By Michael Church
HONGKONG (Reuters) – Pep Guardiola made an impassioned defence of Manchester City and his players after criticism in China’s state media over his club’s “arrogance” during their stopover in Nanjing and Shanghai for last week’s Premier League Asia Trophy.
The Premier League champions, who played in the four-team tournament with Newcastle United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, were lambasted in an editorial in official news agency Xinhua, which claimed Guardiola and his players “lacked enthusiasm” during their five-day stint in China.
Speaking in Hong Kong, where City will face local side Kitchee on Wednesday evening, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach said the club had had a positive experience so far during their Asian tour.
“I should say that I don’t agree and I should say that it’s false,” said Guardiola. “To make a statement like this they have to know exactly what is happening within our club.
“The players had an incredible time in Shanghai. They were committed in all the commercials they have to do with the people here in China. The people from the hotel, we take care of all of them with signatures, with pictures. All the people asking something, we are ready to do that.
“So I know we come here (and) it’s a unique experience for us. It’s not easy to come during the season, to come to Asia, a new culture and to go to the restaurants and know the people. It’s amazing to travel and know other people.
“I don’t understand how the people can say that. Maybe this one journalist is a little bit upset, I don’t know why. But it’s far away from what is the reality.”
The article on Xinhua’s English language website accused City, who are part-owned by the Chinese Media Capital consortium, of lack of engagement with local fans and that staff had adopted a dismissive attitude towards the country’s media.
“For the Premier League champions, their appearance in China was nothing more than a commercial obligation, and their lack of enthusiasm and the indifferent treatment of their hosts stands in stark contrast to representatives of other clubs,” the article stated.
“For Manchester City, they saw their recent success as a reason not to treat Chinese and foreigners with the same respect. Above all, it was an orientalist expectation on display by the Manchester City press relations staff that Chinese media would operate as an extension of their PR department, rather than as serious football journalists.
“An attitude of arrogance and the belief that they were the main attraction to the Premier League Asia Trophy was misplaced and stood in direct contrast to the other clubs.”
While Guardiola poured scorn on those claims, he admitted the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit lack the experience of other European clubs in relation to overseas tours but that he expected City to return to China in the future.
“For our club, there’s not a huge experience to go abroad, to go to other countries because we are not Manchester United or Liverpool or Bayern Munich who for a long, long time are travelling on these kind of tours,” he said.
“It’s a new experience every season. It will help on the pitch what we did last season and of course off the pitch, to show the people how good a team we are and how amazing a club we are and how we are trying to be better every season.
“That’s why I’m so proud of what they have done. All the marketing department, all the people who have built this tour and I’m pretty sure, maybe not next season but in two years we are going to come back to China when the club decides to come.”
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)