In China, student athletes aren’t judged solely on their sports skills, but also on their hairstyles.
The sports education research department at Fuzhou University in the eastern Fujian province confirmed to domestic media Monday that the school’s women’s soccer team had been barred from competing due to some of the players having dyed hair. The disqualification happened before the team was set to face off against Jimei University at a provincial tournament in late November.
Though Fuzhou University’s coaches bought black hair dye from nearby salons for quick makeovers, the rival team still wasn’t satisfied with one woman’s hair, resulting in the entire team’s disqualification, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported. However, Fuzhou University was able to play against Fujian Normal University the following day, winning second place in the tournament.
In a now-deleted post on microblogging platform Weibo, China’s Federation of University Sports also confirmed that the players had been barred because of their hairstyles, according to The Paper.
An employee from the Fujian Sports Association of University, which disqualified the Fuzhou University players, told domestic media that the school was notified of the issue before the game, and that the association had only enforced the rules.
“We are following related documents from the (provincial) education department,” the employee said, adding that those in turn are backed up by national policy.
According to the Fujian provincial education bureau, “athletes are prohibited from dyeing their hair, having bizarre hairstyles, or wearing accessories, (and) male athletes should not keep their hair long.” The National Youth Campus Football League further noted that athletes should not have dyed hair or visible tattoos.
Online, some social media users slammed the policy as “ridiculous,” while others said athletes should either follow the rules or face the music. A related hashtag on Weibo had been viewed nearly 300 million times by Tuesday evening.
“Tattoos didn’t stop Lionel Messi from becoming one of the greatest soccer players in the world; dyed hair didn’t impact the Japanese national soccer team’s luster on the field either,” read one Weibo post. “Policymakers, please, focus on the game.”
The policing of young people’s hair isn’t new in China. In September, a high school in the northern Hebei province ordered girls to wear their hair short, while a university in the northwestern Shaanxi province banned students from having “outlandish” hair colors, though it later backtracked on its decision.
Athletes in general are under strict scrutiny about their appearances. The Chinese Football Association started regulating players’ tattoos in 2018, prohibiting them from showing ink on the field.
Lü Jidong, head of the physical education department at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, said student athletes should respect the official rules, especially if they are notified of violations beforehand.
“We routinely check athletes’ outfits and appearances before games, according to the relevant policy,” Lü told Sixth Tone. “The decision to disqualify them cannot be blamed.”
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: People Visual)