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CCTV World Cup Commentator Apologizes
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Following his biased remarks made during the World Cup game between Italy and Australia one of China's best known soccer commentators Huang Jianxiang apologized to TV viewers on Tuesday.   

Huang, a 38-year-old, working with national broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), dumped his normal objectivity and shouted "Long Live Italy" and "Go home, Australia" when the European side knocked out the Australians with a last-minute penalty to reach the quarter-finals.

"In the last minutes of the Italy-Australia game last night I added too much personal emotion to my comments," said Huang's apology letter which was read out by World Cup representative Zhang Bin Tuesday night.

"I reviewed the tape after I woke up this morning and felt some comments were inappropriate and biased which upset and hurt the audience. I apologize," Zhang read from the letter. 

Huang admitted he had departed from objectivity as a commentator and failed to control his enthusiasm as a long-time supporter of Italian soccer.

"I am familiar with Italian soccer and hoped they'd advance to make the quarter-finals more competitive ... I will control my feelings and try to be a fair, impartial commentator," said the letter.

CCTV repeatedly aired footage of Australia's failed attempts at Brazilian goal Tuesday night with a subtitles proclaiming, "Australia bow out like true heroes."

Huang lost his cool as Francesco Totti scored a penalty in the last minute to give 10-man Italy a 1-0 win over Australia.

He screamed "Penalty! Penalty! Penalty!" as Italian defender Fabio Grosso tumbled under Lucas Neill's challenge in the Australian box.

"Grosso made it! He made it! Don't give Australia any chance! Great Italian left back. Grosso alone represents the long history and traditions of Italian soccer. He is not fighting alone," he shouted.

"Totti! He is about to take the shot. He shoulders the expectations of the whole world," he continued. 

"It's a goal! Game over! ... Italy didn't fall to (Guus) Hiddink's team this time (Hiddink had led South Korea to oust Italy in the 2002 World Cup). Happy birthday to Paolo Maldini (born on July 26)! Long live Italy! The victory belongs to Italy, to Grosso... to everyone who loves Italian soccer!"

Huang then turned to the Socceroos: "Hiddink... finally reaped what he had sown! They should go home. They don't need to fly as far as Australia as most of them are living in Europe. Farewell!"

"Biased and crazy as he is Huang Jianxiang has to quit as a soccer show host," a netizen named Ximen Yidao posted on Xinhua News Agency's web.

Popular Chinese portals such as Sina.com and Sohu.com's online discussion forums were flooded with messages about Huang's outburst on Tuesday. More web surfers criticized Huang than those siding with him.

"Huang went too far," said a message on Sina. "He shouldn't praise an Italian team playing badly and jeer at a brave, though defeated, team."

And some people wrote in their bloggs that Huang was out of line. "He forgot he is a professional commentator not a regular fan," someone observed. "He should respect every team. He shouldn't say, 'Long live Italy,' he must be a gambler! He should apologize to all Chinese people! He should be fired," said another.

But in an online survey by Sina.com nearly half the respondents said Huang's passionate comments were not unfair although 32 percent said he was too biased in favor of Italy and nearly 14 percent said his comments were improper.

One comment was, "Huang is a real man! He can do what he wants to do without worries! He delivered the point of view that he loves China and Chinese soccer. He didn't want Australia to win the game because now the Australia team is a member of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and will compete against China for the next World Cup's qualification. If Australia had won that would be the worst news for Chinese soccer."

While Australia coach Hiddink disputed Italy's last gasp penalty which killed off Australia's World Cup dream Huang said Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo's decision was wise.

"It was an undisputed penalty," shouted Huang in the last minute of the game.

Huang was unapologetic over his controversial comments in the post-game linkup with the Beijing newsroom.

"I am a human being, not a machine and I can't be impartial all the time," he said.

"Australia reminded me of the lousy team which eliminated China in the World Cup qualifiers in 1981. Australia is just like New Zealand team that beat us in 1981.

"It (Australia) is full of neutralized Australians who play and live in Britain. I don't care about the Australian team and don't want to see Australia have good results in the World Cup."

"Australia (which has joined the Asian Football Confederation) will now fight for an Asian World Cup berth and it may not be good enough to handle South Korea and Japan. But it will very likely take advantage of the Chinese team. So I don't like it," he concluded.

Beijing newsroom host Zhang Bin tried several times to interrupt Huang to avoid further damage but he rattled on until the link was finally cut. 

Chinese TV hosts' preferences have been heard and seen before. In the 2002 World Cup the CCTV reporter Sheng Bin stunned an audience of millions as she openly wept at Argentina's early exit.

China's sports media took off after the nation launched a professional soccer league in 1994 and began broadcasting English and Italian soccer on state television.

(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily June 28, 2006)

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