The ‘wrong-footed soccer maiden’ who bridged Manhattan, Beijing

He does not stop there. Talese momentarily imagines them “gamboling in G-strings in a rain forest on the Playboy Channel.”

By the end, however, Talese’s affection for truth-telling and for his subject expresses itself. Liu Ying, whom he had identified in project notes as the “wrong-footed Chinese soccer maiden,” has become a human being, even heroic, situated within the classic Chinese appreciation for long-suffering women able to eat bitterness (chi ku). Talese has ventured across boundaries of the known world and brought himself to a new vantage point. Both soccer player and author have taken a great leap forward.

Note: An excerpt from Talese’s writing on Liu Ying is available in The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press).


Fan Hong, Footbinding, Feminism, and Freedom: The Liberation of Women’s Bodies in Modern China, Sport in the Global Society (London: Frank Cass, 1997); Fan Hong and J. A. Mangan, “Will the ‘Iron Roses’ Bloom Forever? Women’s Football in China: Changes and Challenges,” chap. 3 in Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking Off a New Era, ed. Fan Hong and J. A. Mangan, Sport in the Global Society (London: Frank Cass, 2004), 47–66; Jere Longman, “The Great Wall of China,” chap. 6 in The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World (New York: HarperCollins, 2000); Mei Fong and Loretta Chao, “The Great Women of China,” Wall Street Journal, 13 Jun 08; Gay Talese, A Writer’s Life (New York: Knopf, 2006).

Additional reading

The Paris Review (summer 09) queries Talese about his writing techniques (Katie Roiphe, “Gay Talese: The Art of Nonfiction No. 2”). He discloses that he takes notes on cardboard from dry-cleaned shirts. “I cut the shirt board into four parts and I cut the corners into round edges, so that they can fit in my pocket,” he says. “I also use full shirt boards when I’m writing my outlines. I’ve been doing this since the fifties.”

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4 comments on this post.
  1. lawrence:

    Thanks, John, for bringing this back! Great stuff.

  2. China | ‘Penalty Phase,’ by Gay Talese (chapter 43) « Scissors Kick:

    [...] China | ‘Penalty Phase,’ by Gay Talese (chapter 43) “On Sunday morning, July 11, 1999, I listened to my pastor, down the street from our home in Decatur, Georgia, warn parishioners about the dangers of nationalistic revelry. The occasion was the aftermath of American victory over China the previous afternoon in the Women’s World Cup final. The game finished 0–0, with the United States prevailing 5–4 in the penalty phase. ‘Let’s not forget the Chinese players,’ our pastor said. It was the only time I have heard him, in 13 years, mention soccer within the worship context. ‘The TV cameras did not let us see their faces. What were their players thinking? What were they feeling as they watched all the American flags?’” (The Global Game – July 18, 2009), (The Global Game – 19 July 2009) [...]

  3. Mike:

    Hope Chinese female soccer team can get good luck. It’s been in bad condition these years!

  4. Chris Berkeley:

    I thought of this article and Talese’s writing watching the penalty shoot-out at the end of the 2010 AFC Womens’ Asian Cup final match when Australia beat DPRK (North Korea) 5–4 on penalties.

    The game was played on a very bad pitch in appalling weather in front of a very small crowd, but both teams played in a spirited and entertaining fashion throughout the 120 minutes.

    Yun Song-Mi was the second DPRK player to step up to the sodden spot and missed the goal by a metre. Her anguish and grief, like Liu’s, was heartbreaking then and in later brief TV shots was palpable.

    Apart from this woman’s terrible shot all 10 penalties were taken as though the players had ice in their veins and not blood. The GKs never had a chance. I have never seen male players take that many penalties so coolly. This shoot-out should be played to students of the game as an object lesson.

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