There is an enduring interest in Dong in England. In May this year, The Sun tabloid published an article with the headline: “Man United’s Chinese starlet Dong Fangzhuo went from next big thing at Old Trafford alongside Ronaldo to reality TV facelift freak.”
Dong has heard the story about his supposed cosmetic surgery, but says it’s not true.
“I just did some simple make-up,” he said, adding with self-deprecating humor, “If you say that I had plastic surgery, the way I am now is probably a plastic surgery failure.”
Dong, who still gets stopped in the street by fans, hopes his training club in Xiamen can bring a happy denouement to a turbulent life in the game.
He gets a satisfaction from coaching children with special needs that he never experienced as a player, even if it is a world away from the glamour of the Premier League.
“I feel the purity of their eyes and their hearts,” Dong said.
“And although they may have some physical limitations, their kind of concentration, their seriousness… that passion actually moves me.”
PHOTOS BY HECTOR RETAMAL
by Peter Stebbings / with Lan Lianchao