Football: Hulk denies punch, says 'I like Chinese people'

Shanghai SIPG's Brazilian striker Hulk denied any violent behaviour. PHOTO: AFP

(AFP) - Shanghai SIPG's Brazilian striker Hulk insisted he likes and respects "all of the Chinese people" as he rejected claims of a racially motivated assault on an assistant coach in the Chinese Super League.

Guizhou Zhicheng's head coach Li Bing has accused the muscular Brazilian of punching his assistant coach Yu Ming at half-time during SIPG's 3-0 victory on Saturday (May 6).

But Hulk, one of a number of highly paid foreign stars in the cash-rich Super League, denied any violent behaviour. SIPG has also said the incident "did not occur".

"Unfortunately they are trying to abuse my image," Hulk wrote in English on the Chinese microblogging website, Weibo, late on Sunday.

"The coach of the adversary team is accusing me of aggression. Where did he see it? I didn't behave violently in any way.

"I have my conscience clear. God knows it. I just want to do what I love most - (which) is to play football. I'm very happy in China. I like and respect all of the Chinese people."

Hulk, who signed from Zenit St Petersburg for €55 million (S$84.6 million) in June 2016, has been SIPG's top-scorer this season with eight goals in all competitions for Andre Villas-Boas's side.

Guizhou's Li first raised the allegations of a racist attack on Yu at Saturday's post-match press conference, and then made further claims on social media.

"Foreign players are here to improve our football level. Hulk has strong skills, but he cannot be here and despise Chinese people," he told journalists.

Li later posted on social media that Hulk "suddenly brought his fist out at Yu Ming's forehead and knocked him to the ground".

But SIPG said there was no security camera footage of the altercation, and accused Li and Yu of making "inappropriate statements... provoking hostility between foreign and Chinese players".

Guizhou Zhicheng later posted that "the evidence is still unclear" and appealed to both sides to "look at the big picture" of developing Chinese football.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.