The Fallout of the CSL StampGate

Chinese Super League

The Government in China has once again intervened in a footballing incident. This is not the first time this has happened and will in all likelihood happen again. This time it was in reference to the stamp on Axel Witsel by Shanghai Shenhua’s Qin Sheng. If a public apology read of a sheet of paper, expulsion to the reserves (indefinitely), a fine of ¥300k and cutting of his salary to that of the minimum wage for a Shanghai worker was not enough the Football Association banned him for six months.

It is unusual for a team to criticize a player’s actions but it’s exactly what Shanghai did. A statement released by them said, “This abdominal behavior, which is a personal, serious violation of regulations and sports ethics, has had a huge negative impact on the club and even Chinese football as a whole”.

Abominable! A club using that word to describe its player’s actions is well abominable. A team has to stand by his player unless of course he is involved in far more heinous crimes such as match-fixing. Yes, Sheng should not have done what he did but the fallout has being nuclear. The whole incident has been blown out of proportion by the amateur handling of the incident. Somewhere in Burnley, Joey Barton will be relieved he is not playing in China.

A similar incident occurred last season when Gervinho stamped on Henan Jianye’s Yang Kuo. But this incident was not broadcast internationally and a nominal ban followed. The Tianjin-Shanghai was, unfortunately for Sheng broadcast through the UK Sky TV. I should not be seen as favouring Sheng but his punishment is undeserving for his offence. A Chinese news report read, “Qin Sheng’s malicious conduct left the commentator feeling somewhat shocked.” The same report also condemned the thumbs-up gesture Sun Shilin made towards Alexandre Pato after he blazed a penalty over the bar late on in the same game. The action made people feel discomfort. Discomfort is what you feel when you hear the word being used to describe this incident. And yes, Shilin did get banned for this – a two-game ban.

The punishment for Sheng defied logic and was inconsistent with past incidents in China which are dealt with a four-match ban. You can’t help but laugh when you hear Axel Witsel himself escaped without any action for an elbow on Freddy Guarin. An elbow does merit a 3 match ban anywhere in the world.

The ban on Sheng turned out to be counter-productive. Instead of pouring water over a fire, the Association, GAS and Shenhua ended up providing gasoline. The ban was enforced to set an example but the officials can use this experience to ensure they don’t damage Chinese football’s reputation while trying to save it. There should be minimum government interference if China wants to reach where it wants to reach in the International stage.

The Chinese Super League is a league that has captured the imagination of people all over Asia but if it is to maintain its ever-growing reputation then the people in Beijing have to realize sometimes it is good to let go.