Newcastle Jets: Chinese player Ma Leilei arrives for A-League stint

Ma Leilei playing for Tianjin Teda against the Central Coast Mariners in the 2009 Asian Champions League. Picture: Getty Images
Ma Leilei playing for Tianjin Teda against the Central Coast Mariners in the 2009 Asian Champions League. Picture: Getty Images

Coach Mark Jones believes the Jets’ latest arrival, Ma Leilei, can defy the “myth” that Chinese footballers cannot cope in the A-League.

Ma flies into Australia on Thursday night, satisfying owner Martin Lee’s requirement that the Jets have a Chinese player on their roster.

The 27-year-old former Tianjin Teda Chinese Super League winger has played virtually no first-team football in three years, according to numerous online databases, but Jones hopes the left-footer will give the Jets another weapon in attack.

No A-League club has featured a Chinese player since Zhang Shuo played eight games for Newcastle in the 2010-2011 season.

But Jones, who worked as an assistant to Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna when the pair coached in China five years ago, said there was no reason players like Ma could not succeed in Australia. 

“I’ve not seen him play, so I’ll be excited to see him,” he said. “Lawrie and I have been in China for many years, and there’s plenty of players from there who could come here and do a great job.

“There’s plenty of potential in China and certainly plenty of players who would be a standout here. We’re happy to have him.”

Ma played off the bench in the Jets’ three games on their recent tour of China and has been training with Lee’s third-division club, Shenzhen Renren, for the past month. 

Jones said he was not concerned about being placed under pressure to give Ma game time.

“Martin’s not like that. The thing is we’ve picked a player we think can contribute to the team, and 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.

“You’re not taking a hit to take a Chinese player. There’s plenty that we can pick from.

“The Chinese league’s changed. With all the foreigners in there, they’re quite physical. It’s probably gone the other way where we’re getting less physical and they’re being told they have to be more physical so they’re overdoing it, if anything.

“I think it’s this Chinese myth . . . I’ve seen them in the gym. There’s some monsters over there.”

The Jets’ only left-sided players are defenders, and Jones hoped Ma would give them more options in attack.

“We could do with that,” he said. “It would be even better if he could deliver free kicks, crosses.

“It gives us something we haven’t got at the moment.”


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