Chinese Football League Season To Start July 25 After Five-Month Delay

(FILES) This file photo taken on March 4, 2017 shows Alexandre Pato (C) of Tianjin Quanjian fighting for the ball during the Chinese Super League match against Guangzhou R&F in Guangzhou, in southern China’s Guangdong province.STR / AFP

 

 

The Chinese Super League season will begin on July 25 after the coronavirus pandemic delayed it by five months, the country’s football association said on Wednesday.

It is a major boost for sport in China and another sign of life returning to normality in the country where COVID-19 emerged late last year before spreading globally.

The 16-team league, which had been originally due to kick off in February, will be played under a different format instead of the usual home-and-away competition.

Clubs will be split into two groups, one in the northeastern city of Dalian and the other in Suzhou, near Shanghai, the China Football Association (CFA) said.

The CFA said the league would “strictly abide by the requirements of national epidemic prevention work”.

But the CFA statement did not say whether fans would be allowed to attend, or which teams will play in each group in the revamped format.

The CSL, which has drawn international interest in recent years by luring big-name players and coaches on world-leading wages, had been scheduled to start on February 22.

However, it became one of the first sporting victims of the coronavirus in January when the new season was indefinitely postponed.

The CFA said in February that it would introduce an extra transfer window before the league started to help clubs struggling to complete player transfers due to the outbreak.

The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) became the first professional sports league in China to resume on June 20, although no fans are allowed to attend matches.

The CBA has similarly divided up into two groups in two cities to prevent the spread of infections.

There has only been one confirmed coronavirus case among Chinese Super League players — Shandong Luneng’s former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini.

The Belgian international tested positive in March, just after returning to China for the new season, and spent three weeks in hospital.

Chinese clubs have endured a long pre-season as they awaited the new campaign, with most beginning their disrupted preparations at the start of the year.

The defending champions are Guangzhou Evergrande, coached by Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro, but of their opponents from last season will be missing.

Cash-strapped Tianjin Tianhai disbanded during the shutdown and will be replaced by Roberto Donadoni’s Shenzhen FC, who were relegated last season.

Football leagues across the globe have returned to action in recent weeks with no spectators and strict virus prevention measures in place.

Ex-Manchester United Star Fellaini Contracts Coronavirus

File: Marouane Fellaini of Shandong Luneng celebrates after scored during the Chinese Super League (CSL) football match between Shandong Luneng and Beijing Renhe in Jinan in China’s eastern Shandong province on March 1, 2019.  STR / AFP

 

Marouane Fellaini has tested positive for the coronavirus, his club Shandong Luneng said Sunday, the former Manchester United player becoming the first known case in the Chinese Super League (CSL).

The 32-year-old Belgian international midfielder has a normal temperature and is feeling fine, Shandong said, but “is under observation and having treatment at a designated medical facility.”

“The club will do its best… to help in the treatment and recovery of the player.”

Fellaini is just the latest high-profile name in football to catch the disease, joining the likes of Juventus forward Paulo Dybala, Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi and Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

But he is the first confirmed case in the CSL, dealing a blow to the league’s hopes of starting the season as early as next month.

The campaign was supposed to begin last month but has been indefinitely postponed by the outbreak.

Fellaini, also formerly of Everton, joined Shandong Luneng from English giants United in February last year for a reported 7.2 million euros.

On Saturday, the Chinese Football Association said that the country’s best-known player, forward Wu Lei, had also tested positive for the coronavirus.

Wu, who plays for Spanish strugglers Espanyol, is in self-isolation at home in Barcelona and has only mild symptoms.

The coronavirus emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread across the world and become a pandemic, killing 13,000 people and infecting more than 300,000.

Pato Quits Chinese League After ‘Paying Up’ His Contract

 

Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato on Saturday bid an emotional farewell to Chinese football after reportedly buying himself out of his contract at Tianjin Tianhai.

The 29-year-old former AC Milan starlet failed to appear in Tianjin’s first two games of the new Chinese Super League (CSL) season and had used social media to hit out at what he called “lies”, without naming the supposed culprit.

But Chinese media said that the former Brazil international, who joined Tianjin from Villarreal in Spain two years ago for 18 million euros, had fallen out with the club and was desperate to leave.

He has now got his wish, bringing a sour end to a spell that brought 36 goals in 60 games and saw him widely praised by Chinese football fans for seemingly settling well in the country and embracing local culture.

Pato, who has been strongly linked with a return to Brazil, is now a free agent after paying up the remainder of his contract at Tianjin, Chinese media said.

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Pato has been a regular user of Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, and on Saturday posted a good-bye message to “my dear Chinese friends”.

“I’d like to inform you that my adventure in China has come to an end,” he wrote in Chinese and English, saying that his arrival in 2017 in Tianjin, in China’s northeast, “was love at first sight.

“The city of Tianjin, the people, and my fans: all people (are) incredible and very kind!

“I will miss them so much.

“I am quite sure that China made me grow up as a man, I visited new cities and places, I learnt new different culture and habits of this great country.”

Pato began his career at Internacional in Brazil, attracting comparisons to Pele and the attention of Italian giants AC Milan.

Pato, who has 27 caps for Brazil, spent nearly six years at the San Siro from 2007, but he suffered a loss of form and injuries took their toll.

His last cap for Brazil was in 2013.

