By Rory O’Callaghan
Last Updated: 17/05/17 2:27pm
The Chinese Football Association has opened an investigation into Shanghai SIPG striker Hulk’s alleged attack on a coach of a rival team, but insists it saw no “malicious intent” in another race-related incident involving Hebei CFFC forward Ezequiel Lavezzi .
Guizhou Zhicheng head coach Li Bing accused Hulk of punching his assistant, Yu Ming, at half-time during SIPG’s 3-0 win in the Chinese Super League earlier this month.
Li suggested Hulk had a racial motive for the alleged attack, saying that the Brazilian star “cannot be here and despise Chinese people”, though he later appeared to retract his comments.
Hulk and Shanghai have both denied the accusations but the Chinese FA confirmed it has opened an investigation into the matter.
CFA spokeswoman Huang Shiwei said in a statement on Tuesday that the association “has zero tolerance towards any behaviour that is not (in line with) sport ethics in the pitch, no matter who that person is… There is no exception”.
The Chinese Super League was rocked by another controversial incident just days after Hulk’s alleged attack, when photos emerged of former Paris Saint-Germain forward Lavezzi pulling a face to mimic Chinese characteristics.
The former Argentina international, who is reportedly the highest-paid player in the world, was forced to issue an apology and explain his actions in statement on Monday.
“We were given instructions by the official photographer and I was trying to make some interesting photos by making some funny faces, which would be used afterwards for entertainment purposes,” the 32-year-old said.
“I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people and did not do it with any bad intentions.”
The CFA has urged Lavezzi to “regulate his words and actions more” as a public figure but say they will not be punishing the player or his club, Hebei CFFC, for the controversial photos.
“We believe the footballer and the photographer did not have any malicious intent when they were shooting. We hope media don’t read too much into this,” the CFA said on Wednesday.
“Due to the differences of national conditions and cultures, different hand gestures or expressions have different meanings.”