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CFA Under Fire for Mishandling QPR Affair
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The China Football Association (CFA) came under increasing attack from local fans and media over the melee that broke out between the nation's Olympic team and Queen's Park Rangers in London last week.

QPR suspended their assistant manager Richard Hill on Tuesday following his arrest in connection with the brawl that marred the 'friendly' match with the English Championship side's reserve team.

But Chinese fans say the CFA failed in its responsibilities both during and after the fight, which left one Chinese player hospitalized with a fractured jaw and others injured.

Reports from Chinese newspaper Titan Sports said that when Chinese photographers were trying to record the on-pitch hostilities, national team officials obstructed them, resulting in a lack of evidence supporting claims that the Chinese players were surrounded and attacked.

One soccer fan summed up the ensuing confusion. 

"We had no idea what exactly happened after reading the newspapers. Only after watching the videos from CCTV did I realize that the Chinese players were provoked by ugly tackles throughout the match. I think that was probably the main reason for the fight," said Li Bo from Beijing.

Defender Zheng Tao was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken jaw during the fracas, which resulted in the February 7 match being abandoned.

Zheng and teammate Chen Tao, who left the pitch with a bloody nose, will collect evidence and plan to appeal to FIFA to sue QPR and the English FA, the Shanghai Evening Post reported yesterday.

With players and coaching staff from both teams involved, the CFA has also taken flak for its decision to offer an immediate and unilateral apology.

"We should all take responsibility for this second brawl," said the CFA, referencing an earlier tune up against Chelsea's reserves, that also turned violent.

"Chinese football has once again been marred in front of the fans.

"We apologize and we will work harder on disciplining and educating our players."

Critics claim the apology creates the misleading impression that China was fully responsible for the second fight, an impression already moulded by scenes of striker Gao Lin's emphatic flying kick on a QPR player.

Overseas media have used the apology in part to fuel analyses of the fight that present the Chinese side's involvement in a negative or, as some local media claim, unbalanced light.

The match was the penultimate tie in the Chinese Olympic team's ten-game European swing, aimed at providing some top-level competition ahead of next year's Beijing Olympic Games.

The final match was canceled.

As one of a set of punitive measures, the CFA sent Gao home the following day.

This also caused complications, as it meant the striker was not available to defend his actions when the British police launched their investigation into the affair.

Gao is believed to have triggered the brawl by lashing out at a player from the second division club, but he insisted he had been provoked.

"It is clear the CFA is trying to find a scapegoat for the incident," said former CCTV sports commentator Huang Jianxiang on his blog.

Huang's former colleague Duan Xuan also questioned the CFA's decision to play such an amateur squad, but said Gao should have shown greater professionalism.

"Gao Lin should tolerate the provocations if it is an official competition.

"However, what kind of match was this? Why were the opponents so aggressive and brutal? Why does a national team have to play against reserves? Why could not we fight back after being repeatedly provoked?"

Further investigation

Hill's suspension is believed to only mark the beginning of the investigation as police and the FA are continuing to collect evidence.

A statement from QPR read: "Following the incident at the training ground on February 7, and the subsequent police investigation of the matter, Queens Park Rangers Football Club have suspended assistant manager Richard Hill from his duties until further notice."

Hill was caught by a Titan photographer in the act of punching a Chinese player. The picture was later purchased by British media.

The 43-year-old was released on bail but will face further questioning and possible charges following the outcome of the ongoing police investigation.

The CFA will decide what penalties to mete out in strict accordance with FIFA rules after the investigation has wrapped up, senior officials there said.

"We will make a decision about whether to punish the players involved or not according to the FA's investigation," said Vice President Xie Yalong.

Zheng will need three months for his jaw to recover but he is expected to be match fit soon after.

Gao, who has been temporarily suspended from the Olympic team, vowed to focus on training and said he hopes to return to the national team.

"If I'm punished, I will accept the decision, hope to learn something from my mistakes and work harder," he said.

"I will try to prove myself and get back to the national team as soon as possible."

(China Daily February 15, 2007)

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