Football is often accused of having become boring in recent years, what with all the greed, incessant transfer rumours and playacting more talked about than the action on the field.
But Chinese fans have helped stem the boredom by making following the sport more fun, conjuring up their own creative and bizarre nicknames for some of football’s most popular and colourful characters.
Chinese is expressed using idiomatic characters rather than an alphabet, making it difficult to use the language to transliterate some foreign names.
That means that while someone like England striker Harry Kane or Lionel Messi keep their names in China because they are fairly simple to pronounce, many others have not been so lucky.
It is often an indication of how popular a player is in China.
Manchester United’s star midfielder Paul Pogba and manager Jose Mourinho, for example, are known as “Busty” (Pogba) and “Magic Bird” (Mourinho).
Pogba is “Busty” because his surname sounds like the word for that in Chinese, while Mourinho is similar to the Chinese phrase for “Magic Bird”.
China’s popular Italian coach Marcello Lippi is “Silver Fox” on account of his grey hair and Guangzhou Evergrande’s former Barcelona midfielder Paulinho was given the moniker “Violent Bird” in an approving nod to his all-action style.
Other players thought of highly are Brazilian former AC Milan protege Alexandre Pato, who has rebuilt his career in China at Tianjin Quanjian.
The 28-year-old posts often on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, and is seen as integrating into life in the country much better than many of the well-paid foreign players who are often chasing a big and often final payday.
That has earned him the respectful title “Pa Jianguo” – a patriotic nickname which partly translates as “build the country”, recognising his fondness for his adopted homeland.
Kylian Mbappe, meanwhile, is lovingly referred to as “Little Puppy” because of his tender teenage years.
Other stars, however, have not been treated so kindly.
Arsenal schemer Mesut Ozil is called “Little Wife” while “Very Homesick Boy” refers to nomadic Argentine striker Carlos Tevez who had a forgettable 12-month stint in the Chinese Super League at Shanghai Shenhua last season.
His inability to settle anywhere out of Argentina earned him the unflattering nickname.
Ozil is mockingly known as “Little Wife” because of the perception in China that the German – who recently quit international football, citing “racism and disrespect” – is timid.
Wayne Rooney similarly may not wish to read on further because the former England forward, who was once close to a move to China but now plays in the United States, is dubbed “Xiaopang” – “Little Fatty” – although that is more affectionate than offensive.
It is not just footballers who get the name treatment.
Tennis great Roger Federer is fondly called “Cow” in China, partly because of his laid-back demeanour, while Jennifer Lopez’s well-known posterior has earned her the designation “Luo Ba” (“Lord of Butt”).
Ozil ended his international career after Germany’s World Cup group stage exit where he was booed by home fans after he and fellow midfielder Ilkay Gundogan posed for pictures with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in May.
In a three-part statement, Ozil accused the German FA president Reinhard Grindel of racism. But Real Madrid midfielder Kross defending the team’s organization.
“Basically, Mesut is a long-serving national team player and deserved a better exit as a footballer,” Kroos, 28, told German daily Bild.
“I have played with Mesut for many years and know that he is a nice guy. But the way he retired was out of order.
“The proportion of his statement which was fair and justified was unfortunately overshadowed by a much higher proportion of nonsense.
“I think he himself knows that racism does not exist within the national team and the DFB.
“On the contrary, we are always committed to diversity and integration. Mesut was a good example of that, like many of our team mates.”
England’s World Cup success has seen them climb to sixth place in FIFA’s world rankings.
Gareth Southgate’s side have jumped six places after reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup last month.
England beat Colombia and Sweden in the knockout stages in Russia before losing to Croatia in the semi-finals.
France have taken over top spot from Germany, who have crashed 14 places after flopping in Russia when they failed to make the knockout stages.
Belgium have climbed to second spot after reaching the World Cup semi-finals as Brazil dropped to third.