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China condemns 'foot-brawl' match

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BEIJING, China -- China's ruling football body condemned its Olympic team on Friday and vowed "strict" punishment following a mass brawl with London's Queens Park Rangers that forced the match to be abandoned.

"The China Football Association expresses its regret over this incident. We firmly oppose and condemn any kind of behaviour that violates good sportsmanship," the organization said in a statement.

"The China Football Association will earnestly investigate the circumstances surrounding this incident and strictly punish (those responsible)."

Police were called to Rangers' training ground in west London following the ugly second-half brawl, which forced Premier League referee Dermot Gallacher to call off the match with QPR leading 2-1.

China's under-23 Olympic team were playing the English second-tier side as part of their tour of France and England.

More than 30 players and members of the coaching staff from both clubs were involved in the brawl that was triggered when Chinese striker Gao Lin lashed out following a tough tackle from a QPR player.

During the fight, Chinese defender Zheng Tao was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital for treatment for a broken jaw.

QPR and the English Football Association have already announced their own investigations into the match.

Meanwhile, China's media on Friday slammed their players for shaming the nation.

"Chinese soccer sunk to a new low on Wednesday when a supposedly friendly encounter... descended into an ugly brawl that was more like a kung fu movie than the 'beautiful game'," the English-language China Daily said.

The leading Chinese sports publication, Titan Sports, said: "These players are like firewood. One spark and they explode."

Apology

Team manager Li Xiaoguang said in a statement on Friday: "I would like, on behalf of the team, to make an official apology to all fans supporting our team, as well as to all media friends.

"Whatever the reasons for the incident, as the team manager I will take the responsibility. Although the participants in this incident were the players, I will take all the blame."

He added: "After the match with the Chelsea reserve team, we have noticed some of the young players cannot control themselves well. The coaching team even held a special meeting on it.

"On February 6, the head coach, Ratomir Dujkovic made a formal speech before the training session and asked the players to behave well on the pitch. In the afternoon of that day, Chinese coaching staff conducted individual talks with all players.

"Even before the match against QPR, the coaching staff again emphasised the discipline with all the starting XI players.

"However, the unexpected incident happened in any case. I will be conducting a serious inquiry into it.

"We have learnt a lesson from this incident and it will help us to strengthen our management and education of the young players and finally prevent it from happening again."

Gao, the player involved in the start of the violence, had said that he retaliated to "provocation" from a QPR player but he regretted failing to control himself.

"Because of me an incident occurred during the match with Queen's Park Rangers which severely damaged the reputation of the Chinese Olympic team. I sincerely apologise to everybody concerned," Gao said in a statement.

Seven players including Gao, who plays for Shanghai Shenhua, have been sent home from London following the fracas, according to Chinese media reports.

Ugly incidents had erupted during three of China's nine matches played in Europe since the team went on tour on January 9.

Fighting broke out during their match against French club Marseille's development team on Tuesday last week and the match on Monday this week against Chelsea's second team was an ill-tempered affair.


story.gallacher.gi.jpg

Ref Gallacher, above, called off the match between QPR and China's Olympic team.

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