The Big Soccer Brawl - Part 2

(Xiao Liangzhi's Blog; 肖良志的BLOG)  To Various People Who Are Smearing The Chinese Olympic Team!  February 9, 2007.

[in translation]

I did not want to blog on this.  But once I saw so many armchair critics smear our Olympic team, I who supposedly had no anger left had to pound on my keyboard in anger.  Many of those 'great minds 'who were not present at the sports ground but nevertheless know how to insult people are even more deplorable than the Olympic team.  Those of us who were at the sports ground and witnessed the incident can speak most authoritatively.  Why should those armchair critics sit in their homes curse and criticize our players when they don't know the details about what happened?  How come none of them cursed the opposing side which injured our players, even trying to cause moral harm!?  Can you explain why you are doing this!?

I know that when I decided to blog, this was going to be a long narrative because I needed to tell the whole incident in great detail to the Chinese people.  Why were there unusual circumstances happening three matches in a row?  There are many factors, but mainly it is because our players were not smart enough.  The opposing players used the referee's blind spot to take petty actions against our players.  Although the actions were minor, the impact was huge.  Our players were easily provoked by these actions and they did not know how to protect themselves because they are still too young.  The Chinese soccer teams go into training for long periods of time, and the Olympic team players are often mentally stressed and tense.  This shows that there is a flaw with the management of the Chinese Olympic team.  The trainer Ratomir Dujkovic should bear some responsibility and figure how to make our players more artful.

The game with the Queens Park Rangers was originally scheduled at 1:30pm on February 7, local time.  Upon the request from the other side, the game time was moved to 11:00am.  Since this match took place on the same day as an international match, it had to be moved to Harlington on the outskirts of London.  This is the training ground for the Queens Park Rangers.  Unless you are a local fan, you probably don't know where the exact location of this training facility is.

The Chinese Olympic team arrived at the sports ground ahead of time.  But when 11:00am came, the home team players were not there.  In order to shield our players from the cold, Dujkovic and his staff moved them back onto the bus to rest.  At around 11:20am, the home team players gradually walked onto the field.  So the game had no choice but be delayed.  When the referee blew the start whistle, the time was 11:34am.

Although we knew that the opponents were reserve players, their average 1.85m height and strong bodies were enough to make us take a deep breath: this was not going to be an easy match.  Indeed, when the match began, the other side used their physical advantage against us.  Our players did not adjust well.

Fifteen minutes into the match, the Chinese Olympic team players began to adjust to the style of the opponents.  They began to use their technical superiority to launch attacks.  The better skilled attacking midfielder Li Mei became the focus by the other side.  By virtue of his position, their Number 8 was up against Li Mei most often.  But this Number 8 used dirty tactics to assault our players, from being very crafty at first to being quite blatant later on.

At around 20 minutes into the first half, their Number 8 lost to Li Mei in a contest.  He suddenly grabbed Li Mei by the neck, spun him around 270 degrees and threw him on the ground.  The referee was right there but he acted as if he saw nothing.  At the 39th minute of the first half, Number 8 used the same "masterful technique" to bring down Li Mei.  This so-called English Football League referee maintained his stony expression and did not call any foul.  During the period, the violent behavior of Number 8 was so bad that we spectators did not even known how to be angry.

In order to protect Li Mei as well as enhance the attack of the Chinese Olympic team, Dujkovic replaced Li Mei by Chen Tao in the second half.  He also brought in Zheng Tao and Jiang Ning to replace Zhang Ke and Yang Yu.

But it must be pointed out that whether this is an open or closed international warm-up game, the game should be held like a normal game with three referees.  From the beginning, our coach and players sat or stood in the coaching section in a professional manner.  But I want to emphasize that the coach of the home team (initials RH) and an assistant coach wearing shorts did not stay in their coaching section.  Instead, they stood near the sideline on the half-way mark and they kept screaming.  I was next to him and he seemed to have screamed for 77 minutes straight (and the match lasted only 77 minutes).  During the period, he made us extremely angry when he kept screaming: "XXXXXXX (XXXXXXXXX) Pig!"  You can guess what the word in front is.  The item inside the parentheses is the name of one of the foreign players on his team.  Also, he scolded the referee at least four times during the match.

On three occasions, he walked onto the field in order to express his dissatisfaction with the offensive and defensive play by this own players.  But the referee did not issue any warning to him, nor did the referee's assistant standing next to him say anything.  Even more shocking was this: at the 29th minute of the second half, there was an injury time-out for a player hurt by a foul and RH placed his hand on the shoulder of the first referee's assistant and carried on chatting obliviously.

Getting back to the match itself.  After Gao Lin tied the score in the second half, the opposing side clearly upped the action.  About 10 minutes into the second half, Zheng Tao intercepted a pass and caused the tall Number 10 not to receive the ball.  The angry Number 10 punched Zheng Tao in his chest.  At the time, many spectators as well as Zheng Tao appealed, but the referee did not issue any warning.

