China Tours the UK

Credit: Pexels

China should be better in the world sport, the sheer number of people who play sports in the country would make you think there should be the next David Speedie, or Simon Gardner. Or even the next Neymar. When China has put their mind to sports they’ve turned out some very good players. Their attempt at a super league ended like most around the world have, with constant restrictions on money because people were going bankrupt. However in 1982 the Chinese Men’s National Team came to the UK for a tour.

They missed the World Cup in 1982, which was hosted in Spain. Their trip started at fourth division Hereford United. Some of this travel was to create international political relations between the West and China. A few club from the West had visited China, but China hadn’t come west yet. Players from Liaoning and Guangdong took up most of the 18 man squad, but Tianjin had some players included also. Beijinger Shen Xiangfu and Guizhou forward Wang Feng completed the tour. Ten of the group had played in the World Cup qualifiers and five of that group went to the UK in 1979. During that tour they played West Brom, Middlesbrough, Celtic and Chelsea. This time it was less glamorous with Hereford United, Wigan, Glasgow Rangers, and Charlton.

Credit: Richard Webb / 1950s mobile ‘phone mast / CC BY-SA 2.0

When the Chinese touched down at Heathrow, Hereford were being Gloucester City 4-2. That was an achievement because they’d almost going into liquidation six month before. The match between China and Hereford happened on a Monday night in front of 1,100. China won the match 2-1, as Zhao Dayu scored on a penalty and Gu Guangming put the nation ahead with six minutes left in the match. Hereford was kept out of scoring more because of a number of saves by the goalkeeper.

The next stop on the tour was Wigan, and it was a step up in the pyramid as Wigan was in the Third division. Wigan had just beaten East Fife 2-0. The game between China and Wigan ended 1-1 as Zang Cailing created an incident with all his hard fouling.

Rangers at the time lacked a proven goal scorer, but still beat China 3-1. The locals were very complementary of both Xu Jianping, and Li Fusheng. That was even though the Rangers crowd wasn’t known for their acceptance of people from other walks of life, or Celtic.

On the tour in 1979 China lost 3-1 to second division Chelsea at Stamford bridge. In 1982 China only lost 1-0 to second division Charlton at the Valley. China went onto tour in Italy and Spain before returning home. They’d get a well deserved break playing 14 games in a month. They weren’t out sightseeing, they were just there for the games. Very China like when it comes to getting the job done.

In 1979, China lost 3-1 against second division Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In 1982, China lost 1-0 to second division to Charlton at The Valley. That was their final games in the UK. Friendlies in Italy and Spain were next for China before a return home. They’d earned a break. The 18 man squad had played 14 games in a month. It was no sightseeing visit and nor was it – purely – about building international sporting links. Instead, it was preparation. A year later Elton John’s Watford went to China and played in front 80,000.

Published by Stephen Brandt

Stephen Brandt is the host of the Subs Bench on He has written many articles on the sport over the last 15 years. His first book Boca Juniors A History and Appreciation of Buenos Aires's Most Succesful Futbol Team is out in the fall. He currently lives in Buffalo New York, USA.

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