Forget about skill, training, or even luck. When you’re a soccer player in China, winning or losing sometimes depends on the color of your hair, as a university team recently discovered the hard way.
The women’s teams from Fuzhou University and Jimei University were scheduled to compete in an intercollegiate tournament in southeast China last week. However, they were banned from participating because the players on both teams had dyed hair, which was against the rules.
Photos from the tournament show all players with black or dark brown hair, but apparently those were the wrong colors. The Fujian Provincial Ministry of Education rules for university football that players should be excluded from a game if they wear accessories or jewelry, or have “strange” hairstyles or dyed hair.
The coaches rushed to buy black hair dye to meet the requirements and, according to state media, gathered seven players with dark hair from each team to compete.
However, Jimei University team members argued that one of their opponents still did not have “black enough” hair and was ordered to leave the game. One player short, the Fuzhou University team lost the game.
Under China’s top leader Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference in the smallest details of Chinese life can be felt more and more. Censors have blurred the jeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on TV and the internet so that the piercings and jewelry are not a bad example for boys. Women in costume at a video game convention were asked to increase their neckline.
Since football is a national priority under Mr. Xi, the process has expanded to include sport. Last year, members of the men’s national soccer team had to play in long sleeves in the stifling heat in Abu Dhabi’s Asian Cup after the government banned the display of tattoos during games.
The ban applied to both the national team and local football players through to the university leagues. Other players were forced to put bandages over tattoos and were not allowed to play because they wore necklaces on the field.
Last week’s episode sparked an intense debate about Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform that had the hashtag “female soccer team lost because too many players dyed hair” 180 million times.
Noting the sluggish performance of the Chinese national teams, many felt that the focus should be on improving players’ skills rather than on superficial aspects of the game. One user characterized the episode about the women’s teams as “not pecking over irrelevant details” and added, “This shows that our football culture is not tolerant or forgiving enough.”
Some users also noted that the rules just weren’t in touch because it is all too common for university-aged women in China to dye their hair – just as American soccer star Megan Rapinoe did with a touch of purple while doing the US team helped the 2019 world title.
However, others supported the Chinese officials’ decision to enforce the rules. “This type of requirement is correct because these players often become role models for school children and their behavior can influence other people,” wrote one social media user.
The Fujian Education Department’s rules for university football don’t just apply to female players: Male players are not allowed to have long hair.
But some male professional soccer players have gotten more adventurous with their hair colors and styles. Wei Shihao, a Guangzhou Evergrande player, made headlines last year when he wore white tipped dreadlocks and recently dyed his hair blonde.
The Fuzhou University Sports Department could not be reached immediately for comment. A post on his website about the lost game said: “Although the game against Jimei University on November 30th could not continue for some reason and we were declared lost, the outstanding strength and determination of the entire team was evident see. They learned a lesson from the event and adjusted their attitudes. “
The following day, the post said, the team won their match against another university team and finished second in the competition.
Apparently the players had reached the right shade of black after all.
Amber Wang contributed to the research.