In the next 21 minutes, neither side made too many dramatic moves.  Only their Number 7 player from Japan got up after a routine fall and bumped our player with his chest.  At the time, our player did not respond and just let the other side take the free kick.

Just as people were getting more relaxed, a shocking scene took place: at the 32nd minute of the second half, the opposing side launched an attack into our half of the field.  Gao Lin and their two tall center backs were in their half of the field.  Many people were watching people contesting for the ball at the other end of the field and so did not notice what happened on this end.  After the match, most people said, "We were following the ball."  But we still saw the two center backs assaulting Gao Lin when the ball was nowhere near.  I did not know what Gao Lin did (and since I did not see anything, I cannot judge what Gao Lin did).  In any case, their Number 6 player picked up Gao Lin by the waist while the other tall center back was yanking at the shorts until his underpants were showing.  Then we saw Gao Lin being slammed into the ground like in a wrestling match.  The opposing players then began the assault.

The scene became extremely chaotic!  Our players were concerned that Gao Lin was disadvantaged and they raised towards the half of the opposite side.  At the midfield line, the opposing players intercepted them.  Their substitute players were warming up near the midway point and so they entered a lot quicker than our substitute players.  Among the home team players who entered the field were several of their players who had been substituted.  They wore the cotton jackets of the home team on top of shorts  Since our players went in basically to protect their own teammates and stop the fight, the unexpected assault by the opposing side stunned them.  So Chen Tao, Jiang Ning and Zheng Tao were hit by "sucker punches" and "sucker kicks" and all three were floored.

The home team trainer RH who had been hollering at the referee near the sideline next to the assistant referee as well as also at his players went quickly onto the field to the most crowded area and swung a punch at Jiang Ning's head (there is a photograph for proof -- the bald-headed man is their trainer RH).

This deplorable trainer has zero professional ethics and should be severely sanctioned by the Football Association.  While their bald-headed trainer was swinging his fist at our players, our trainer did not make any motion.  Later on, Xiu Maozhen and Jia Xiuquan got onto the pitch to try to stop our players.  Jia Xiuquan was trying his best and screaming until his voice was hoarse.

After the battle was done, the opposing players scattered like rabbits.  In a flash, the home team including the trainer and the players was all gone and inside their lounge.  As they ran, I noted that some of them had an expression.  It was an ugly expression after having assaulted us and you must be present there in order to read and interpret it.

At that moment, I noticed that there were two Chinese Olympic team players lying on the ground, writhing their bodies in pain.  They were in a crowd and I could not see who they were.  When I went up, I saw that they were Chen Tao and Zheng Tao.  I looked at Chen Tao first.  He had been hit in the face by the opposing player, and his face was swollen already.  Then I went in front of Zheng Tao.  I was shocked: Zheng Tao lied on the artificial grass and blood was flowing out of his mouth onto the grass.  He was writhing in pain.  I had no idea how serious his injury was.  Before this, I saw five or six players attacking Jiang Ning and another five or six players attacking someone else.  So that other person must be Zheng Tao.  The teammates wanted to help Zheng Tao get off the field.  He tried to get up unsuccessfully: then he knelt down slowly on the ground with his mouth wide open and blood pouring out.  Finally, with the assistance of three teammates, Zheng Tao was slowly assisted to the sideline. 

Before this, I did not hear Zheng Tao say anything.  I thought that he was beaten senseless.  When they got near the sideline, the team doctor Yan Cheng touched Zheng Tao's jaw and the bottom of the ear.  I heard Zheng Tao said in an unclear voice: "My teeth are broken."  Since he could not close his mouth properly, his speech was obviously slurred.  Yan Cheng touched Zheng Tao's lower jaw mildly and then said, "The jaw is broken!"

When Zheng Tao was taken inside the lounge, he was unconscious for five minutes, because he had received a concussion from the beating!

I need to explain that there were 30 players from the Chinese Olympic team whereas the opposing side had about 18 players.  We had 12 more persons than the other side.  But when our players got onto the pitch, they started by trying to stop the fight or protecting their teammates.  The opposing side capitalized on this huge weakness of ours and employed lightning strikes.  From the mass assault to the jostling among four players at the end, the whole process lasted about 2-1/2 minutes.  The opposing side seemed to well-trained.  Their punches were vicious and quick, and their viciousness and quickness seemed to come straight from a movie scene!  Then they retreated very quickly.

Our players inside China told me that if Zheng Tao was punched on his jaw, there would ordinarily not be any fracture.  So it was for certain that the fracture occurred because he was kicked while lying on the ground.  Those damned players on the opposing side were not trying to beat him -- they were trying to kill him!  We had 30 players so there were not too many of them being beaten by multiple persons.  But I am equally angry as to why they were so timid after they went in!  We were too stupid.  We were stupid to the point of obeying the edict: "Do not fight back when assaulted; do not curse back when insulted."  So when an incident such as this explodes, we were not prepared to react to the suddenly breaking event.

