China risks backlash with Brazilian Elkeson set for World Cup campaign

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail SHINE, August 6, 2019
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Shanghai SIPG forward Elkeson runs after the ball during the AFC Champions League group match against Urawa Red Diamonds in Shanghai in this March 16, 2017, photo. The Brazil striker is set to be called up to Marcello Lippi's squad for China's World Cup qualifiers, reports said on Monday.

Brazilian striker Elkeson is set to be called up to Marcello Lippi's squad for China's World Cup qualifiers, reports said on Monday, in what would be a landmark moment for football in the country.

The widely expected move would make the 30-year-old the first player without Chinese ancestry to represent his adopted country, as China strives to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Elkeson's selection could be the start of a trend for perennial under-achiever China, which has begun naturalizing overseas players despite the misgivings of many fans.

The most populous nation on the planet has only reached the World Cup once before, in 2002, but hopes to host, and even win, the tournament.

In June, London-born Nico Yennaris made his debut for Lippi's side. The midfielder's inclusion was widely welcomed by Chinese sports fans but unlike Elkeson, he is half-Chinese.

The respected Oriental Sports Daily and other Chinese media said Elkeson and Yennaris are on a list of players submitted to the Asian Football Confederation ahead of World Cup qualifiers.

Lippi's side begins its campaign for Qatar 2022 away to the Maldives next month.

Elkeson, who last month returned to his former club Guangzhou Evergrande from Chinese Super League champion Shanghai SIPG, is eligible for China having played in the country since 2013.

The forward, who has 13 CSL goals this season, has never represented the senior Brazilian side.

He could be followed by several other foreign players, with fellow China-based Brazilians Ricardo Goulart and Fernando both reportedly set to be naturalized, along with English defender Tyias Browning.

Although many other nations, notably World Cup host Qatar, call up players born in other countries, China had resisted doing so until now.

It is a controversial move and football commentator Zhan Jun hinted at public discord, writing to his 16 million followers on Weibo: "Sigh, don't know how the fans who care about Chinese football are feeling?"

"I can't get over it," said Zhan, in a post which drew thousands of comments.

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