Forty thousand spectators at the final in Shandong on December 11 not only witnessed the hosts winning their first CFA Super League Cup. They were also privileged bystanders to a historic event: Chinese football's first streaker.
Wang Chao had just ignited the crowd's passion five minutes into the second half with a goal against Shenzhen, bringing the score to 2:0, when a man jumped onto the pitch and began to dash diagonally across it. He shed his coat to reveal some writing on his chest: 1:0, 3:1, 7:0 and the two Chinese characters "Chi" and "Bei".
A big round of applause was heard in the stadium and one commentator remarked that, "Before, China's Super League had everything except for streaking. Now he made it."
But the barebacked man found he had no time to remove his trousers while
avoiding security guards, but he still managed to outpace them for about a minute before being caught and taken out of the stadium by the police.
The game resumed but one press-photographer was still talking about the episode, "I've been shooting so many years and this is a first. I took more than 40 photos in a row."
Later in the police station the streaker, a university student, said that his motivation was just "to express sorrow for China's football." He was released soon afterwards, having paid a 200-yuan fine.
The 21-year-old student, requesting anonymity when interviewed, explained the meaning of the characters and the figures on his chest: "7:0 was the result of the China vs. Chinese Hong Kong game on November 17; 1:0 refers to the China-Kuwait World Cup qualifier and 3:1 to the Asian Cup final between China and Japan. 'Chi', which means disgrace, was my feeling after watching the humiliating match against Hong Kong. 'Bei' is an abbreviation of my real name."
The poor state of Chinese football left me full of indignation and I had to find a way to express it. I was planning to streak after the Asian Cup final, but didn't. My patience simply wore out after watching the World Cup qualifiers."
Although he failed to accomplish a full streak, he succeeded in sparking a hot debate among the public, experts and media.
Many fans said it was the best football news this year, sociologists described it as a not-too-elegant way to express oneself and psychologists worried that too much related news might have a negative impact on some. Lawmakers, meanwhile, assured that it would not happen again, as the first draft law on football hooliganism will soon be worked out and implemented.
Twenty-one years ago in England, 25-year-old Australian Michael O'Brien upped the streaking ante by sprinting nude onto the pitch in front of 53,000 fans at an England vs. France rugby game. Most streakers at sports events have no complex or political motives.
For the student, his goal was fairly simple: he wanted to say that Chinese football is the one really streaking all the time. Both the men's and the women's teams were thoroughly trounced in this year's international events – in the Olympics, Asian Cup and World Cup qualifiers.
The Super League itself suffers from so many scandals of poor management, bribery, match fixing, drug use, gambling and strikes. Attendances continue to plummet, with average crowds dropping from 18,850 per game over the last decade to 10,860 this year.
Yan Shiduo, vice president of the China Football Association, noted that,
"The clothes of China's football have already been stripped off." Others said the game had no clothes to take off from the start.
As a game, soccer becomes meaningless if it does not entertain its fans. In this sense, the streaker really gave a lesson to Chinese football and its governing body.
The student said he had never expected to be the first streaker, and still felt so excited. "I expressed my frustration and received a fair punishment. It was worth all the trouble."
(China.org.cn by Li Xiao, December 22, 2004)