China officials see red over kung-fu tackle

Peter Goff

A star of the Chinese Olympic soccer team 'shocked' and 'shamed' top officials after he was sent off in an international for kicking a Portuguese opponent in the neck kung fu-style.

The Chinese Football Association issued a statement saying midfielder Zhou Haibin's flying kick was a 'shameful act of violence on the field of play' which had 'brought shame on Chinese football'.

The incident happened in stoppage time of the first half in the third place play-off against Portugal at the U21 Toulon tournament in France.

With the ball in the air Zhou jumped high and drove his boots into the neck of the Portuguese midfielder, in what Chinese officials later described as 'a wild act'. The referee blew the whistle immediately to call half-time and gave Zhou a red card.

China went on to lose the game 1-0, with captain Chen Tao missing a penalty in the second half.

Aside from the automatic one-game Fifa suspension, CFA officials and his club Shandong Luneng said they would be handing out additional punishment to the 21-year-old player.

'Zhou's behaviour has created a negative influence on the society. It has damaged his personal image and the public image of Chinese football,' the CFA said.

'He has shown regret after the game but that is not enough to undo the negative influence.'

Zhou had missed the semi-final against France as he was suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the preceding game.

The CFA said it had instructed top national team officials to crack down hard on Zhou. He should also be told to write a 'self-criticism' and apologise to the fans.

Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng said they would fine him 10,000 yuan and put him through an 'educational process' so he would see the error of his ways.

The midfielder, however, felt that he had not done anything wrong.

'I was surprised at the red card. I was unaware of what happened. I only saw the player lying on the ground, with his head in his hands,' he said.

'I think the two yellow cards [before the semi-final] were unjust, and I have no idea why I got the red card. But I really did not mean it. I have told my coach Jia Xiuquan that.

'Anyway, it really was a lesson for me.'

France won the tournament, beating Holland 5-3 in the final.