I was overly optimistic towards the future of Chinese football players. Though this year saw a few of them found jobs outside the country, almost all footballers still find their rights trampled by the country’s backward transfer rules.
As the transfer window reopened by Chinese FA on June 25, 121 players from 29 football clubs have been transfer listed and 13 others are listed as available for loan. A majority of them, if not all, are fringe players who haven’t played first-team football for a long time.
China has 42 incipient professional football clubs. Each team, according to CFA, can only sign three Chinese players during the month-long transfer period till July 24. Of the 134 players on the transfer/loan list, together 93 of them are from Chinese Super League and Jia League, China’s top- and second- tier leagues, a trend of offloading players by these clubs. To most of the players, chances of transferring to teams in the two leagues are, if any, very low.
According to CFA’s transfer rules, there’re option preferences a player can state in his transfer request: Super League, Jia League, Yi League (third-tier) or any of them. Of the 134 players, 112 stated that they’re willing to play for any club, a desperation to continue their careers elsewhere.
“It goes without saying that a lot of the listed players will lose jobs after this season,” Han Xu, former captain of Beijing Guo’an FC, told China Sports Review. Han, 35, now works as the manager of a sportswear store at the Worker’s Stadium. “The transfer rules were a product of the past and look out of place now,” said Han.
To avoid an exodus of good players to rich clubs, transfer rules was established by CFA and was put into use since 1998. Different from FIFA’s current Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, it stipulates a player needs to wait 30 months after his contract runs out at a club to become a free agent, a period of time spanning across three seasons. Anyone failed to do so will not be able to get registered at any other club. To most of Chinese players like Han, their careers have been tied to a club from the beginning to the retirement.
The transfer rules have given unbridled power to football clubs. Up until now, most of the players like Han have signed their season-long contracts once a year. If a player hands in a transfer request to his club and the club wants to keep him. Chances are he can still be transfer listed, but the sky-high price tag will only keep interested buyers away. Thus the player is saved, or, to put it in another way, caged. No one would be stupid enough to wait three seasons at home to become a free agent. How many three seasons does a player have in his career?
“I hope the transfer rules can be changed,” said Xiao Zhanbo, a 35-year-old veteran from Shanghai Shenhua FC in an interview with a Beijing newspaper. “If it continues like this, there will be less and less players in this country where footballers are already in short supply. It’s catastrophic for Chinese football in the long run.”
Xiao, once a regular player in China set-up, is now pursued by a Liaoning-based club in Jia League, but the RMB 4 million transfer fee that Shanghai asked was way more than enough to scare away the interested buyer.
“There’s no free transfer in China and a lot of players had no choice but to retire at an early age. How pathetic it is!” confessed Xiao, who has reportedly argued with the club management over a sum of unpaid bonuses last season. The tough and tenacious north-easterner seemed to have reached a compromise later with his boss, being listed as available for loan on June 25.
Mao Jianqing, Xiao’s teammate, has been having a hard time recently. The 22-year-old promising winger appears to have a drinking problem, and was punished to train with the reverse team by Zhu Jun, the club owner. Zhu is now looking to offload the “bad boy” by a whopping RMB 8 million.
“Which Chinese club would pay 8 million yuan for a player like me? It can’t be a final price,” Mao told Beijing TV as Guo’an, a CSL team in China’s capital, is said to have interest in signing him. “I hope to play for a big club if things work out well. But the club may not let me go to Beijing if I said too much.”
Mao had a point here. Thanks to the decade-old transfer rules, a Chinese football club can, in effect, decide everything about its players. And if you play bad boy with the big bosses, feel free to count your days on the chopping block.
China’s FA promised to obey FIFA’s transfer regulations early this year over Zhou Haibin’s case, yet clearly they’re not ready to put their words into action in its backyard, taking all the transfers in the country as domestic affairs.
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Links and Sources :
- CFA’s Transfer Rules (in Chinese via Netease)
- Liaoning Daily: CSL transfer window reopens (in Chinese via China Interactive Sports)
- Jianghua Times’s interview with Xiao Zhanbo (in Chinese via Titan Sports)
- Gongti Legends: Guoan Making Run at Mao Jianqing
- BTV’s interview with Mao Jianqing (in Chinese via Sina)
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