A women’s university football match in China descended into farce and was eventually called off after players were told that they were not allowed to have dyed hair, state media said Tuesday.
The incident trended on the Twitter-like Weibo, angering many people, and comes after the men’s national team were ordered to cover up their tattoos.
The latest high-profile example of the shrinking space for individualism in communist-ruled China came when the women’s sides of Fuzhou and Jimei universities met in a college league match in the southeastern province of Fujian.
The teams were reportedly warned about the ban on dyed hair beforehand but as they were getting ready for the match on Nov 30 officials spotted that players from both sides had failed to heed the reminder.
At least one Fuzhou University player was then spotted frantically having her hair dyed again in an attempt to return it to its original colour, but it failed to dry in time, the Beijing News said.
The newspaper, citing someone at the scene who gave the pseudonym Zhang Zhi, said that some Fuzhou players also ran off to a nearby hair salon to buy black hair dye.
However, one Fuzhou player was deemed ineligible because her hair was “still not black enough” so they were unable to field enough players, consequently forfeiting the match 3-0, the report said.
Fuzhou University declined to comment when contacted by AFP. However, the China News cited the university as saying that the ban on dyed hair was “in accordance with relevant regulations” passed down from the education ministry in Beijing.
“The relevant documents stipulate that players cannot dye their hair, have weird hairstyles or wear any accessories,” the official said, adding it was a nationwide edict that had already been in place before the match.
Many on Weibo were aghast at the ruling and the brouhaha trended on the social media network, racking up more than 400 million views.
“I thought I was reading North Korean news,” joked one user on Weibo.
“Am I really living in the 21st Century?” asked another.
President Xi Jinping is a football fan and has grand plans to make China a leading country in the world’s most popular sport.
However, football has found itself in the crosshairs of the Communist Party’s drive for a homogenised society.
Players on the national football team routinely cover their arms with long sleeves or bandages to hide their tattoos.
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.