The Chinese commentator for whom soccer brought pain

“By nature,” writes Wu Yuehua in Southern Weekend (Nov 23), “Huang Jianxiang [above] is the product of the television era. He relied on the unmatched popularity of soccer in this country to rise to the top.”

Beijing | Roland Soong, author of the EastSouthWestNorth weblog, offers a fascinating account, with translations from Chinese sources, of the downfall of football commentator Huang Jianxiang (“The Media Story of the Soccer Commentator,” Nov 26). The handsome, self-assured media personality resigned from the China Central Television sports channel, CCTV-5, on Nov 16. His criticisms of China manager Bora Milutinovic in 2001 and overexuberance in dismissing Australia after a loss to Italy in the most recent World Cup (“It’s time for Australia to go home. … Goodbye!”) made him stand out in a culture that values humility.

More extraordinary, however, has been the reaction engendered by the 38-year-old Huang’s self-defense and fall. As rendered by Soong and other observers of the Chinese press, Huang provides a convenient mirror by which to judge the culture of mainland China at this 21st-century moment. Was he marginalized at CCTV, where reporting ultimately receives guidance from the propaganda ministry of the Communist Party of China? Was he uncentered and overextended, “excessively sensitive, excessively self-confident and excessively defensive,” in Soong’s translation of a recent profile in the popular Southern Weekend (Wu Yuehua and Shi Xin, “The Wild and Crazy Huang Jianxiang,” Nov 23)?

Huang attributes his bizarre commentary during the Italy-Australia match to exhaustion and perhaps to stress related to his divorce earlier this year. He concludes simply, “Soccer brought me pain.”

Huang strikes a combative pose in the Sanlian Life Week issue, earlier this year, that included seven articles on Huang and his “passionate commentary.”

At least in translation, Huang seems glib and capable of bracing assertions. In 2004, in an interview with Miao Wei and published in Sanlian Life Week earlier this year (see the partial translation of “Huang Jianxiang Isn’t Barkley” at the “China Machete” weblog, 10 July 06), Huang gives an account of the so-called China-Qatar incident. Huang “became ‘a rat scurrying across the road,’ ” according to another football journalist, for criticizing Milutinovic during a 2001 World Cup qualifier versus Qatar. Milutinovic would guide China to the 2002 World Cup finals. Huang was suspended for six months.

While admitting he could have been more careful, the broadcaster calls the game his “best-ever commentary” and offers it as a “learning tool” for those studying the broadcasting arts. And he is explicit concerning broadcasting as art as compared to journalism. He tells the interviewer, Miao, “You are a news reporter of the Party, but I’m like an artist. To be a sports commentator, you have to be half-mad.”

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