The country’s sports administration body has stated, footballers playing in China’s national team should remove any persisting tattoos and are “strictly prohibited” from getting any new ones.

The sport has found itself in the reticule of the Communist Party’s purity drive in recent years, and players on the national football team commonly cover their arms with long sleeves or bandages to conceal their tattoos.

However the China Sports Administration statement, dated Tuesday, stated that players in the national team “are strictly prohibited from having new tattoos.”

“Those who have tattoos are advised to have them removed,” the statement resumed. “In special circumstances, the tattoos must be covered during training and competition, with the consent of the rest of the team.”

It carried on to say that the U20 national teams and those even younger were “strictly prohibited” from signing up anyone with tattoos.

But not all fans seemed to be behind the new rules.

“Are we choosing a good football player or a saint?” queried one angry fan on the social media platform.

“Shall we just say outright that only the Party members could play football?” urged another.

Body ink is traditionally scowled upon in China but it is progressively popular among young adults, even as authorities make plain their scorn for it.

The Chinese Football Association has directed players in the national team to cover tattoos in recent years and sent young footballers off to military camps for drills and Marxist-style “thought education.”

That has caused complaints from fans that it is thinking more about politics than sport.

Last year, a women’s university football game was eventually cancelled following players were notified they were not allowed to have dyed hair.

President Xi Jinping wants China to host and even triumph the World Cup one day.

But they are fifth of six teams in their qualifying group for next year’s World Cup, with only the top two vowed to qualify.

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