With some 400 days before the Olympic Games in Beijing, Chinese Table Tennis Super League (CTTSL) shut its door to foreign players in the forthcoming 2007 season.
According to a register list released Monday by the country's table tennis governing body, China's Table Tennis and Badminton Administrative Center, there's no paddlers based abroad having been signed by totally 20 member clubs of the CTTSL.
Liu Fengyan, director of the Table Tennis Administrative Center, declined to admit that the ping pong governing body of China motivated to clean out foreigners from the league in the last season before the Beijing Games.
"We have no such a rule to stop foreigners joining the CTTSL," said Liu Monday at a press conference launching the new season of the league, which is to celebrate its 9th anniversary this year but only sailed onto the right path in 2005.
"According to some new terms added to the CTTSL register regulations, a non-Chinese player must keep loyal before his/her contract with a Chinese club expired, having to play all matches of the season and being forbidden to play in other leagues," said Liu.
"It seems rigorous and new to China's table tennis league but have long been introduced to other leading leagues in the world such as Japan and Germany."
"Maybe that's why foreign players have all withdrawn from signing with a Chinese club," he added.
In 2005, the first year of so-caled "Olympic Circle", a season of boom and bust was seen in the CTTSL in importing foreign players, with the Sichuan men's team had South Korea's Olympic champion Ryu Seung Min, his compatriot Joo Se Hyuk joined Zhejiang, Austrian world champion Werner Schlager in Shandong, and hot-tempered Greek Kalinikos Kreanga in Shaanxi.
And the number of foreign players reached a peak in 2006, with almost all paddlers ranked top 16 at that time in the world having shown up in China's ping pong league, including Germany's triple European champion Timo Boll and Japan's table tennis icon Ai Fukuhara.
All these big names, however, had been parted with their Chinese club on various reasons since late last year.
The 2007 season of the CTTSL, planned 18 rounds with 180 matches, will begin on June 9, seeing 77 players, 42 male and 45 female, of 20 men's and women's teams aiming to be crowned champions on September 12 through a team competition form similar to the Olympics.
Chinese paddlers have dominated global competitions in recent years, sweeping all gold medals at the recently concluded Zagreb World Table Tennis Championships and are favorites to win again at the 2008 Beijing Games after having taken 16 golds out of 20 since 1988.