They say a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. No matter the irony that the quote is attributed to Winston Churchill despite no evidence that the British leader ever said it and versions predating him, it was an accurate quote whenever it was made and is more apt now with the internet. The pants in question could well be XXL football shorts based on what’s happened in the last week with a story – sorry, a lie – about Chinese football. “Millionaire bought a club and forced to put on his 126-kilogram son,” the TUDN USA Spanish-language Twitter account posted on May 18, linking to their story online from the day before. A Chinese billionaire bought Zibo Cuju, a football team in the Chinese second division, and has told the coach he has to play his son every match. pic.twitter.com/vfyw6JhIpm — Footy Humour (@FootyHumour) May 18, 2021 A quick aside for the truth : Zibo Cuju’s 35-year-old owner He Shihua came on for the club in the 90th minute of a China League One game against Sichuan Jiuniu on May 4. In 2019, Jilin Baijia’s 33-year-old owner Xu Guangnan played a China League Two game against Xi’an Daxing for his already relegated club. Somehow they have been conflated into a single story in the two weeks since He made his debut against Manchester City’s Chinese sister club. The truth of Chinese football club owner’s 126kg son viral story The TUDN USA account has more than 640,000 followers but it was also shared by the TUDN Mexico account, which has 4.2 million followers. Little wonder that the “footy banter” and betting company accounts – and those accounts that are both – soon got hold of the “story” and shared it to their millions of collective followers and then it was shared and shared some more. Footy Humour for example has 1 million followers on its own. Newspapers followed. There was The Sun , with the detail that the unnamed owner’s son had played against Shaanxi Chang’an, in Britain, and Italy’s Corriere dello Sport and La Repubblica , Portugal’s A Bola and Spain’s AS – with its Twitter following of 2.7 million. The tall tale transcended football with the topic being the subject of radio station listener debates from the US to Nigeria. It even ended up on the Golf Digest website – though arguably that is a physique more suited to the fairway than the football pitch. And as the online footprint grew, more details kept being added. Titbits such as the now “billionaire owner” insisted the son “takes all the set pieces” or that his nickname is “El Nene (the baby)” or that “Shihua’s son is still expected to start in Thursday’s clash against Hangzhou Greentown.” Football club owner subs on in Chinese second tier Of course, none of those were true on account of the 126kg son being non-existent (and apparently the same age as his father) and also Hangzhou Greentown being renamed Zhejiang Pro ahead of this season. Some people tried to put the details right on social media, explaining that the Chinese on screen proved something was amiss – the screen grab and video were from Jilin playing Xi’an, not Zibo – and sharing the facts. Britain’s Daily Star tabloid also published the truth as did Kenya’s Tuko website with the glorious headline “Truth Behind Chubby Boy Playing In Chinese League”. The truth is that the lie is the better story despite being 126kg, almost 20 stones or close to 228 pounds of BS. He Shihua, the enterpreneur-cum-player of Zibo Cuju, who was substituted in No. 10 in a CL1 match on Tuesday(left), is not the 1st club shareholder featuring in Chinese professional league. In 2019, Xu Guangnan, a shareholder of Jilin Baijia, played in CL2 donning No.7(right). pic.twitter.com/8lwWjKNz5J — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) May 6, 2021 A video of Xu in action for Jilin Baijia in 2019 has now been viewed 2.3 million times and counting on Twitter, it was not getting those views at the time when he was just the overweight owner of an already relegated team, whose players had recently protested their unpaid wages. This is a fascinating insight into fake news and the modern media landscape. It also gives a whole new meaning to the term fantasy football. The fact is that there are two stories of note here and there are many more in Chinese football for anyone who cares to look. Chinese women’s football team lose as ‘hair not black enough’ Media interest – even within China – is limited when it comes to Chinese football, unless the story is scandalous, shocking or strange. There’s a similarity to the fascination with football falsehoods from North Korea. Given the nature of football in China there’s no shortage of such stories. For anyone willing to look there’s a rich seam of stories that seem too good to be true. Just this week the national team were getting a “patriotic education” in Communist Party history to inspire them to the Qatar 2022 Fifa World Cup. No booze, pork or excess body fat key to China’s World Cup hopes Recently the Chinese Super League champions disbanded before the season because their owners chose to stop funding them, while almost every team in the country had to change their names to adhere to new rules banning corporate sponsors. There’s something every week thanks to the football authorities who have banned tattoos and called hair colour into question. Innumerable rule changes also add to Chinese football’s rich tapestry. It has long been the case. Like when Zhu Jun, the controversial then owner of the Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua, played himself up front alongside Nicolas Anelka in a friendly. Xi’s World Cup wish, tattoos and Tevez: the 2010s in Chinese football All this makes you wonder why there are any lies when Chinese football is stranger than fiction. But while people can make up stories of billionaire owners playing alongside their 126kg sons, there’s fat chance of the truth getting its pants on.