(CNN)A university football match in China was abandoned after players with dyed hair ran afoul of organizers' strict rules on appearance, according to state-run tabloid Global Times.
The women's teams of Fuzhou University and Jimei University were scheduled to play in the southeastern Fujian province on Saturday, but several players from both sides violated rules forbidding dyed hair, Global Times reported.
The issue kicked off a frantic dash from coaching staff to secure black hair dye from nearby salons.
However, one player from Fuzhou University was ordered to leave the game after the opposition team reported that her hair was still "not black enough," Global Times reported.
The referee then decided that Fuzhou University would forfeit the game because they couldn't field the minimum seven players required.
"One of the rules regulates that hair dye is not allowed among players," a member of staff from Fuzhou University's PE department told Dazhong News, Global Times reported. "In practice, simple or partial dyeing is acceptable, but 'weird' colors are not allowed."
The Campus Football Alliance said on Weibo that the league organizers' rules state that athletes will be disqualified if they "dye their hair, grow long hair (for boys), wear strange hairstyles, or wear any accessories."
The referee's decision split opinion on Chinese social media.
"This incident makes it hard to get my hopes up for Chinese soccer," said one Weibo user. "Hair dyeing is just a way one expresses his/her personality and pursuing (a better-looking) image. It does not go against social morality or public order."
Another user disagreed and said: "These players often become idols among students and their behavior can influence more people. Stricter grooming requirements for soccer players could set a better direction (for others)."
'Politically correct values'
This isn't the first time that Chinese football players have faced scrutiny for their appearance. In 2018, some players from the men's national team wore bandages covering their arms after censors from the ruling Communist Party condemned tattoos in a directive to state broadcasters.
Later that year, China international defender Wang Shenchao was banned from playing for 12 months after he wore a necklace during a game against Myanmar.
"Unfortunately this incident is not an isolated one," said Cameron Wilson, founding editor of the Wild East Football website. "This issue is very unfortunate because it is obvious that someone's sporting ability is not linked to their fashion sense."
Wilson added that these stringent rules are in place to "promote politically correct values."
"The players are primarily considered role models for society due to the influential role they can play with their elevated profiles," he said. "It's understandable that a country wants its football team to have a positive impact on the general population, but unfortunately the definition of what is positive in China seems very narrow."