GUANGZHOU, CHINA // Pakistan has changed its flag bearer for the Asian Games opening ceremony after a wrestling coach yesterday refused permission for Azhar Ali, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, to skip training and travel early to Guangzhou.
Last month Pakistan narrowly averted a boycott by its weightlifting team at the Commonwealth Games after an official took a last-minute decision to carry the flag into the opening ceremony in New Delhi instead of the lifter who had been nominated.
Mohammad Afzal, the Pakistan Olympic Association director general, said that in Ali's absence the national flag will be carried by Zeeshan Ashraf, Pakistan's hockey captain.
"The coach does not want to disturb the training of the wrestler and he didn't allow Azhar to fly to Guangzhou for the opening ceremony," Afzal said.
Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, the provincial sports minister who marched with the Pakistan flag at the Commonwealth Games, claimed he was not officially told prior to the New Delhi ceremony that Shujauddin Malik, a weightlifting gold medallist at Melbourne, had been nominated as flag bearer. Malik reportedly said he was mentally disturbed with Shah's attitude and that was the reason behind his poor performance.
Elsewhere, the tattooed bad boy of Chinese football had a message for his critics after the team's opening loss to Japan at the Asian Games, but his frankness earned him a suspension.
"It would be flattery to call you fans. You're just a bunch of dogs," goalkeeper Wang Dalei, 21, posted on his Twitter-like microblog after Monday's 3-0 loss. "You bunch of morons are the main reason why Chinese football can't make progress."
Chinese officials announced the suspension of the brash goalkeeper, whose name means "big thunder". Wang was "ordered to meditate on his action", Cai Jiadong, the secretary general of the Chinese Asian Games delegation, was quoted as saying.