The government agency responsible for sports in mainland China has banned footballers on the Chinese national team from getting new tattoos, and instructed players who have already been inked to remove or cover up existing ones, in a statement released on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
Under a section titled "Suggestions for strengthening the management of football players", the General Administration of Sport of China (GAS) said that the Chinese Football Association has set out clear disciplinary requirements for national team players to follow, reported Sohu.
The requirements are meant to "strengthen football players' lives, training and competition management", and demonstrate the "positive spirit" of Chinese football players, to "set a good example for society".
Under the new rules, athletes from the national team and the Under-23 (U23) team will be "strictly prohibited" from having new tattoos.
They are also advised to remove existing tattoos.
"If there are special circumstances agreed to by the rest of the player's team, the tattoos must be covered up during training and matches", the GAS added.
Teams that play at the Under-20 (U20) level and below are also not allowed to recruit members who are tattooed.
Discussion on Weibo
While some fans expressed that they "hated tattoos" and supported the decision, several others took to social media platform Weibo to lambast the point of the tattoo ban.
According to AFP, one fan asked "Are we choosing a good football player or a saint?", while another questioned "Shall we just say outright that only the Party members could play football?"
Other commenters pointed out that the quality of the Chinese national football team is unrelated to having tattoos, retorting that internationally, several world class players such as Argentina's Messi and Brazil's Neymar also sport tattoos.
Another commenter agreed that the energy spent on the tattoo ban could be redirected into improving the quality of players' football skills, questioning:
"What's wrong with tattoos? Does being tattooed affect one's ability to play football? If a football prodigy likes being tattooed, and his idol is heavily tattooed, and he wants to tattoo something similar to that of his idol to encourage himself, is that wrong?
Yes, traditionally, being tattooed was associated with punishment for criminals, but we are no longer living in the past.
Last year, a women's football match was called off after many players were told they were not allowed to have dyed hair.
I don't understand why supposedly normal wants like dyeing one's hair and getting tattooed need to be banned.
Rather, we should be focusing on football playing.
Does being tattooed mean that you can't fight for glory for your country?"
According to Reuters, there has been a growing number of high-profile Chinese players who have sported tattoos, including international defender Zhang Linpeng and midfielder He Chao.
In 2018, there were reports that Zhang, who plays for the national team and the Guangzhou Evergrande club, was dropped not because of injury as claimed, but because of his heavily tattooed body.
The hashtag #国青国少严禁征调有纹身的球员# (#China youth team prohibited from recruiting tattooed football players) has attracted over 79 million views and over 4,300 discussions on Weibo.
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