Chelsea football club has issued a grovelling apology over offensive Instagram posts by one of its youth players, which threatened to alienate the authorities in a crucial market.
Robert Kenedy Nunes Nascimento, known as Kenedy, became a hate figure in China thanks to posts he made over the weekend which many in the country considered insulting.
The backlash is so severe that government authorities are reportedly considering taking action against Chelsea in response.
The club is currently touring China, a key football market for the Premier League champions.
Both posts have since been removed but an apology was made on Monday.
“I would like to apologise to the people of China for the offence I have caused,” Kenedy said. “It was never my intention to insult or offend anyone at all and I now realise that my comments were totally inappropriate.
“I wish to state that I have tremendous respect and admiration for the Chinese people and their country. I would also like to apologise to my club Chelsea… who I have let down by my posts.”
Kenedy’s apology is not enough
The media in China says Kenedy’s apology was not enough.
A report on People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese government, said: “Many insisted that the ‘apology’ was insincere and demanded a formal apology from Chelsea.”
People’s Daily also ran an opinion piece by reporter Qin Ning. The reporter said that, as a member of CFC playing in China, Kennedy’s actions “showed not just a lack of self-cultivation, but also a lack of education.”
It also warned: “China doesn’t welcome players and clubs like [Kennedy and Chelsea FC].”
Chelsea apologised profusely. “We sincerely apologise for the hurt caused to our Chinese fans as well as to the Chinese people.”
Chelsea could face a media blackout in China
Chelsea will be taking the offence seriously.
China is a lucrative football market for Premier League clubs in terms of fan engagement. Football-only website Goal.com has reported that the Chinese government could retaliate with a total blackout of all media coverage of Chelsea inside China.
“Sources have confirmed to Goal that government authorities have ordered Chinese media to ‘withdraw all related stories about Chelsea from their dual homepages and news apps’.
“Meanwhile, a source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there remains a remote possibility that Chelsea will suffer an outright ban, but that they will ‘closely monitor the situation’.”
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