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Ping-pong Olympic Champion in dispute with club over unpaid bonuses

( Updated: 2015-07-14 11:30

Ping-pong Olympic Champion in dispute with club over unpaid bonuses

China's Zhang Jike celebrates in his men's singles gold medal table tennis match against compatriot Wang Hao at the ExCel venue during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 2, 2012. [Photo/Agencies] 

Zhang Jike, 2012 table tennis Olympic champion, and his table tennis club were both fined 50,000 yuan ($8,055) after Zhang failed to appear for the ninth round of the match at the China Table Tennis Super League (CTTSL) on Saturday and the club failed to notify the Table Tennis and Badminton Centre, the league's management body, in advance. Since then, the player has become embroiled in a dispute with the club over unpaid bonuses.

This is not the first time Zhang has been absent from a game during this year's CTTSL. On June 9, Zhang failed to show up for the sixth round of the game due to health reasons, although that time the club did notify the organization committee in advance. However, the club didn't report Zhang's absence on July 11.

"Zhang Jike was absent because Luneng club didn't arrange for him to play this game," said Liu Xiaonong, director the organizing committee of the CTTSL and the director of Table tennis and Badminton Centre, on Monday. "The club and coach will decide which game the player will play based upon the physical and technical conditions of the player, so we don't think Zhang's absence was because he went on strike."

If a high level player like Zhang doesn't show up at a match due to serious injuries or illness, the organizing committee must be notified in advance with a written report. Otherwise, the club and the player will be fined 50,000 yuan according to regulations of CTTSL, and also face public criticism.

Zhang attributed his absence to that the fact that he didn't have a contract with the club, and as a result was not paid for any of his matches since the beginning of the league.

In response to Zhang's accusation, insiders at the club said that Zhang's earlier absences from games due to waist injuries had incurred the dissatisfaction of top-level managers at the club, who think that Zhang didn't play his best for the club and were waiting to see more of his performance before finalizing a contract with him.

According to the Tennis Table and Badminton center, Zhang and the club have in fact signed a contract, although it is incomplete. It only specifies the basic salary and performance-based bonuses but not the amount of the seasonal bonus.

For a high level player like Zhang, a contract would mean a 500,000 yuan basic salary, with 45,000 yuan for a victory and 10,000 yuan for a loss, which means that the club owes Zhang at least 255,000 yuan so far in salary and bonuses, according to calculations made by Tencent sports.

Zhang was diagnosed with lumbar sacral fracture before this year's CTTSL began. He was seen lying on a massage bed due to unbearable waist ache while listening to the final rally of China's national team after the World Table Tennis Championships.

Due to waist injuries, Zhang didn't make it to the open tournaments in Japan and South Korea in late June and the beginning of July, which are important games for Zhang to play, affecting his ranking for the Rio Olympics that is only one year away.

Just three days before Zhang's absence from the game at the ninth round of CTTSL, he turned down a commercial event in Beijing which would have been lucrative in order to leave with the club for Sichuan province to attend the CTTSL games.

After news of the row between the high-profile player and the club started spreading on the Internet, most Internet users showed sympathy for the Olympic champion. Some say even the best player will lose some games in the competitive sports arena and it's unreasonable for the club to make professional players play for free.

A few others, however, endorsed the decision of the club, saying that as a profit-making company the club has every reason to base payment upon employees' performance, especially given the fact that the dismal operation of the league made it very difficult to find proper sponsors.

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