Fan Zhiyi said he refused an offer from Liverpool made by Gerard Houllier in a pub and also rejected Newcastle United, while a test Tottenham Hotspur was torpedoed by an injury.
But is that the 50- year known as the “General Fan” in China regrets?
Not for a second, because he has become a cult hero at the Crystal Palace and represented his country in their sole World Cup in 2002, although badly hampered his tournament injury.
Speaking to AFP in Shanghai, Fan remembers how he drew the attention of time, England Terry Venables and how teammates often tried his palace to attract the pub while describing his abiding affection for the “charm” of English football.
IL andhas a pub that, according to Fan, director-Liverpool and Houllier met sonagent and wanted to sign the Chinese Trailblazer.
It was in January 2001 and one side with Palace fan in the heart of the defense had beaten a Liverpool team containing Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen 2-1 in the home game of the semifinals of the Cup the league.
“After the game, in the pub, he spoke with my agent and said, ‘Can I tell you a Fan? “Fan said.
However, Fan was determined to play for his country and he said Liverpool – as Newcastle, who also made him an offer -. wanted to limit his time with the national team
“It is very difficult Many people called me stupid. to give a better chance, betterwages and probably more glory, “Fan said.
“But I had to make a choice and the choice must be for my country because they always supported me, pushed me and gave me the chance. “
Fan, the central defender who could also play in the middle field or even attack, was always destined to end in England.
a side led by England Venables and starring Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer traveled to Beijing in May 1996 for a friendly match. England fell to a 3-0 victory but Fan made his mark.
“We tried to stay in touch, he really loved me and Sun Jihai. He said that if there was a chance it would lead usin England, “Fan said Venables.
In 1997, Fan was offered a two-week trial with Premier League club Tottenham, but he was hurt and not show his best.
A year later, Venables signed Fan and Sun Palace for the second, raising eyebrows in England.
However, Fan would play more than 100 times for Palace and has even been the captain, while Sun later became a match for Manchester City in the top flight.
Fan admits that adapting to life in England was a huge challenge in the beginning.
“the communication was my main concern. I tried to speak, but for the first two months of the Palace, he was “Hello Fan” in the morning and goodbye Fan “in the afternoon.”
Then there was the culture of consumption, which was prevalent in English football at that time. Neil Ruddock, a notoriously hard drinker, was smoking a cigar teammate for a while.
“They said:?.” Hey Fan, have you time Time for what it’s time to go to the pub
“I do not drink [alcohol] They said: “Not a Fan, you’re kidding!”
Wayne Routledge, the winger who went on to have a successful career Premier League, was a young player and fan cleaning boots.
After three years at Palace, Fan moved to Dundee in Scotland in 2001 and later, the city of Cardiff
perhaps surprising -. given its status as the Palace and China, where it is youth coach -. the London club did not pursue its intention to use the fan to push their brand in the most populous country in the world
But the two Palace and England remain close to him. He had a daughter born in London and holds a British passport. He rejected British citizenship.
He looks with sadness how coronavirus has killed more than 12,000 people in Britain.
“Whenever jela possibility of returning to London or UK, I feel like he is back at home,” Fan said. “My dream for the future, when I really want to retire, is to return to London and buy a house in the encampedReign.
“life there would be really happy.”