AFP

Ighalo Not Moving To Premier League, Says Changchun Yatai

Prolific Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo will not be leaving Changchun Yatai and reports linking him with a return to the Premier League are “fake news”, the Chinese club says.

The forward was a regular goal scorer in the first half of his spell at English side Watford before moving to the Chinese Super League (CSL) with Changchun a year ago for a reported 20.9 million pounds ($29 million).

The 28-year-old went on to hit 15 goals in 27 CSL games, sparking speculation in European media that he could return to England’s top flight, with West Brom reportedly among those interested in him.

But Changchun chairman Liu Yuming has angrily quashed those claims, saying in quotes published on the club’s website: “I’m here to offer a piece of advice to whoever has bad intentions toward Yatai — we will take legal action when it is necessary and we will pursue their legal responsibilities for making up fake news.”

“We have excellent forwards such as Ighalo, is there any need to bring in another forward? Even if we do get someone in, it will be a midfielder,” Liu added, also denying that the CSL club are in for CSKA Sofia’s Brazilian striker Fernando Karanga.

“We don’t even know his name, let alone be interested,” said Liu.

AFP

Dramatic Loss Denies Shanghai SIPG Top Spot

Shanghai SIPG squandered an opportunity to move top of the Chinese Super League on Sunday with a dramatic 4-2 defeat at Changchun Yatai.

League leaders Guangzhou Evergrande’s 2-0 loss to Beijing Guo’an on Saturday had opened the door for SIPG to leapfrog them with a win.

However, the visitors, led by Assistant Coach Daniel Sousa while manager Andre Villas-Boas completed a two-match stadium ban, were rocked by three goals in nine first-half minutes as the hosts dominated the opening period.

SIPG, who were also missing Brazilian stars Hulk and Oscar through suspension, were gifted a lifeline in the 53rd minute when Changchun Yatai defender Zhang Xiaofei scored an unfortunate own goal.

However, Changchun Yatai striker Odion Ighalo restored his side’s three-goal advantage just moments later and SIPG were unable to claw back the deficit.

The result leaves Shanghai SIPG second in the table on 36 points, one point behind Guangzhou Evergrande. Changchun Yatai sit in 10th position with 19 points.

Oscar Banned For Eight Matches After Causing Brawl

Shanghai SIPG attacking midfielder, Oscar Júnior, has been banned for eight league games after sparking a mass brawl during Sunday’s match against Ghangzhou.

The 25-year-old appeared to kick the ball straight at two players from opponents Guangzhou R&F. After which  he was pushed to the ground before players from both sides fought.

The former Chelsea midfielder, who joined Shanghai SIPG in a £60 million deal in earlier this year, was also fined 40,000 Yuan (£4,620).

The incident came in first-half injury time, and Shanghai’s Fu Huan and Guangzhou’s Li Zixiang were sent off for their part in the brawl, but Oscar was not booked.

Fu and Li have received six and five-game bans respectively from the Chinese Football Association (CFA), while Guangzhou’s Chen Zhizhao, who pushed Oscar to the floor, has been banned for seven league games.

Shanghai coach, Andre Villas-Boas, defended Oscar afterwards, saying he was “just being passionate”, and Oscar denied he purposely aimed the ball at Guangzhou players.

“Disrespect the opponent? It is not true. I am a very dedicated player and respect sportsmanship,” Oscar was quoted as saying on the Sina Sports website.

Rooney To Remain At Manchester United

Wayne Rooney, Manchester UnitedWayne Rooney has confirmed he will be staying with Manchester United for the foreseeable future.

After being linked with a move to China, the England captain said he hoped to “play a full part” in the rest of the Premier League club’s season.

“It’s an exciting time at the club and I want to remain a part,” said the 31-year-old.

His agent has reportedly been in talks with Chinese Super League clubs who have expressed their interests in him.

Rooney, who recently became the Red Devils’ record goal scorer, said he would remain at the club he joined from Everton back in 2004.

Toure Refuses China’s Big Offer A Second Time

Yaya Toure, Manchester City, China Manchester City midfielder, Yaya Toure, has rejected a £430,000-a-week offer from China for the second time.

The 33-year-old was the subject of interest from the Chinese Super League last summer as he decided against his transfer.

He gave the same response when he was recently contacted that the offer remained open during the current transfer window.

The future of the Ivorian, whose contract with Manchester City expires in the summer, appeared in doubt, as he was left out of the City squad at the start of the season.

However, he has been a regular for the club since he was recalled in November.

Toure has been free to sign pre-contract agreements with clubs overseas since January 1, but it seems he prefers to play in the Premier League.

Tevez Leaves Boca For Shanghai Shenhua

Tevez of Manchester City gets around Ruddy of Norwich City to score his hat trick during their English Premier League soccer match in NorwichArgentine striker, Carlos Tevez, is set to join Chinese Super League (CSL), Shanghai Shenhua, from his former club Boca Juniors, on a record transfer fee of 84 million euros.

The hefty price tag will make Tevez the world’s 6th most expensive player, behind Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Neymar.

The 32 year old is the second big-money arrival in china’s biggest city in less than a week after Brazilian midfielder, Oscar, joined local rivals Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in a deal believed to be worth 60 million euros.

Shenhua, who are coached by former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder, Gus Poyet, made the announcement on Thursday, after the Argentina star arrived in Shanghai for a medical ahead of his unveiling.