China: Crazy Football Commentator

Huang Jianxiang , one of the most popular football commentators of China Central Television, or CCTV, has been in the center of a controversy recently seen in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere, for his overexcited comments during a World Cup playoff game, in which Italy won a 1-0 margin victory against Australia with a penalty kick in the last minute.

In the overtime of the match, when the presiding referee pointed to the pitch for the penalty kick, Huang's voice and tone suddenly became excited. His comments showed preference to Italy over Australia and used strong and emotional phrases like “Long Live Italy” and “Let Them (Australia) Get Lost.” Translation of his comments can be found here, the video here and audio recording here [zh].

Huang began his professional career as a football commentator in 1996, when he gained his reputation for passionate, sentimental and even poetic remarks during matches. His predecessors have all been of more standard, boring and indifferent types, a characteristic found in almost all Chinese state media personnel, especially news anchorpersons . He was suspended from duty for almost half a year in 2001, after he criticized Bora Milutinović, coach of China’s national team at the time, who went on to lead China into the World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea for the first time ever in 2002.

Huang's sudden outburst can be accounted for by two factors: first he is long-time reporter and commentator for Series A game in CCTV and thus a loyal fan to Italian football. At the same time he loathes the Australia team for their inability to play a first-class football game.

In an open letter to CCTV spectators and football fans, read by his colleague and producer during the next day's World Cup-related program, Huang apologized for his mistake, namely “the injustice and prejudice of his comments, which caused discomfort and hurt to some of the audience”. The Chinese text can be found on his own blog:


In the last few minutes of the Italy versus Australia game last night, I attached too much personal emotion to my comments. After waking up this morning, I re-watched the game video, realizing the injustice and prejudice of my comments, which caused discomfort and hurt to some of the audience. I apologize to all the audience.


I am relatively more familiar with Italian football, hoping for Italy's victory in the World Cup. But during my comments I mixed my personal devotion for an individual team and role of being neutral as a commentator. Yesterday my performance in the last few minutes was not from a professional angle, which triggered off many dissatisfaction, opinion and criticism. I apologize again from the bottom of my heart.



In the future of my job I would sum up my experiences and remind myself of setting my viewpoint and reach a balance between sense and emotion. We always expect fair play of the referee, as well as the commentators. I will try my best to be fair and impartial to perform my duty as a football commentator.

Wish all fans great enjoyment of the games.

Rumor has been around on the Internet that an Associated Press story reported that about 30 Australian football fans have protested outside the Australian Embassy in Beijing, demanding the ambassador to ask the Foreign Ministry of China to punish Huang, whose comments have been regarded as insults to the national dignity of Australia. However the story is not confirmed by AP and might not be true. (via Danwei)

In an online poll of the incident, a overwhelmingly popular topic yesterday in the Chinese blogosphere, more than 70% of netizens surveyed supported that Huang should resume his duty in the remaining 10 matches in the World Cup. Despite extreme criticism and advocacy, one viewpoint prevailed among the discussion of blogosphere, as expressed by LaoBai, a former sports journalist on his blog: On one hand resentment over Huang's comments and on the other hand fear for CCTV's potential freezing of Huang's career.


Though I don't like Huang Jianxiang’s performance in the last few minutes, I will defend his hysterical show. To some degree, the government's desire to control the TV media and oppress the free expression of emotion is more suffocating than Huang Jianxiang's performance….


I believe that nobody would like to go back to the age when something happens on the field, the camera switches over to the bleachers; when something happens on the bleachers, the camera switches over to the moon.

Reowned Chinese blogger Wang Xiaofeng, a.k.a Milk Massage, analyzed the would-be psychological reasons for Huang's outburst. He thought the main weakness of CCTV's program host is that all their lack of personality. He also points out that Huang used the word like “Viva Forever” in his comments to reach the effect of free expression of his feelings and emotions, detached from its original denotative meaning of personal worship.


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