In January, the government pledged to prohibit ink on bodies from TV shows.
And AS report that same ruling is now being applied to football, with several of international players forced to cover up as China faced Wales.
The report claims the “war on tattoos” is part of a bid to preserve Chinese values and promote a “healthy” culture.
For now, the ban appears to be limited only to the national side, and it is unclear whether it will also apply to club football.
Several of the big-name players who moved from Europe to the Chinese Super League do sport visible tattoos.
Carlos Tevez sports a sleeve of tattoos during period in Chinese Super League
China recently met Wales in the China Cup, where they were hammered 6-0.
In the match, various players for the home side wore patches to cover visible tattoos, with the contest being shown live on TV around the world.
Gareth Bale netted a hat-trick during the friendly tournament’s opener, which saw him become Wales’ all-time leading goal scorer.
Chinese players sporting tattoos were forced to cover them with a patch
China have big ambitions to reach the 2022 World Cup, having made Marcello Lippi the highest-paid manager in world, on a wage of around £350,000-a-week.
The Chinese Ministry of Sport’s tattoo-scrubbing policy runs against recent trends in sponsorship and sports branding. Chinese soccer fans, who are very responsive to sponsorship, idolize players in the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, many of whom sport prominent tattoos.
At home, tattoos are perhaps more popular than ever, particularly in major cities, where China’s soccer clubs are based. China’s three largest cities, Shanghai, Beijing-Dalian and Guangzhou, each have two Chinese Super League teams.
Inked-up celebrities are also not uncommon in Chinese advertising campaigns. Tommy Hilfiger’s Asia ambassador Shawn Yue’s tattoos, for example, are regularly visible in ads. Badminton player Lin Dai took part in an entire ad series celebrating the meaning behind his tattoos.
In the aftermath of these new regulations, there’s already been some pushback on social media and in the press. An article appeared on the popular Chinese news site ThePaper.cn, titled, “Why do NBA players like tattoos so much?” The article explained the motivation behind getting a tattoo, and the diversity represented in the designs.
“The charm of the NBA is in these small designs,” sports journalist Zhang Jiawei wrote; they are a player’s “dignity and pride.” Discussing Allen Iverson’s rebuke of a magazine cover that airbrushed his tattoos, Zhang states: “The erasure of tattoos capitulated the power dynamic of anti-black discrimination.”
It is unclear whether China’s heavily-tattooed players, like Zhang, will be able to compete in international matches. Meanwhile, the Chinese Football Association has reportedly left it up to the clubs to manage their players’ appearances in upcoming professional matches. No tattoo cover-up has yet impacted the Chinese Basketball Association, or other sports like badminton. For now, it appears that the tattoo ban will not affect foreign soccer players, though it is unclear whether that will change in the future.
At this point, no players, coaches or league sponsors have publicly spoken out against the ban. Though one youth national team coach has spoken up in favor.
Interviewed about the new policy, Jia Xiuquan, the coach of China’s men’s Under 19 soccer team said: “Any team player who wants to be selected to the next match should wash their tattoos and the dye out of their hair.”
The coach added with no apparent sense of irony: “They should focus on the game rather than their image or appearance.”