. She joined Reuters in Beijing in 2008 as a multimedia editor. Amy taught journalism at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu before joining SCMP in Hong Kong in 2012. She is now an online news editor for Amy can be reached at, or follow her on Twitter @AmyLiSCMP

Li Mingyang, an ambitious and talented former WCBA (Women’s Chinese Basketball Association) player, was recently described as “scum” by her ex -coach after she turned down the offer to play again for China and became a Japanese citizen. 

It is not just the prospect that Li is to play for the WJBA, Japan’s premier women’s basketball league and ultimately Japan’s national team, that angered Chinese coach Li Xin most. It’s Li’s newly adopted Japanese name,  Miyuki Sugiyama, or  すぎやま みゆきin Japanese, which led the coach to vent her anger on Weibo, China’s popular social media website.

The since deleted Weibo post reads:

“It doesn’t matter she goes by Li Mingyang or some other nasty Japanese name, she is the one despised by millions of Chinese basketball fans. This person doesn’t love her own country, doesn’t sweat for her own country, and she is scum of China’s basketball.”

That the gifted player was not the first or only WCBA player to have jumped ship to play in Japan didn’t pacify authorities and self-proclaimed nationalists.

Media reports later revealed that the 18-year-old, 1.91-metre-tall  Li played centre position. She was regarded as a key figure in the 2010 World Championship where her team scored third place. Her exceptional performance landed her a spot at a Japanese club after the championship.

It’s no surprise some Chinese media reports highlighted the discovery the head of the Japanese club, Akihiro Sugiyama, later became Li’s “adopted father,” a euphemism widely used in China to refer to rich men with young, gold-digging mistresses.

It turned out to be a bitter break-up. WCBA claimed that Li had lied and said she had moved  to Japan to study, while Li’s mother later said WCBA had showed little support for Li when she returned from the championship full of injuries. They had also refused to pay her medical expenses and left her on her own to seek treatment, said her mother

The disgruntled WCBA then appealed to FIBA (the International Basketball Association), who later ruled that the Japanese club pay a fine to WCBA. But WCBA promptly refused to accept the ruling and insisted that Li only be allowed to play for Japan after she turns 21 - with China’s approval. 

A war of words were fought online while the dispute continued.  Insults and slurs were exchanged.

This time different voices were heard, among them the famous player and coach, Zheng Haixia, who said she didn’t agree with the “scum” comment.

Emotions and nationalism sentiment aside, some media have finally discussed the elephant in the room - money.  Without revealing players' meagre incomes, reports explained that WCBA even failed to get itself a sponsor in the 2012-2013 season, so the players were forced to pay for their own uniforms.

That has left most of us pondering the same question as Li, or  Miyuki Sugiyama and many of her predecessors, including the the first Chinese NBA player Wang Zhizhi, “What’s the point of being ‘patriotic’ to a country ruled by heartless cadres [in this case WCBA officials] who don’t give a damn about you? ”

Besides, aren't you supposed to be happy for me now that I am better-off if you truly love me? Or are you really just worried about your own political careers and retirement?

As much as our proud "nationalists" deserve the benefit of the doubt,  I am sure that given the chance, they would outrun everyone else to queue up for a US passport.


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