Chinese Super League: as Demba Ba alleges racial abuse, CFA must take the lead and set the tone for years to come
The incident involving the Shanghai Shenhua striker and Changchun Yatai midfielder Zhang Li must be investigated
The Chinese Super League is back page news but sadly it’s not for the football. Shanghai Shenhua striker Demba Ba has alleged racist abuse at the hands of Changchun Yatai midfielder Zhang Li during their sides’ meeting on Saturday night. Ba was furious after the game.
His manager Wu Jingui mentioned the allegations in the post match press conference, which could indicate their seriousness or a lack of media training, but they were out there and around the world within hours.
Changchun responded that there was no racist language used by their midfielder, rather the flashpoint was Ba’s own challenge, which looks a lot like a striker standing his ground as opposed to trying to take the opposition player out.
This was all followed by the Chinese Football Association announcing on Monday morning that they will launch an investigation. It’s not often you could say this but you have to feel for the suits at CFA towers.
Racism is a problem blighting the world game and one that everyone involved, from Fifa president Gianni Infantino down, has failed to deal with properly.
Regarding the 'racial slur' accusation on Zhang Li, the midfielder of Changchun Yatai, Changchun responded that Zhang Li did not use racist slurs and would not be punished by the club. Changchun also claimed that it was Demba Ba's dangerous challenge caused the brawl initially. pic.twitter.com/Ry8gYZUpqY
— Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) August 5, 2018
Charges, when brought, are difficult to prove. Look at John Terry’s alleged abuse of Anton Ferdinand where he admitted racist language but only in explaining he hadn’t been racist. The fallout from this caused divisions throughout the Premier League.
When allegations are proven, the authorities tend to react with laughable punishments – ones that pale into comparison with the punishments for breaching licensing agreements by players wearing the wrong socks, for example.
The issue opens up wider debate on racism in China but for now it’s the football community that needs to deal with it. The CFA have to take the lead and they have responded to a deluge of calls for an investigation by launching one.
They have also said that there will be severe punishment for anyone found guilty of racial abuse. If the investigation decides that Ba was racially abused then they must make an example of Zhang.
— Moussa Sow Officiel (@19Sow) August 5, 2018
A 12-month ban from all football would not be draconian but there is also an opportunity to use both players as part of an education programme, an official #saynotoracism campaign, perhaps.
Based on their official statements both clubs have closed ranks already, deciding to back their own players.
In a way this is already playing out like the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra incident that still leaves a sour taste in the mouth for fans of both sides, neither willing to go beyond the party line in a situation that went beyond black and white.
It’s hard to imagine that this will be any prettier but it is an opportunity for the CFA and for Chinese football to enter into a conversation on what is acceptable behaviour on a football pitch, and off it for that matter.
Among the wider football world, the Shenhua striker has been supported by many of his fellow professionals with Ivory Coast midfielder Didier Zokora, Dusko Tomic and former club Besiktas using social media to post their backing of the former Chelsea striker.
Elsewhere on social media, Guangzhou Evergrande defender Zhang Linpeng had his Instagram targeted by people showing their support for Ba, but not taking the time to work out that the long-standing China international is not the relative unknown who allegedly abused the Senegalese striker.
Elsewhere, there was football. Shenhua left Changchun with a point as well as a point to prove. Cao Yunding had given the visitors a first half lead before Nigeria international striker Odion Ighalo equalised for the hosts.
City rivals Shanghai SIPG dropped vital points. To Dalian Yifang of all teams. The view that SIPG are destined for the role of bridesmaid did not change after Yannick Carrasco scored the only goal of the game to give Bernd Schuster’s side a vital victory.
SIPG have gone from top of the table at the mid-season break to third. On paper they are in a good position, just three points off the half-season champions Beijing Guoan and with a game in hand. But the game in hand is against a resurgent Evergrande.
The champions won 4-2 at Yuexishan to take city bragging rights over R&F and make up for the opening day loss at Tianhe Stadium.
That loss set the champions back in the title race but they have thundered back towards where they are expected to be, thanks in part to the return of Paulinho (two more goals on Sunday) and CSL new boy Anderson Talisca (six goals in four games). They are in no mood to let their run of titles end at seven.
Next week, Shenhua head to Shanghai Stadium ready to give SIPG a stiff test of their own title ambitions. Ideally, come the end of the weekend we will only be talking about the football.