BEIJING, June 27 (Reuters) – The dramatic climax of Italy’s 1-0 victory over Australia on Monday proved too much for China’s most popular television commentator, who departed from his normal objectivity with a passionate paean to Italian football.
Huang Jianxiang, who was commentating for an audience of millions on the state-run CCTV, was unable to control his enthusiasm when Fabio Grosso went down in a challenge and a last-minute penalty was awarded to the Italians.
"Penalty! Penalty! Penalty!" he screamed. "Grosso’s done it, Grosso’s done it!
"The great Italian left back! He succeeded in the glorious traditions of Italy! Facchetti, Cabrini and Maldini, their souls are infused in him at this moment!
"Grosso represents the long history and traditions of Italian soccer, he’s not fighting alone at this moment! He’s not alone!"
Chinese television audiences, expected to rise to an accumulated total of 10 billion before the end of the tournament, are not often served up such South American-style passion and Huang’s bias has provoked a storm of controversy in the media.
More was to come when Francesco Totti converted the penalty to win the match and Huang had a special mention for Australia’s Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, whose South Korea side knocked Italy out of the last World Cup.
"Goooooal! Game over! Italy win! Beat the Australians!" he shouted, his voice now breaking. "They do not fall in front of Hiddink again! Italy the great! Left back the great! Happy birthday to Maldini! Forza Italia!
"The victory belongs to Italy, to Grosso, to Cannavaro, to Zambrotta, to Buffon, to Maldini, to everyone who loves Italian soccer!"
"Hiddink … lost all his courage faced with Italian history and traditions … He finally reaped fruits which he had sown! They should go home. They don’t need to go as far away as Australia as most of them are living in Europe. Farewell!"
An unapologetic Huang later said he could not remember what he had said in the heat of the moment and his preference for Italy was because he had commentated on Serie A for many years.
"I’m more familiar with Italian players … and I don’t like Australians indeed," he said. "I was hoping they’d do badly here."
Australia recently joined the Asian Football Confederation and from the next World Cup will contest for one of their qualification spots.
"Do you remember how China were blocked from going to the Spain World Cup in a qualifier in 1981?" Huang said.
"It was a team just like Australia, all of whom were living and playing in England but with New Zealand passports. It still hurts … and in 2009, Australia will be just like New Zealand at that time."