China’s beef? It’s the pork stoopid

6 Jul

pigThere’s something about living abroad that tends to accentuate one’s sense of national pride. You’ll see them all crowding the ex-pat bars in Wan Chai and LKF, these rudderless travellers, suspended in time thousands of miles from their homes, shouting on their sporting teams till they’re red, white and blue in the face.

Living cheek to jowl with other displaced ex-pats in a place like Hong Kong also casts an illuminating light on our various different cultures. Basically the one lesson to take home from this is that no, we’re not all really the same when it all comes down to it. We may all have eyes and ears and arses, but actually that’s pretty much where the similarities end between Brits, Yanks, Saffers, Aussies, Frogs, Chinese etc etc.

As a proud (see above) Englishman, I am adept at saying sorry twenty different ways, a master of the sarcastic aside, acutely embarrassed by confrontation and outward displays of affection and wearily accustomed to my national sporting teams spectacularly failing at every major tournament. Having invented most sport played in the world, we feel it would be unseemly to also be unbelievably good at it and so deliberately underachieve wherever possible. (Obviously our cricketers are an aberration).

It is with great amusement then that I read of the aftermath of the Chinese versus United States women’s volleyball game. First, though, a bit of background: China for many thousands of years regarded itself as the centre of the world – actually it still does, even the characters for the country mean “centre land” – and is not very keen on coming second in anything. I mean anything: sport, the space race, the production of pirated DVDs and cigarettes, the rearing of toxic meat. Anything. It is one of life’s great joys to see China fail at something – which it rarely does in the end – and desperately grapple to save face with some truly terrible excuse-peddling.

Well, on losing this World Grand Prix volleyball match in three sets on home soil, the Chinese coach came up with possibly the best excuse I’ve ever heard for a sporting defeat – his players were not able to eat pork before the match.

Yup, apparently Coach Yu Juemin said his players were literally too weak to win the match, having been denied the Chinese meaty staple in the days preceding the game over fears they may test positive to a drug commonly used in China to produce leaner meat.

“We dared not eat pork when we went out to play matches as we were afraid of clenbuterol. We took pork only after we returned to Beilun,” said the coach.

Apparently beef, chicken, lamb and fish are just not good enough for those strapping volleyball titans – pork it must be or the match will end in humiliating defeat.

As we English all know, it’s not the winning that counts, or even the taking part, but the opportunity to simultaneously laugh at tut at those poor sports who don’t even have the manners to lose graciously. That’s one thing we are world beaters at.

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