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Pato plucks nation's heartstrings

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-14 09:16
Playing table tennis, posing with square dancers, making Chinese pancakes and taking a selfie with a poster of his idol, Chinese actress-singer Dilireba, Brazilian Alexandre Pato, who plays for Tianjin Quanjian in the Chinese Super League, is fully immersed in Chinese culture. [Photo/PATO'S WEIBO]

There's no shortage of foreign players in the Chinese Super League, but few can match personable Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato of Tianjin Quanjian in terms of connecting to his adopted community.

Pato has earned the love and respect of fans by leading Quanjian with 10 goals and for presenting himself to the public as a dedicated lover of Chinese culture.

He caught the attention of Chinese media again on Wednesday when it was revealed that a Weibo video of the Brazilian demonstrating how to make local cuisine jianbing, a sort of Chinese pancake, will be presented at the World Economic Forum "Summer Davos" in Tianjin on Sept 18.

"I am very proud that the local government of Tianjin invited me to shoot a video making jianbing," said Pato.

"Jianbing is a typical local food, very popular in China. I like to know the culture, food and habits of Tianjin and China and I need to learn more!

"The object of the video is to help everybody to know more about Tianjin. It will be shown during the World Economic Forum 'Summer Davos' in Tianjin, and I'm very proud! Thank you Tianjin!"

Pato received hundreds of replies immediately after the related information was posted. One fan commented: "Pato could be a new ambassador to promote Tianjin-style jianbing to the world", while another opined that Pato could earn a living making Chinese pancakes after he retires from soccer.

Since January 2017 when Pato was transferred to the Chinese club, the 29-year-old has worked hard to integrate himself into the local culture.

His Weibo account has more than 600,000 followers, and fans have encouraged his connections to female celebrities such as model Xi Mengyao and actress/singer Dilireba on social media.

Pato has also participated in popular activities like guangchangwu (square dancing) and playing Chinese shuttlecock.

Pato earned the name "Pa Jianguo" from Chinese fans on Oct 1 last year when he marked National Day with a Weibo post that read: "Hello China! You're my home now and I would like to wish all my Chinese fans and all the Chinese people a very happy National Day!"

"Jianguo", literally meaning "establishing a nation", is a very common name in China and fans bestowed it on Pato with the wish he could be a Chinese citizen and even play for the national team, which hasn't won a World Cup final spot since its only appearance at the 2002 tournament.

Another notable athlete who has shown tremendous passion for Chinese culture and customs is former NBA and CBA star Stephon Marbury, who captured local hearts while leading the Beijing Ducks to three championships in six seasons.

Off the court, Marbury has become a household name in China for his love of the people and culture.

The Brooklyn native was named by the Beijing government as its 30th honorary citizen in 2014, and in 2016 he became a permanent Chinese resident when he received the Foreigner's Permanent Residence Card.

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