Ex-West Ham striker ‘almost died’ when Triad gangsters misunderstood "banter"

A former Premier League striker was almost attacked by Chinese gangsters when dressing room banter in the Far East almost backfired.

Marlon Harewood featured in the West Ham side that infamously made ‘the great escape’ from relegation, when Carlos Tevez fired them to safety on the final day against Manchester United in 2007.

Later on in his career, the target man decided to take a risk and signed for Chinese side Guangzhou R&F.

On the pitch, Marlon’s time with the club was successful, winning promotion to the Chinese top flight.

But the former striker has revealed that, off it, his attempts to settle into a foreign culture almost got him into serious trouble with an infamous Chinese gang.

“I had a problem, but that was because of banter between the lads,” Marlon recalled, speaking on the All to Play For podcast.

“We were out one night, and one of the lads told me to say something to some girl.

“So, me being me, we were all having a drink and I said it to this girl, and then she went off and all of a sudden all these triads start coming over.”

The triads are a renowned organised crime group, well-known for engaging in criminal activities. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Marlon remembered fearing for his life when they confronted the squad.

“There was just a massive brawl, and I’m in there, and luckily the lads liked me, or I hope they did, because they stopped me from getting killed,” he admitted.

Marlon remembered that after things had cooled down, he asked his teammates what had happened, and they explained that it was dressing room banter.

He continued: “It almost cost me my life. Obviously in the dressing room [in England] we do that to lads coming in, swear words, ‘go and tell the gaffer to f*** off’, or something like that…”

In this instance, Marlon explained, he thought that he was saying something to the woman to help a team-mate who fancied her.

“I didn’t think they had that banter about them,” he confessed.

During the chat with fellow former professionals Steve Sidwell and Joe Cole, the former number nine discussed the standard of football during his time in China.

Earlier in his career, Harewood had come through the youth ranks at Nottingham Forest, and he compared the ability in China to the English lower leagues.

“The standard was decent, the lads were really fit because of the humidity.

“They can play, I’d say it’s our Championship. And then the players they were bringing over, they were trying to make it better, learning off the players and see what they do.”

Marlon made the move to the Far East in 2011, and a number of top-flight players have since followed in his footsteps.

One of Belgium’s star players, Yannick Carasco, reportedly earnt around £180,000 per-week during a two-year spell in the Chinese Super League.

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