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CHINA: Team That Sparked Riot Is Disbanded : China Disbands Losing Soccer Team After Riot

Times Staff Writer

China’s national soccer team has been broken up and its coach has resigned as a result of the humiliating loss in World Cup competition which led to a recent riot in Peking, Chinese sports officials announced Friday.

According to the officials, the national team “needs time to reorganize.” The players will be sent back to their local teams to review their skills, and a new team will be formed soon. Meanwhile, a team from Peking will take its place in a tournament here this month.

In a letter of resignation to the Chinese Football Assn., the coach, Zeng Xuelin, said that the team had played badly because of his own “limited ability.” He apologized for “the defeat and the subsequent uproar.”

On May 19, Peking soccer fans went on a rampage after a team from Hong Kong defeated the Chinese team, 2-1, thereby eliminating China from World Cup competition.

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By comparison with the violence in Brussels this week or with other soccer riots in Europe or Latin America, the Chinese incident was not so serious. There were no deaths, but authorities said four policemen were seriously injured.

Property Damage

The soccer fans, angered at the unexpected loss by the Chinese team, caused considerable property damage. They threw bricks, rocks and bottles at cars and buses, broke some windows and overturned one taxi.

In addition, some of the rioters singled out overseas Chinese and foreigners as targets, spitting on them and tossing objects at their cars. The cars of several Peking-based diplomats were stopped and surrounded by the rioters.

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The state-owned People’s Insurance Co. of China said it will pay about 100,000 yuan ($35,000) to the owners of six cars owned by embassies or foreign companies here which were damaged in the riot.

There had been several other incidents of violence at Chinese soccer games in recent years. In April, Chinese authorities distributed a circular calling for order in sports stadiums and noting that there had been “many disturbances, quarrels, fist fights and injuries and deaths during last year’s soccer matches.”

However, authorities said the May 19 riot was the worst single incident of sports violence in Peking since the Communist takeover in 1949. Peking officials blamed the incident on what they called some “black sheep” in the crowd of 80,000.

Sports Stars’ Lectures

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Peking newspapers reported Friday that China enlisted two of its most illustrious athletes from the 1984 Olympic Games to give lectures on sportsmanship to a group of young people arrested during the riot.

The newspaper Peking Daily said that Olympic gold medal gymnast Li Ning and Lang Ping, the star of the Chinese women’s volleyball team, had spoken Thursday to about 90 rioters, who the paper said were taken into police custody.

According to the report, Li said he had been “deeply grieved” by the soccer fans’ behavior. He said that when he performed well in competition overseas, foreigners demonstrated good sportsmanship by applauding for him.

“Most of you are about the same age as I am,” said Li, who is 21. “I sincerely hope that all of you will learn a lesson through study from this incident, and in the future observe discipline and social order.”

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Lang, the power-spiker of the women’s volleyball team, reportedly told the rioters she felt that “a nation’s spiritual civilization is not only reflected by the players, but also by the audience” of a sporting competition.

Peking authorities have said 127 people were arrested during or after the riot and that at least two of them will be put on trial soon.


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