It’s an odd little article, this, desperately short on detail. When I read this:
The Gold Coast Bulletin reported today that Smeltz had decided it would be impossible for wife Nikki and his two children to settle in Jinan, 400km south of Beijing.
I’m wondering, well, why? What’s the problem? Although I could certainly understand that from the point of view of maintaining good relations, not unnecessarily burning any bridges, and just generally being polite, the Smeltz family would not necessarily want to announce to the world exactly why they decided they couldn’t settle in Jinan.
And then I got to wondering how Chinese media reports would frame this (if they even reported it). First result in a Baidu sports news search was this, which starts out with:
After completing the signing of the contract between New Zealand striker Smeltz and Shandong Luneng, on the morning of July 17 local time, Australia’s Gold Coast Bulletin suddenly revealed that because Smeltz couldn’t adapt to life in China, he wanted to go back to his old boss Gold Coast.
And later adds this:
The report said that Smeltz’s wife Nikki and two children were not very satisfied with China’s living conditions and had no confidence in their future lives in Jinan. This is the basic reason bringing Smeltz to change his mind.
A tiny little bit more detail, but nothing we couldn’t have inferred from the Stuff article I linked to first. So what does the original Gold Coast Bulletin article say? Baidu can’t find it and Google is behaving suspiciously again, and neither Stuff nor Netease seems to have the courtesy to link to the original, so I’ll have to try some other way to find it…. Yahoo! Australia, perhaps…. Ah, here we are:
The New Zealand international decided after just five days in China that it would be impossible for wife Nikki and his two children to settle in Jinan, a sprawling metropolis 400km south of Beijing.
And that’s it. Rather sparse compared to Netease’s extra (although still rather vague) detail.
In any case, it seems there’s nothing Shandong Luneng can do about it, as although a contract had been signed and money had changed hands, a certain piece of paperwork had not been filed, and so the transfer had not been completed.
And the next question, of course, is: Five days?! Is that all? Is Jinan that rough? Or perhaps more likely: Was the shock that big? Oh well, as a person I knew way back in Taiyuan put it: China’s not for everybody. The Smeltz family are hardly the only foreigners who have been unable to adapt to life in China.
And it’s not all bad for Shandong Luneng. Netease adds in its report that they’ve also signed the South African defender Matthew Booth. Let’s hope for their sake that transfer goes a little more smoothly.
Apparently Smeltz’s time at Shandong Luneng could be the shortest transfer in football history. But I’m wondering, if the paperwork was not completed, does it count? Did the transfer ever occur?
It’s also interesting that Netease adds that Smeltz, who set an A-League record of 19 goals last season, received many offers, but mostly from clubs in lesser leagues in Asia and Europe. That detail seems to be missing from the Stuff and Gold Coast Bulletin reports.
It would seem that this is the first time ever I’ve written anything about football. I don’t normally pay too much attention to sport, but I do generally watch as much of the football World Cup as possible. That’s the only way I recognised the name Smeltz in the headline.