Did Wei Shihao Just Become the Scapegoat of Chinese Soccer?

A sliding tackle from behind is one of the most dangerous tricks in soccer. It may result in severe penalties, including a red card ejection. For Chinese football player Wei Shihao, he escaped a red card on the field in the game against Uzbekistan. However, he did not escape the massive backlash from Chinese media and public opinion after the game.

The 23-year-old Chinese football player received a yellow card for his tackle against Otabek Shukurov on the 38th minute of the game. The tackle injured Shukurov, resulting in his early departure from the game. China was defeated by the Uzbek national team after 90 minutes with a final score 0-1.

This is yet another embarrassing loss for the 2019 Asian Cup Quarter-finalist. In the CFA-hosted China cup, the Chinese national football team lost to Thailand in an early game. The two losses put the Chinese national team into fourth place of the event, behind all other three participants of the competition.

Wei was regarded as a talented young Chinese player prior to the incident. In his earlier years, the 23-year-old was a player under Shandong Luneng’s youth program. Wei played for three teams in Primeira Liga and Liga Pro during his three-year career in Portugal. In 2017, Wei returned to the Chinese Super League and played for two top-level teams, Shanghai SIPG and Beijing Guoan. In 2019, Wei joined the 7-time CSL champion Guangzhou Evergrande, with a transfer bonus of 2.6 million Euros.

Guangzhou Evergrande reacted quickly to Wei’s misconduct in his national team performance and issued the player a 30-day suspension. The Chinese national team and the Chinese Football Association has yet to publish any disciplinary measures against Wei Shihao, but media speculates some serious penalties will be handed out by CFA officials soon.

Chinese media also joined the group-bashing of the once-prominent young footballer. Guangdong TV suggests Wei should go to see a psychiatrist and claims that he has serious mental issues. Changchun-based New Cultural Newspaper calls Wei as a troublemaker and states that a 30-day suspension is too light a penalty to punish the player.

This is not the first time a Chinese football player was put under fire for their tackles in the games. Zheng Zhi, the now renowned captain of the Chinese national team, was regarded as a shameless player back in 2006 after injuring French striker Djibril Cissé during a friendly match prior to the 2006 World Cup. The injury made Cissé missed the 2006 World Cup, in which the French football team claimed a runner-up title after losing to the Italians in the final after the penalty shootout.

While Wei’s slide tackle certainly shows poor sportsmanship and terrible behavior, the Chinese media reacted in a rather odd way. It seems like the media tend to take polarized positions on the national team. Whenever the team wins a game, they start to praise key players excessively on their achievements and performances. On the contrary, whenever the team loses, the media start to focus on the mistakes, and pick someone to lash out at. Rather than being fact-based, a majority of the reports are in fact, result-oriented.

It is hard to separate the anger of losing a game from the massive personal blame on Wei Shihao, who seems to become the scapegoat of the team’s consecutive losses. Suppose Wei scored a goal in the game, perhaps he would not face such pressure from the media comments on his misconducts.

Over a time span of 12 years, Zhengzhi was described in entirely different wordings by the media. From a reckless goon to a dedicated veteran, it seems like the public is easy to forget and move on. They seem to forget all about the days when everyone is bashing at the player.

Angry expressions, comments of hatred, fines and suspensions: We have seen this enough now. While the public attention all concentrates on the lack of progress and good performances from the country’s national football team, few are actually offering effective and valid solutions to address the issue.

Featured photo credit to sports.le.com