Footballers playing in China’s national team should remove any existing tattoos and are “strictly prohibited” from getting any new ones, the country’s sports administration body has said.
The sport has found itself in the crosshairs of the Communist Party’s purity drive in recent years, and players on the national football team routinely cover their arms with long sleeves or bandages to hide their tattoos.
However, the China Sports Administration statement, dated Tuesday, said that players in the national team “are strictly prohibited from having new tattoos”.
“Those who have tattoos are advised to have them removed,” the statement continued. “In special circumstances, the tattoos must be covered during training and competition, with the consent of the rest of the team.”
It went on to say that the under-20 national teams and those even younger were “strictly prohibited” from recruiting anyone with tattoos.
However, not all fans appeared to be behind the new rules.
“Are we choosing a good football player or a saint?” asked one angry fan on the social media platform Weibo.
“Shall we just say outright that only the Party members could play football?” asked another.
Body ink is traditionally frowned upon in China but it is increasingly popular among young adults, even as authorities make plain their disdain for it.
Chinese Football Association has ordered players in the national team to cover tattoos in recent years and packed young footballers off to military camps for drills and Marxist-style “thought education”.
That has prompted complaints from fans that it is thinking more about politics than sport.