Chinese national football team banned from having tattoos by government

Image: Twitter

The Chinese national football team have been banned from getting tattoos and advised to remove ones they already have under a new directive spearheaded by the country’s sports administration body. The organisation has said that recruiting new players that have tattoos at the national level and to youth squads is now “strictly prohibited”.

The administration said the move would help set a “good example for society”, as national stars such as Zhang Linpeng have already been told to cover their tattoos previously. The Chinese government has been ramping up its anti-tattoo legislation since mid-2018, making moves to prevent tattoos from being shown on screens.

In a statement, the country’s General Administration of Sport (GAS) said national players with tattoos were “advised to have them removed”. In special circumstances, the tattoos must be covered during training and competition, with the consent of the rest of the team,” it said. Some players on the Chinese national football team already hide their body art with long sleeves.

In Chinese culture a stigma has been attached to tattoos – in the past they were used to brand criminals and the tattoo still has links to organised crime groups in east Asia. Tattoos among ethnic groups were often seen as a mark of the uncivilised. They are disapproved of by China’s ruling Communist Party but have become increasingly popular among young Chinese, as reported by the BBC.

The state-owned Chinese broadcasting regulator announced earlier this year that it was restricting what it called “unhealthy content”. In some cases, tattoos and ponytails on men have been pixellated or blurred from screens. Last December, a women’s university football match in China had to be called off after players were told they were not allowed to have dyed hair.

The match organisers, the National Youth Campus Football League, said in a statement at the time: “Athletes at all stages shall not have tattoos, dye their hair, wear weird hairstyles, or wear any accessories, otherwise they will be ineligible for the competition.”

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Written by

Claire Gordon


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