China football flap prompts fan to become monk

BEIJING Tue Oct 14, 2008 5:52am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) - The most famous fan of a Chinese soccer club has decided to become a monk after the squad withdrew from the country's professional league last month in protest at the suspension of its top player.

Wuhan Guanggu, a club based in the Yangtze river city of Wuhan, said it would sue the Chinese Super League after it suspended former China captain Li Weifeng for eight matches for rough play during a game against Beijing Guo'an.

The contentious decision prompted tens of thousands of irate soccer fans in Wuhan to march in protest earlier this month.

It also prompted Wuhan resident Mei Nansheng, commonly known as the "Iron Trumpet," to pack his bags for the Shaolin Temple, the famed Buddhist shrine and birth-place of kung fu, according to local web portal Jingchu (www.cnhubei.com).

"My two sons have both died now," Jingchu quoted Mei as saying, referring to Wuhan Guanggu and the Chinese national team. "So you could imagine how it grieves me."

The national team, perennially lashed by local media and soccer fans for consistently disappointing on the world stage, was knocked out of the Asian group qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup earlier this year.

Mei told Jingchu that he had been a home-practising Buddhist since 2005, but would now become a full-time monk.

"I will go to the Shaolin Temple to live a peaceful life," he said.

Soccer is wildly popular in China, but the professional leagues are plagued with corruption and the national team is widely considered an embarrassment.

(Reporting by Yu Le; Editing by Ian Ransom)

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