Asian Games

Asian Games 2018: Chinese player dedicates goal in East Timor win to childhood teammate who died on the pitch

Zhang Yuan has the image of friend Wang Renlong on his guards, as he explained to CCTV after 6-0 victory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2018, 6:23pm

During China’s 6-0 opening game win over East Timor at the Asian Games, Zhang Yuan scored China’s second goal and afterwards he removed a shin guard to show to the camera.

The reason was because it bears the image of his childhood friend and former teammate Wang Renlong, who collapsed during training with Dalian Transcendence on November 12, 2014 and died later in hospital.

Both players had played youth football together in Dalian, but Zhang, 21, has since moved to Chinese Super League side Guizhou Hengfeng on loan from Tianjin Quanjian.

The touching story came to light on mainstream media and has been shared on social media. For once Chinese football fans are being positive in the comments sections of websites, lauding Zhang for commemorating his “brother”.

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Social media posts and Chinese football app Dongqiudi suggest that Zhang has worn the commemorative shin guards for the last two years.

An emotional Zhang spoke to CCTV after the game and explained the celebration was a tribute to his friend and the dream they shared of playing in the national team.

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The pair were the same age. Wang’s No 17 jersey has been retired by the League One club.

Real Madrid and Spain defender Sergio Ramos has worn several T-shirts over the years bearing the image of former teammate Antonio Puerta, including after the 2008 European Championship final and the 2010 World Cup final.

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The pair played together at Sevilla, where Puerta collapsed during the club’s opening league game of the 2007-08 season. He died three days later.

Ramos avoided punishment for wearing a T-shirt with a message dedicated to Puerta during a Real Madrid game and it remains to be seen whether Zhang will be punished by the Chinese Football Association.

China’s other goals came from Zhang Yuning, a brace from Gao Junyi, Wei Shihao and Yao Junqi.

They play Syria on Thursday evening in a top-of-the-table clash.