China’s sports administration body has implemented a strange new ban for its footballers that has several fans in total disbelief.
Footballers playing for China’s national team must remove existing tattoos and are “strictly prohibited” from getting new ones, the country’s sports administration body said.
The sport has found itself in the crosshairs of the Communist Party’s drive for purity in recent years, and players on the national soccer team routinely cover their arms with long sleeves or bandages to hide their tattoos.
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But the Chinese Sports Administration statement dated Tuesday said that national team players “are strictly prohibited from getting new tattoos.”
“Those with tattoos are advised to remove them,” the statement continued.
“In special circumstances, tattoos must be covered during training and competition, with the consent of the rest of the team.”
He went on to say that the U-20 and younger national teams were “strictly prohibited” from recruiting anyone with tattoos.
But not all fans seemed to be behind the new rules.
“Are we choosing a good footballer or a saint?” asked an angry fan on the social media platform Weibo.
“Should we say outright that only Party members can play soccer?” asked another.
Body ink is traditionally frowned upon in China, but it is becoming increasingly popular with young adults, even as authorities make clear their disdain for it.
The China Football Association has ordered national team players to cover up tattoos in recent years and has sent young soccer players to military camps for Marxist-style exercises and “thought education”.
That has prompted complaints from fans that he is thinking more about politics than sports.
Last year, a women’s college football game was finally canceled after the players were told they were not allowed to dye their hair.
President Xi Jinping wants China to host and even win the World Cup one day.
But they are the fifth of six teams in their qualifying group for next year’s World Cup, and only the top two are guaranteed to qualify.
This year, Beijing has also imposed a series of restrictions on youth culture, including sweeping measures to ban “abnormal aesthetics” and cracking down on the perceived excesses of modern entertainment.
He has made an example of movie stars who allegedly stepped out of line, banned reality talent shows, and ordered broadcasters to stop featuring “queer” men and “vulgar influencers.”
As tensions with the West rise, China has also pushed a nationalist and militaristic narrative at home, including a vision of tough masculinity.