Nobody likes to see a player suffer a serious injury, and especially not through a rash tackle from an opponent. While aggression and competitiveness are key elements of the modern game, there are times when players can get a rush of blood and cross the line.
Chinese international Wei Shihao was guilty of just such an incident during the most recent international break when during the first half of a 1-0 defeat to Uzbekistan in the China Cup, he scythed down opponent Otabek Shukurov with a rash challenge.
Shukurov was unable to continue in the match and forced to go to hospital following the injury, where it was discovered the Uzbek midfielder had suffered a fractured tibia. He now faces at least two months on the sidelines.
At the time, Wei Shihao only received a yellow card from Qatari referee Mohammed Al Shummari.
However, the 23-year-old winger received mass criticism from Chinese fans and media for the tackle, which was condemned as a “malicious” foul. His club, Guangzhou Evergrande, took an even more extreme approach, suspending the player for an entire month whilst they evaluated his future with the club.
The seven-time champions of the Chinese Super League released a statement saying: “The club has decided to give Wei Shihao a one-month suspension and the player should report to the club’s human resources department to have a deep self-examination.
“The club will decide if he will be expelled based on his self-examination.
“Before the new Chinese Super League season, our club published a series of new regulations to better manage the players. We have higher requirements on our players, but Wei Shihao seriously violated the regulations during the China Cup.”
This was despite public and private apologies from Wei Shihao, who also visited Shukurov in the hospital – and had an apology accepted by the injured Uzbek international.
Shukurov even went so far as to ask Guangzhou Evergrande for leniency on social media following the announcement of the suspension.
Now, in fairness, I can understand the logic that has probably crossed the minds of those in charge at Guangzhou Evergrande. With huge backlash across both the press and social media, they’ve took a hugely reactionary approach and ran with a hard line stance; a significant suspension.
Nobody wants their club associated with violent acts, I get that, but this isn’t a player who has done something that is exclusively and clearly intentionally unsportsmanlike. He’s not gone out his way and punched an opponent.
Is it a really bad tackle? Yes. Does it look like it was largely born out of frustration in a game that wasn’t going China’s way? Yes, again.
However, I don’t believe that Wei Shihao has gone in with the intention of injuring Shukurov.
That’s why I find the idea of suspending one of your top, up-and-coming talents for a month – and talking about potentially terminating his contract – entirely baffling.
Even if Wei Shihao returns to play for Guangzhou Evergrande after the suspension, he’s going to be affected. Not only has it given him a damaging reputation, but it will have likely affected him psychologically. You’d imagine he will be a lot more hesitant to tackle an opponent following this incident.
For an exciting young player in Chinese football, who was just starting to make a place for himself in the national team, it seems like a really sad situation brought about by a major overreaction from his club.
There’s a very real possibility that Wei Shihao will not reach the potential he could maybe have done after this situation, all because of a bad tackle – something that is far from uncommon in the modern game.