Two Chinese soccer commentators have been fired after posting a video thanking Covid-19 for infecting one of the opposing team’s star players.
The pair were speaking ahead of Friday night’s Chinese Super League match between Dalian Pro and Henan Jianye.
Guo Yifei, a sports commentator working for Dalian TV, the main network in the northeastern city, uploaded a now-deleted video on the video platform Douyin in which he previewed the game with former Chinese international Wang Peng.
Guo noted that Henan’s star striker, Cameroonian forward Christian Bassogog, was not playing because he was receiving treatment in a hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou after testing positive for Covid-19.
Clearly happy for his hometown team, he then chuckled and said “it seems [Bassogog] won’t be coming back”. Wang replied “Thank you Covid-19”.
The video went viral on Douyin quickly as well as social media platform Weibo, where the hashtag “Dalian Commentator Says Thank You Covid-19” racked up nearly 30 million hits.
The clip was not broadcast by the network. Dalian TV announced on Sunday that it was removing Guo from future commentary on Dalian Pro matches and that Wang would not be invited back as a guest commentator.
“Especially at a time when the people of this country are in a struggle against Covid-19, cracking this kind of joke is unscrupulous behaviour, causing great hurt to Bassogog, Henan Jianye, and Henan football fans,” read the statement.
The statement also demanded Guo and Wang post an apology video to the same Douyin account and never use the account again. Guo and Wang complied on the same day, repeating almost word-by-word the statement put out by Dalian TV.
Many internet users were not satisfied, however, demanding a lifelong ban on Guo and Wang from commentating and their Weibo accounts were flooded with angry comments.
One wrote: “I extend my apologies to Henan Jianye! as someone who was born and raised in Dalian, I honestly find this so embarrassing.”
Another reacted to the apology video by posting: “Growing up, out of all the Dalian football fans around me there was not one who didn’t find Guo Yifei annoying. It’s not just his commentating skills that are low-level, looks like his character is the same.”
Wang, a Dalian native who won six league titles while playing for the city’s former Super League club, had not posted on the Twitter-style network for over three years, but his last post from June 2017 was filled with a barrage of insults.
China has so far recorded more than 4,600 deaths from Covid-19 and, more than seven months after it first emerged, new outbreaks continue to happen, including a recent one in Dalian.
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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.