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Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong and Ma Long refuse to play at 2017 China Open

(Photo: ITTF)

The world table tennis community has been left stunned, after three of the world’s strongest players refused to show at the 2017 China Open as a sign of protest.

Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong and Ma Long were all set to appear in Men’s Singles action at the 2017 China Open on Friday 23rd June in Chengdu but not one of the three stars showed up.

SD Sport understands that the refusal to play comes following former head coach Liu Guoliang being moved to different role within the Chinese Table Tennis Association.

While the CTTA is yet to respond to the protest, there was an official statement made by the Chinese Sports Administration:

During the 2017 ITTF World Tour China Open in Chengdu, 2 coaches and 3 athletes from the Chinese Table Tennis national team forfeited the competition without permission, resulting in very negative social influences.

The General Administration of Sports of China’s news spokesperson states that, the act of forfeiting without authorisation and leaving without notice during a major international tournament shows no regard for neither the athlete’s ethical code & code of conduct, nor for the interest and glory of the country, it is also disrespectful to the opponent and the spectators. This kind of behaviour is wrong and we are strongly against it.

We require the sports teams & athletes to be always put patriotism & collectivism as the first priority at all times, having a strong ideology, strict discipline and sports level is equally important.

The General Administration of Sports of China has tasked the Chinese Table Tennis Association to investigate the incident and deal with the incident severely.”

Editor’s analysis:

This does indeed appear to be a protest against the CTTA for the decision to move Liu Guoliang away from the head coach position.

Messages from the absent Chinese representatives appeared on social media asking for Liu Guoliang to be reinstated in his former role, and even the fans in Chengdu got involved in the action by chanting the name of the former head coach.

How deep does this news go? Zhang Jike made an unexpected exit from the tournament due to an apparent injury problem, but now questions will begin to be asked as the whether that really was the case.

Zhang Jike’s fans were left in tears, and after the match the player not only refused to give any interviews but left the arena immediately.

Liu Guoliang is known to have a strong bond with the Chinese players, especially Zhang Jike and the question is how will the CTTA respond to this? The last thing the association will want is for the likes of Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong and Ma Long to repeat this protest at another event.

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