One-legged football ‘king’ melts Chinese hearts


Sports Desk

A one-legged footballer has captured the hearts of millions of Chinese fans after a widely circulated video showed him holding his own against able-bodied opponents and scoring a rasping right-footed drive. The exploits of 21-year-old He Yiyi, who lost his leg to childhood cancer and uses crutches to support himself when playing, have earned him several endearing nicknames including “Angel with Broken Wings”, “Ball King with One Leg” and “Magic Boy”. He, who had gained the notice of a French scout as a child before losing his leg, plays in the odd pick-up match in the southern province of Guangdong after being denied access to organised amateur leagues. But some Chinese football supporters, fed up with the underachieving national side, have playfully suggested He could be the answer to their problems. A video of He playing an exhibition and talking about the challenges he faces against able-bodied opponents has been watched nearly four million times online, and counting. In footage from the game, the striker receives the ball just inside the box, controls it with his right foot and then with his next touch lashes it into the top corner. In another clip, He races to the byline on his crutches and pulls the ball back for an onrushing forward, but the goalkeeper smothers it. “I don’t hurt other players, and I once had a row with them (organisers),” He said by phone.He said that on the rare occasions he is allowed to play competitive football, opponents often target, tease or abuse him.