Sport

Football crazy

Tianjin’s bad boy defender, and a German goalie on a mission

That's gotta hurt: Tan illustrates the art of the two-footed tackle

Is Tan Wangsong ready with an enigmatic saying or two? We only ask because the Tianjin Teda defender might want to follow the example of Manchester United legend Eric Cantona.

Following the handing down of a nine-month ban for his infamous kung-fu kick on a spectator in 1995, the famous Frenchman would only observe, “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.”

Karate kicks momentarily forgotten, journalists rushed off to explore the philosophical depth of the references to marine wildlife. Eric is French, after all.

Like Cantona, Tan seems to have something of a violent streak. And in a bad-tempered game between Tianjin and Beijing Guoan the weekend before last he let it get the better of him again. In the dying seconds of the match he careered into the standing leg of opposing goalkeeper Yang Zhi, earning an instant red card.

The game was high profile, as the previous encounter between the two teams had been marred by a mass brawl – sparked by another meaty challenge from the ‘bad boy’ of Chinese football. After the punch-up, the Chinese Football Association’s broadcasters called a temporary halt to the league’s television coverage.

Which is why Tan’s lunge now seems so reckless. Beijing club president Luo Ning called for the punishment to be severe: “It was a malignant attack and this player just refuses to mend his ways. Last year it was because of him the teams had the brawl.”

“Kicking Tan” as he is now known colloquially was also sent off for violent conduct at the Olympic Games, for kicking a Belgian player in the groin. So maybe Luo has a point. But if the Chinese Football Association was genuinely outraged by Tan’s behaviour, you might have thought the punishment would exceed a five game ban and a fine of a little under $4,000.

If the time off leaves Tan at something of a loose end, perhaps he could think about a guest appearance on a new reality show, hosted by former Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. The 10 part series plans to discover aspiring goalkeepers on the mainland, and will enroll the winner at the German Football Association’s elite training academy.

Never Give Up! The Kahn Principle seems to have greater ambitions for its contestants than a few lessons in screaming at defenders to mark their men during corner kicks. Kahn is promising to provide a “road map for success”, as well as advice on overcoming the crises of life.

Rather ambitious, notes the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. And if the keeper is really going to draw on real life experience, his protégés can look forward to an education in drinking large mugs of beer in the company of busty barmaids.

Oliver has a colourful past too, it turns out.


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