UK
23/10/2015 11:26 BST | Updated 23/10/2015 12:59 BST

Sun Jihai's Induction Into Football Hall Of Fame Is 'Corruption Worthy Of Sepp Blatter'

The induction of an obscure Chinese footballer into the English Football Hall of Fame has been labelled "corruption worthy of Sepp Blatter" by Labour's shadow sports minister.

The decision to confer the honour on former Manchester City defender Sun Jihai was announced on the last day of Chinese president Xi Jinping's State visit to the UK and as the president visited the National Football Museum in Manchester.

Jihai, who scored just three goals in 130 games for Manchester, takes his place among the all-time greats of English football including Bobby Moore, George Best and Gary Lineker.

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David Cameron and President Xi Jinping applaud as Sun Jihai becomes first Chinese player inducted into the Football Museum Hall of Fame

While the English Football Hall Of Fame does not solely recognise British players, only a very select few have been deemed outstanding enough to warrant inclusion since it opened in 2002. These include all-time greats of world football, Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry, Peter Schmeichal and Denis Bergkamp.

The honouring of Jihai follows accusations that Britain is "kow-towing" to China in exchange for big-money investment in the UK economy. This week officials were also criticised after UK police raided the family home of a Tiananmen Square survivor for standing in the road holding up protest banners in Central London.

After playing for Manchester City in the early 2000's Jihai was loaned to Crystal Palace; his last game was an 8-1 defeat to Middlesbrough.

Labour's shadow sports minister Clive Efford said the decision to induct Jihai "devalues our entire Hall of Fame" saying it is "corruption worthy of (FIFA President) Sepp Blatter".

Efford told the Daily Mirror: “How will all those other players feel when they see Sun Jihai is up there with the rest of them?

“If you can purchase a place in the Hall of Fame then it is a distortion of the entire process.

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Sun Jihai of Manchester City in action with Rossi Jarvis of Norwich City during the Carling Cup in September 2007

“I suppose next we will see players from Dubai or the United Arab Emirates anointed in return for a few business deals with those countries.”

Speaking to Politics Home, Efford labelled the induction a "grubby little fix".

He said: "It devalues the whole of the Hall of Fame if you can effectively buy your way on because you're from a rich and powerful country.

"Football has been abused in this way for far too long."

Chancellor George Osborne has been widely criticised for cosying up to China despite its appalling human rights record.

Amnesty International said in its latest report that the regime is involved in widespread torture.

On a visit to China last month Osborne even announced £3million of UK funding to support Chinese grassroots football.

Downing Street on Friday insisted David Cameron was not involved in the decision to anoint Jihai.

“I'm not sure it's a decision for the Prime Minister who goes into the National Football Museum,” the PM's official spokesman is reported as saying.

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“I would imagine it's the National Football Museum.”

A spokesman for the museum said Jihai was being recognised for his “ambassadorial role” rather than his defensive skills, the Mirror reported.

The spokesman said: "Sun Jihai is to be handed an honorary Hall of Fame ‘Special’ award by the National Football Museum.

“Other names in this category include Jimmy Hill, Jack Taylor and The Footballer’s Battalion.

“This is in recognition of his ambassadorial role in enhancing the profile and popularity of English football to a Chinese audience, and to coincide with the State visit to the UK by President Xi JingPing.”