Newcastle Jets owner Martin Lee has finally satisfied his desire to have a Chinese player at the club. Twenty-seven year old Ma Leilei is on his way after trialling with the team during the Jets’ preseason tour of China.
New team manager Mark Jones was happy to endorse the merits of the import when speaking with Michael Parris of the Newcastle Herald. Jones became manager of the Jets last month when Scott Miller was suddenly sacked. On his new recruit Ma, Leilei, Jones said, “. . . he’ll see some minutes and I’m excited to see where he’s at, because it gives us another threat and another thing for opposition teams to fear.“
The left footer is expected to play in midfield when he gets his chance, but apart from the praise of Jones and CEO Lawrie McKinna their seems little evidence to suggest Ma will see extended game-time. The most interesting point from the Herald story was that
neither Jones nor McKinna have has not seen Ma play, yet they have he has high hopes.
Jones stated that the Chinese league had become more physical do to the influx of foreigners, and that players from China could cope with the physicality of the A-League. Jones said, “I think it’s this Chinese myth . . . I’ve seen them in the gym. There’s some monsters over there.”
After speaking with former Jets defender Josh Mitchell you see a different picture to the one painted by McKinna and Jones though. Mitchell is now with Eastern in the Hong Kong Premier League, after spending two seasons with Liaoning on the mainland.
Mitchell was involved in the trial match between the two teams (Eastern v Newcastle Jets) in the pre-season and was non committal on the individual as Ma played just 15 minutes. However, the 32 year old was adamant that a ‘quality’ Chinese player would be highly unlikely to make the trip to Australia given the money available in his homeland and the cultural differences. A diplomatic Mitchell said “I hope I am wrong,” but he believes there is very little possibility for Ma to be successful in the A-League.