China will return a world championship soccer title one of its high school teams won after it was revealed the girls’ team was stacked with national players, state media reported yesterday.
In one of the more audacious cheating stories to emerge out of Chinese sport, which has recently thrown up numerous cases of athletes lying about their ages, the principal of Daping Junior High School apologized for the fraud.
“What we have done goes against sportsmanship and has undermined the image of our city as well as soccer’s development in China,” Zhang Jianling said in comments published widely in Chinese media yesterday. “We sincerely apologize for what we have done.”
Chinese media have for days been seeking to know the truth behind what always seemed a story too good to be true — how the small school could do what no senior national team could and win a world championship in soccer.
At this month’s World Middle School Championships in Turkey, the Daping team beat the best schools from soccer powerhouse nations Brazil and Italy in the preliminary stages, then one from France in the semi-finals.
The Daping girls beat a German side on penalties to win the tournament and photos on the Internet showed the girls joyously celebrating.
But after denying in recent days Chinese media reports saying it was all a fraud, Zhang finally confessed, saying only three members of the squad were from his school.
The others were recruited from the Chinese girls’ junior national team and other top squads, even though the tournament’s rules stated only students from the schools represented were eligible to play.
“To have a best result in the tournament, we used other members in the team without making it known to the government and the public,” Zhang said.
• Sinon Bulls 9,
Brother Elephants 2
• Uni-President Lions 8,
La New Bears 2
• Sinon Bulls v
• Uni-President Lions v
La New Bears
(Chengching Lake, 5pm)
The China Daily said the Chongqing government in southwest China, where Daping is located, will return the trophy.
But Chinese media remain skeptical that Zhang is telling the full truth even now, with some reports alleging the Chinese Football Association approved the plan.