When our substitute players ran onto the pitch, they were wearing clumsy long coats which inhibited their movement  There was no evidence that they attacked anyone.  Zheng Tao bled a lot.  The plastic bag used to carry ice cubes was colored red with his blood.

The people in the lounge were obviously depressed (regrettably, I did not enter and so this is based upon what the team players told me.  I cannot tell you the details about what happened inside).  Dujkovic had reddened eyes and he looked glum.  Finally he spoke to us.  But he was criticizing our players.  Dujkovic said: "I feel very bad and very disappointed.  We should have used better means to protect and defend ourselves.  We cannot choose to fight."  After a while, the Olympic team players boarded the bus.  The other assaulted players were basically alright, so only Zheng Tao was left in the lounge to await the arrival of the ambulance.

The ambulance arrived at the training base in 20 minutes  When the ambulance came, Zheng Tao applied a bag of ice on his lower jaw and got inside.  But the ambulance did not depart because they were waiting for the police to come and conduct an investigation.  This was unexpected because it was uncertain just who called the police.  The opposing side?  The spectators?  It was uncertain.

Anyway the police arrived!  At the time, the Olympic team watched from the bus that Zheng Tao was taken onto the ambulance.  The bus then left.  On the way, the police car came.  But the bus did not stop.  Only the Olympic team managers and the workers from the Yingfang Group stayed behind to assist in the police investigation.  After taking down notes, the two police officer gave no indication that they were going to let the ambulance leave.  The pleas from the Olympic team staff had no effect.  When the police followed their rules, there was nothing that anyone else can change them.  After about 20 minutes, the police finally permitted the ambulance to leave.  They went first to the nearest hospital in Ealing and then transferred to Hillington Hospital.  The final diagnosis was that Zheng Tao suffered a fractured jaw.

Things were becoming complicated!  Per the instruction of senior Chinese Football Association leaders, the Olympic team director Li Xiaoguang, the Chinese coaching staff leader Jia Xiuquan and player Gao Lin called a press conference at 11pm, February 7 (local UK time) (=7am, February 8, Beijing time).  The main purpose of the press conference was to apologize to Chinese fans.  Our Olympic team did not say anything else to the public and the apology became the sole source of "evidence" for people.  Also, the departure of seven of our players on the next day to return home also gave them a pretext.  Please do not believe that their newspapers are objective.  I read many of the reports in the newspapers.  The majority of them are nonsense!  The reason was that not a single local newspaper reporter had been present at the scene.

At the same time, QPR made an announcement on their website: They confirmed that a mass fight had occurred and the club has begun an investigation.  There will be no substantive comments until the investigation is concluded.

The Football Association also said that it will conduct an investigation, which will be based upon the reports from the referees on duty.  This is hardly convincing because that referee clearly favored the home team and the three judges were clearly lacking in professional quality.  Further, a QPR club person who declined to reveal his name said that the main referee said that the fight was not the fault of the QPR players who were only trying to protect themselves.  This is just hogwash!

By this point, I think everybody basically realizes what happened.  From the second game with the Marseilles reserve team on January 30, the game with the Chelsea reserve team on February 5 to the game with the QPR reserves on January 7, there were scenes of chaos on the field.  The Chinese Olympic team deserves to be criticized, or even subjected to serious sanctions.  As the Under-23 national team, the impact is bad when there is a fight, no matter what the reasons were.  This is especially worse in an international warm-up match.

The facts proved that the various newspapers, websites and television channels (led by Sky) gave heavy coverage to this event.  I do not cover up the fact that our Chinese Olympic team needs to reflect deeply on their rash actions.  I do not oppose to their apologizing to the Chinese fans, or their being subjected to heavier sanctions.  But I resolutely oppose those "armchair critics" smearing and insulting our players from their homes when they do not know the facts.  "Armchair critic" and "writers" are two different things!  A writer needs to get deep into the subject, learn the true details and then distill the essence.  An "armchair critic" is just someone who sits at home and then raves and rants after they hear some news.

Please do not try to praise the five big soccer leagues for nobility and class.  They are even uglier than we are.  The Italian Serie A shocked the world with the scandals brought by the telephone gate incident last year, and most recently league matches were suspended due to a mass incident; the French Ligue shattered the world with the Marseilles affair and there was a recent case in which firecrackers blew off the fingers of a police man at a game; in the English Football League, there are numerous scandals about agents manipulating club transfers ... their league games are not clean and some of these adored soccer stars are a lot dirtier than our players . So why are those "armchair critics" at home insulting and criticizing our players when they don't know the details?  How come nobody condemns the opposing players who want to inflict injury or even kill our players!?  Can you explain to everybody why you are doing this!?

Do not inveigh about the quality and technical skills of our players as you please.  This is a social problem.  Here are some simple examples to illustrate the problem: When you drive a VW Jetta, how does it compare to the original version?  When you use a high-end notebook computer, who owns the core technology? How many of their household items are foreign imports!!!!  We are better off letting our players and national soccer league elevate their standards slowly.