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Daily Drip

Wu Lei Becomes First Ever Chinese Player to Score in La Liga

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Wu Lei opened his goalscoring account on Saturday during Espanyol’s 3-1 win over Real Valladoid, and in doing so made history for a Chinese player in Spain’s top flight. Slipped through courtesy of a reverse pass from Sergi Darder, Wu calmly slotted home to become La Liga’s first ever goal scorer from China.

Nanjing-born Wu has made an impressive impact in the Spanish top tier since arriving from Chinese Super League champions Shanghai SIPG in January. His landmark goal topped a big weekend for SIPG fans, after they kicked off the defence of their title with a thumping 4-0 win over city rivals Shanghai Shenhua on Friday night.

Although the history of Chinese footballers in European top flights is somewhat patchy, Spanish football bible Marca writes that,

The attacker is already very popular amongst both his teammates and supporters, and that was shown by the celebrations throughout the ground after his goal.

The doubts that surrounded his move have mostly dissipated and his quick adaptation to LaLiga Santander has surprised many people.

Upon being substituted late in the game against Valladolid, Wu Lei received a standing ovation and even gave his shirt to a fan in the crowd, amidst chants of his name.

The Chinese midfielder’s popularity in his home country continues to rocket on the back of his move to La Liga too. Wu’s debut in an Espanyol shirt was reportedly watched by 40 million people in China.

It’s been a remarkable rise for the ethnically Hui midfielder, who made his professional debut at the age of 14 years and 287 days (the youngest ever person to play professional football in China at the time) and rose through the divisions with SIPG en route to the club claiming their first Chinese Super League title last year.

On Weibo, Wu showed that some footballing cliches are universal by writing that he was “happy to score my first goal in La Liga, but even happier that the team got the three points.”

Cover photo: Wu Lei’s Weibo

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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