Stephon Marbury and co. take pay cut while Jeremy Lin takes court for exhibition

Society & Culture

In this week's edition of the China Sports Column, Gerry Harker offers his latest on the CBA, the Premier League and the Kontinental Hockey League.

The China Sports Column is a The China Project weekly feature. 

With professional basketball in China remaining postponed since January, many of the franchises in the Chinese Basketball Association have been feeling financial pressures.

Recently, the CBA’s Beijing Royal Fighters became the first team in the league to announce that employees have volunteered to take a pay cut. It wasn’t specified when their salaries would return to what they were pre-pandemic.

“After learning about the impact inflicted upon club business due to the CBA’s hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, staff, coaches, and players have voluntarily reduced their salaries, which demonstrates all members’ willingness to help the club through difficulties,” the club announced.

The team is coached by Stephon Marbury.

In other basketball news: While all CBA teams returned to training last month, there remains no clear restart date, even as CBA chief Yáo Míng 姚明 has eyed the month of July.

But basketball is returning today for two other Beijing basketball teams.

The Royal Fighters’ crosstown rivals, the Beijing Ducks (which Marbury led to three CBA championships), are set to join women’s Chinese Basketball Association side Beijing for a Children’s Day mixed exhibition game.

The game will be broadcast live at 6:30 p.m. local time today on the Chinese social media platform Douyin, and will feature Jeremy Lin, Ekpe Udoh, as well as Chinese internationals Zhái Xiǎochuān 翟晓川 and Fāng Shuò 方硕.


Shanghai Shenhua expect Ighalo’s return from Manchester United

Ighalo Shanghai Shenhua

Nigerian international Odion Ighalo is set to “return” to Shanghai Shenhua today after his loan deal with Manchester United expired on May 31.

While it may be physically impossible for Nigerian to enter China’s borders, Shenhua could not agree to an extension with the Premier League club.

United, who had given up on signing Ighalo permanently, had planned to keep the 30-year-old for the remainder of the season before COVID-19 hit the UK.

United then wanted to keep Ighalo for the final 18 games of the delayed season, which is set to restart.

A lifelong Manchester United fan, Ighalo signed on loan from Shenhua in January as cover for the injured Marcus Rashford. He did well when he started, scoring four goals in eight appearances.


Uncertainty for Kunlun Red Star

Kunlun Red Star

The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) has said that it is planning to start the 2020-21 season on time at the start of September.

The top Russian ice hockey league, which features China’s top professional outfit Kunlun Red Star, suspended last season’s competition in the middle of the playoffs.

But what will happen to the league’s six teams from outside Russia, from countries such as Kazakhstan, China, and Finland?

Sources within China’s Kunlun Red Star are concerned that the team will not play in China next season, with the club set to start its preseason in Riga in Latvia.

“I’m 99% certain we will not be in Beijing for the first half of next season,” the Kunlun insider said. “There’s a meeting between management on June 1 to decide where we’re going to play our home games. Moscow is the preference of the management because the city has a lot of teams. I don’t think we will be back in China until at least 2021, or when the borders open up again.”

This news will come as a blow to fans of the team and Chinese hockey in a build-up year to the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The China Sports Column runs every week on The China Project.