China's under-19 national coach has been suspended after players mutinied, accusing the unpopular Fan Bin of dishing out beatings and verbal abuse as part of his harsh training regime.
Thirteen players signed a letter with their finger prints in symbolic scarlet ink, demanding the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) sack Fan before the squad's US tour. 'We, all the players of the national youth basketball team, cannot bear Fan Bin's insults and beatings which have taken place over the past three years. We now protest to the central [sports] leaders and request that he is replaced.'
Ascending star and senior squad playmaker Guo Ailun was among the signatories of the April 1 letter.
Startled by the unprecedented revolt, the governing body backed the players and suspended Fan indefinitely, cancelling his part in the tour.
He has been replaced by national icon Hu Weidong for the two-week exhibition tour, a warm-up for June's World Championships, the CBA confirmed yesterday.
'Fan should take prime responsibility. We won't dismiss him immediately, but have strictly urged him to correct his actions,' CBA vice-president Li Jinsheng said. 'He will get the opportunity to apologise in person to the players when they return from the US.'
Li said Fan, the former Bayi female squad coach, must 'fully understand' his wrongdoings and 'amend his behaviour'. 'We will keep an eye on him. He must regulate the way he works or we will look for a coaching change,' Li said.
But even if Fan turns over a new leaf, it seems unlikely he will be able to unite the squad behind him.
According to the Guangzhou Daily, the dressing room rot set in three months ago after Fan launched a tirade of 'dirty words' after they lost an exhibition game.
The fledgling stars were tipped over the edge last month after Fan ordered an extra hour of training.
Aggrieved, the players took pen to paper - and in their rare act of defiance, they sidestepped the normal channels of complaint and sent their letter direct to the CBA board.
The rebellion rattled government sports chiefs who are unused to such assertiveness from their athletes, often accused by critics as being trained into compliant, medal hungry drones.
CBA director Xu Lan admitted China's traditional strict sports training ethos needed to be replaced by a 'more humanised' version if it was to avoid more player power among the nation's rising sports stars. And he addressed a social phenomena that is causing concern at all levels of government - the brash attitude of the 1990s generation.
'The players were all born in the 1990s and are all sole children in their families. They are part of a generation possessed with greater self-awareness,' Xu said. 'The old strict-and-rough way cannot be used to guide them and we need to develop a new model that is more flexible and humanised to fit these young guys.'