Lavezzi off hook but Hulk still under probe over race-hate claim

Sports | 18 May 2017

China's football authority is investigating Brazilian star Hulk's alleged altercation with a rival club's staffer, but it saw "no malicious intent" in a separate racially charged row involving Argentina's Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Both South American players, who are among the growing crop of highly paid foreign stars in China's cash-rich Super League, have been embroiled in race-related incidents in recent weeks.

The Chinese Football Association said its disciplinary committee held a hearing with Hulk, who plays for Shanghai SIPG, and the assistant coach of Guizhou Zhicheng.

The hearing came after Guizhou's then head coach Li Bing accused the Brazilian of punching his assistant, Yu Ming, at half-time of SIPG's 3-0 victory earlier this month.

Li had suggested Hulk had a racial motive for the alleged attack, saying that the Brazilian star "cannot be here and despise Chinese people," though he later appeared to back off those comments. Hulk and the Shanghai club have rejected the accusations.

Association spokeswoman Huang Shiwei said that it "has zero tolerance towards any behavior that is not in line with sport ethics on the pitch, no matter who that person is. There is no exception."

News of the investigation comes a week after an association official, Li Peng, said there was no evidence that Hulk had violated any regulations.

But Li Bing, who remains Guizhou's general manager, said on Weibo that he would keep pursuing the charges even though his club said both sides have "reached agreement" in how to handle the incident.

Days after the Hulk incident, the Super League faced another controversy when promotional photos emerged of Lavezzi smiling and pulling the corners of his eyes back. Lavezzi's club, Hebei China Fortune, said the 32-year-old had apologized and insisted he meant no racial offense.

"We believe the footballer and the photographer did not have any malicious intent when they were shooting," the association said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE



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