Exploring China’s Controversial Decision to Prohibit Footballers from Getting Inked

To Tattoo or Not to Tattoo: China’s Ban on Body Art

Tattoos, once considered trendy and fashionable, are now facing a significant decline in popularity in China. In a surprising move, national authorities have implemented a ban on players getting inked, resulting in existing tattoos being required to be removed or concealed. This decision has had a substantial impact on prominent figures like Zhang Linpeng, a Chinese national team player and Guangzhou FC defender, whose body is adorned with intricate artwork.

The New Policy’s Implications on Chinese Football

The ban on tattoos, dictated by the Communist Party, has sparked controversy and frustration within the football community. Zhang Linpeng, already subjected to covering his tattoos to prevent young players and fans from emulating him, now faces even stricter consequences. The General Administration of Sport in China has issued a statement emphasizing the implementation of these regulations to exhibit the positive spirit of Chinese football players and set a commendable example for society.

The management measures clearly state that both the national team and the U23 national team athletes are strictly prohibited from obtaining new tattoos. Furthermore, players with existing tattoos are advised to voluntarily remove them. Under certain “special circumstances,” individuals may be allowed to retain their body art, provided it is covered during training and matches.

Extending the Ban Beyond Professional Football

The ban on tattoos not only affects professional athletes but also extends to the under-20 level and below. Clubs are prohibited from signing players with tattoos who fall within this age category. The same restrictions are imposed on youth national teams, where coaches are unable to select tattooed players to represent China.

The Communist Party, through the General Administration of Sport in China, believes that these measures will strengthen patriotic education and cultivate a sense of mission, responsibility, and honor among players. The ultimate goal is to create a national team that is not only successful on the field but also embodies a remarkable style of play.

The Transformation of Chinese Football Policies

China’s first-tier football league, known for its extravagant salaries and successful recruitment of European star players, has been undergoing significant policy changes in the last 18 months. The outbreak of the pandemic prompted clubs to reassess their finances and relinquish the usage of brand identities tied to their official names.

While the league once aimed to attract global talent and elevate its international standing, the focus has now shifted. Authorities are striving to foster a national team that embodies the core values of patriotism and collective identity, rather than relying solely on individual star power.


The ban on tattoos within the Chinese football sphere has stirred debate and controversy. While some argue that it restricts self-expression and individuality, others perceive it as an opportunity to promote national unity and cultivate a unique style of play. As players like Zhang Linpeng navigate these stringent regulations, the future of tattoos within Chinese football remains uncertain.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why has the Chinese government banned tattoos in football?

The Chinese government believes that banning tattoos in football will strengthen patriotic education and instill a sense of mission, responsibility, and honor among players. It aims to create a national team that embodies these values and plays with exceptional style.

2. Are there any exceptions to the ban on tattoos?

Under specific circumstances, players may be permitted to retain their tattoos. However, they must cover them during training and matches. The decision ultimately lies with the authorities.

3. How are clubs affected by the ban on tattoos?

Clubs are prohibited from signing players with tattoos who are under the age of 20. This restriction applies to both domestic and international talent.

4. What impact does the ban have on youth national teams?

Coaches of youth national teams are unable to select players with tattoos to represent China. The aim is to promote a unified and patriotic image for the nation.

5. Will the ban on tattoos have any long-term implications?

The ban on tattoos may reshape the culture of Chinese football by shifting the focus from individual players’ popularity to the collective identity and values of the national team. Its long-term effects on self-expression within the sport remain uncertain.

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Doug I. Jones

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