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China’s Wang Yifan (right) spikes the ball during the Asian Volleyball Confederation Cup match against Iran in Pasig on August 25, 2022. Photo: AFP

China’s women’s volleyball team cause a stir online after wearing face masks in Asian Cup win over Iran

  • China lose first set against Iran in Pasig City, but win next three after taking off masks to complete 3-1 victory
  • Reigning champions next face Australia in quarter-finals on Saturday, but sparked a backlash on social media

China’s women’s volleyball team have caused a stir on Weibo after wearing N95 masks during their Asian Cup victory over Iran on Thursday.

The national side won 3-1 to complete a clean sweep of Pool A and wrap up top spot, having already qualified for the knockout stages after wins over South Korea, Vietnam, and hosts the Philippines.

But the reigning champions suffered a shock setback when they surrendered the first set at Philsports Arena in Pasig City while wearing face masks for the first time at the tournament.

A screenshot of China women’s volleyball team players wearing N95 masks during their Asian Cup match against Iran. Photo: CCTV

Most of the players then took the masks off, and China rebounded to win the next three games for a 24-26, 25-19, 25-10, 25-13 victory.

China next face Australia in the quarter-finals on Saturday, but their decision to wear face masks sparked a big debate on Twitter-like social media platform Weibo after the match.

“Wearing a mask in the first game and losing, it seems that the lack of oxygen is indeed not good,” one user wrote. “In the second game, three players also wore masks when they fell behind. After a technical timeout, all the players took off their masks.


“The next three games in a row, China won. Therefore, we should not wear it in the next competition. Not only will players not be able to exert their full strength, but it will also affect the cardiopulmonary function of the athletes.”

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“Letting the players wear N95 masks in competitions is extremely irresponsible to the national-level athletes,” another netizen said on Weibo. “For the sake of politics … The team leader and coach of the women’s volleyball team, are they not human?”

A post from Sina Sports with the hashtag “Chinese women’s volleyball team all wear masks to play” attracted more than 40,000 likes in the first 10 minutes of being posted on Thursday night, as well as hundreds of comments.

“Is health more important, or performance?” another user’s comment read. “If you want to focus on results, then don’t do this kind of thing. Ordinary people can’t breathe well when wearing a mask and climbing stairs. Do you wear a mask in this fierce competition? Want to suffocate people? Who came up with this bad idea, what is it?”

China’s players celebrate during their win over Iran at the 2022 AVC Cup at the Philsports Arena. Photo: Xinhua

“This is not snooker, this is volleyball that consumes a lot of the body,” said another netizen.


“What is the purpose of wearing a mask in the first game? Is epidemic prevention more important than wins? Then what was the reason for taking off the mask in the second round, and the results were suddenly more important than epidemic prevention? I don’t understand.”

Top sports blogger and reporter Li Shuangfu, who has over 2.3 million fans on Weibo, jumped to the defence of the players, however, insisting they should not be blamed.


“The Chinese women’s volleyball team wears a mask to play a match, and there is a lot of scolding on Weibo,” he wrote. “Before criticising, especially before the media reports, at least contact the women’s volleyball team to understand.

“It has not been ruled out that there was an epidemic prevention requirement that ‘there may be positives in the team and then a mask must be worn before the nucleic acid results are released’.”

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Some users pointed out that the US and Brazil women’s volleyball teams previously wore masks during competitions. But that argument brought scorn from others.


“Use the pictures in March 2021 to say what happened in August 2022, your IQ is touching,” one user replied.

China’s men’s volleyball team forfeited their opening World Volleyball League clash against France in June after 21 members of their delegation reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 in the Philippines.

Germany then refused to play China a few days later, causing them to forfeit the game in Quezon City. An International Volleyball Federation statement said the Chinese athletes were cleared by local authorities after testing positive.