Retired China international footballer cries during live-streaming session, screams at accusers who claim she pocketed charity money

Decorated former national team goalkeeper, Zhao Lina, breaks down. Retired last year, now she devotes time to philanthropy, helps schools. — SCMP

A former player in China’s national football team was overcome by emotion during a live-streaming session in which she screamed at online observers who accused her of pocketing charitable donations.

Since retiring from the national team in April 2023, Zhao Lina, 32, has devoted herself to a philanthropic project called Star Football Plan.

The project helps schools build football pitches and trains coaches and children, the Shanghai Morning Post reported.

Apart from endorsing the project in commercials, Zhao, who has 3.75 million followers on Douyin, does live-streaming sessions on social media every day to raise money for the cause.

Former China international player, Zhao Lina, burst into tears and shouted at viewers during the live-streaming session. Photo: Douyin

At one such event on Feb 24, some people left comments accusing her of embezzling funds from the charity.

The accusations triggered her tearful collapse on camera.

“I’ve been playing football for 24 years. I competed in the Olympics, I competed in the World Cup and I won the championship of the AFC Asian Cup. Why did you accuse me of that?” a clearly distressed Zhao asked.

“I am retired from the team. What’s wrong with me endorsing products and having interactions with live-streaming hosts?” she said.

After her furious outburst went viral, Zhao wrote on Weibo the next day that she would never give up.

“For me, crying in public is like running naked. I still do not have the courage to see myself in the footage. I know that I should be stronger,” said Zhao.

She said she hoped the public would shift their attention from the meltdown to her charity work.

In the past 10 months, the former goalkeeper and her colleagues have visited 20 primary schools in hinterland regions in the northern Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, southwestern Yunnan and Guizhou provinces, and Jiangxi province in the east.

They have built four pitches, donated football equipment to 40 schools, and trained some teachers and coaches.

After her online outburst, the retired goalkeeper admitted that she needed to be stronger in the face of criticism. Photo: AFP

Zhao said her football initiative has received donations from more than 80,000 Internet users to date.

“I stand by you. Keep going,” said one sympathetic supporter on Douyin.

“If you do not have a strong enough mentality, do not do the live-streaming. Some people will not change their ideas because you cried,” commented another. – South China Morning Post

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