Over the years we have recounted some extraordinary episodes from Chinese football. For a long time we thought nothing could match a last-minute attempt by a midfielder to lob his own goalie (from the half way line, no less). But this match-fixing ruse may just have been topped by something even more outlandish.
In last week’s Chinese Super League tie between Shandong Luneng and Guizhou Renhe, things got ugly. The trigger was a decision in the 69th-minute to disallow a Luneng goal for offside, with the score at 2-2. When a Luneng player protested he was carded, and when the captain also argued (with both decisions) he was sent off.
When the final whistle blew, Luneng’s Brazilian coach Cuca remonstrated with the linesman. At this point the drama began, with video footage capturing a punch-up in which the linesman looks to have beaten the Brazilian with his fists.
An official with Luneng told media that Cuca had to go to hospital having received “a deep wound more than two and a half centimetres below his left eyebrow”. The club added in a statement “it was clear that Cuca was beaten till he was bleeding”, and has asked the league to take action.
Match officials are normally fairly sober and restrained types, which makes the incident look all the more unprecedented. “It was the first time in my 23-year playing career that I saw a referee beating a club coach on the pitch,” said Luneng player Zhao Mingjian on his weibo.
The Oriental Daily News reports that both the linesman and the Luneng players involved in the brawl are likely to face severe punishment. “The incident is too ugly, especially at a time the country is pursuing President Xi Jinping’s football dream,” the paper says.
The result – the game ended in a draw – meant that Luneng continues to top the league with the same number of points as Guangzhou Evergrande, the current champions. And for Evergrande, Cuca’s beating will now have added resonance, as it has just hired one of his compatriots from Brazil to be its coach.
Guangzhou Evergrande – owned by the property developer of the same name – parted company last week with Fabio Cannavaro, who had replaced the former Italian national coach Marcello Lippi in November.
The relatively inexperienced Cannavaro – captain of the Italian side that won the 2006 World Cup – has been replaced by a true veteran. Enter Brazilian coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, dubbed by the British press as ‘Big Phil’. Scolari has managed an incredible 26 sides during his career, although few would quibble that his finest hour was leading Brazil to victory in the 2002 World Cup.
A stitched-up Cuca will no doubt give the new arrival some tips about how to avoid right hooks from the men in black. But perhaps Big Phil won’t need the advice, having something of a martial streak himself. Famously he made his Brazilian players read Sun Tzu’s The Art of War ahead of their World Cup win in Yokohama in 2002.
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