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Win or lose, China's cerebral palsy footballers hailed as heroes
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19:02, September 08, 2008

China's cerebral palsy (CP) soccer team are less known and earn far less than their able-bodied counterparts. But when it comes to recognition, the CP players are superior.

The Chinese cerebral palsy team was thrashed 6-0 by Russia Tuesday in their opener of Paralympic seven-a-side soccer tournament, but they still received deafening cheers and applause from home fans. In sharp constrast, the able-bodied Chinese soccer team were booed again and again at the Beijing Olympics last month for a lackluster performance.

"Regardless of win or defeat, they (cerebral palsy players) are heroes," said Hao Fei, a 30-year-old public servant who traveled from north China's Jilin province to watch the Games. "I admire them very much for their fighting spirits and perseverance."

Chinese players were pushed to their extremes, with several falling to the pitch over fatigue and injury, but they persisted and fought till the last minute.

"We tried our best, but the Russians are too strong," said Chinese captain Fan Zhichao. "We are satisfied with our performance."

With the song "Everyone is No. 1", composed and sung by pop singer Andy Lau for the disabled athletes, blaring out from the speaker, the home crowds chanted "Team China, well done!" and "You are great!" throughout the match.

"These cerebral palsy players showed us what sportsmanship is all about," said a Beijing-based freelancer surnamed Pan. "To me, they are the genuine athletes, compared with their able-bodied counterparts."

Although soccer is China's most popular sport, fans are continually frustrated by the dismal performance of the men's team.

The Chinese men's team, who made their only second appearance in the Olympics last month courtesy of being the host, drew scorn and criticism during the Beijing Games when they lost two of their preliminary matches and managed a mere 1-1 draw against New Zealand.


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