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Things are getting ugly in Shanghai.
A payment dispute led to three foreign Shanghai Shenhua players skipping a Chinese Super League game on Sunday, arousing concerns that all of the team's foreign players and coach may leave if the conflict continue and evoking strong words from one of the team's owners.
Colombian midfielder Giovanni Moreno, Argentine halfback Rolando Schiavi and Argentine midfielder Patricio Toranzo missed the game against Liaoning Whowin in Shanghai on Sunday, confirming speculation that the trio would go on strike if they weren't paid.
There have been reports the entire foreign delegation, including the foreign coaching staff, will quit if the dispute remains unresolved.
Shenhua has been plagued by the problem for months, partly because of a dispute among its owners.
On Monday, Shenhua chairman Zhu Jun, who holds a 28.5 percent stake and is the owner of online gaming company The9 Limited, accused a small group of officials of keeping the dispute from being resolved because of their desire for power.
Although the club declined to comment, Argentine coach Sergio Batista confirmed that the strike by the trio was caused by a dispute over money.
During practice on Saturday, Batista said the club encountered financial problems and the three foreign players had told him they wouldn't compete in the game.
Shenhua struggled to a 2-2 draw in its home stadium. It has chipped away at the six-point deduction it was handed before the season, reducing it to -1. The deduction was part of a penalty meted out by the Chinese Football Association earlier this year in response to a massive match-fixing scandal involving Shenhua and other clubs a decade ago.
The two goals Shenhua scored on Sunday came from two other foreign players -Portuguese striker Eduardo Fernandes Pereira Gomes and Syrian striker Firas Al-Khatib - as the striking players watched the game from the stands.
Sources said Gomes and Al-Khativ agreed to play because their wage default is neither as serious nor as prolonged as that of the three South American players.
Earlier this year, a pay squabble led Cote d'Ivoire striker Didier Drogba to leave the team and join a Turkish club.
(China Daily 04/02/2013 page22)