Chinese actress Guan Xiaotong Photo: Li Hao/GT

Chinese netizens raised doubts about actress Guan Xiaotong, pop idol Lu Han’s girlfriend, after reports said she would play the role of the former national female volleyball team captain in a new film, saying she does not represent the team’s spirit.

Once a world superpower in women’s volleyball, China was almost unbeatable between 1981 and 1986 when the team won two world championships, two World Cups and one Olympics. 

Against the backdrop of China’s opening-up and reform, the Chinese took pride in their victories and were inspired by the “women’s volleyball spirit,” that represents hard work, unity and perseverance.

Hong Kong director Peter Chan will direct a film called “Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team,” based on a true story to express the team’s indomitable efforts to win honor for the country, the Wenhui Daily reported in May.

Gong Li, who was honored with the Women in Motion award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, will play Lang Ping, the head coach of the women’s national volleyball team, the film’s producers said on Sina Weibo in May. 

Many netizens hailed Gong’s appearance in the film and said they trust she would play the part well.

However, Guan, 21, who will reportedly play former caption Hui Ruoqi, 28, received doubts from netizens, saying that she lacks good acting skills and fighting spirit.

Guan, who was a child star, debuted as an actress in 2001, then made a name in 2005 in The Promise directed by Chen Kaige. 

She is girlfriend of Lu Han, who was dubbed the “Chinese Justin Bieber” by foreign media and a member of South Korean top-tier idol group EXO. 

Lu Han in the TV series Fighter of the Destiny Photos: IC

“Most of the roles she (Guan) played were rebellious girls. And her acting is poor,” a fan of the volleyball surnamed Fang told the Global Times on Monday, saying that she did not think Guan fit Hui’s image, which represents the inspiring and energetic team spirit.  

Echoing Fang, floods of netizens said they would not go to the cinema to watch the movie if Guan plays Hui. They even said that Hui should portray herself in the film.

Some also urged Guan to go to the team training base to receive professional training as a volleyball player before playing the role.

Guan once played a talented dancer in a drama. However, netizens said her dancing looked like that she was stretching noodles, which they thought could mean she did not prepare well for that role.      

Hui played for the national women’s volleyball team from 2007 to 2018. She won the 2012 Summer Olympics Best Server award and was part of the team that won gold at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The film would reportedly start with the scene that Hui sealed the victory for the team in the final minutes of the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. It is scheduled to show on the Lunar New Year’s Day (January 25) in 2020, the film’s official account said on Sina Weibo in April.

Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based film critic, said it was “understandable” that netizens put forward much request on actors and actresses who would star in the film given Chinese people’s cherish on the “women’s volleyball spirit.” 

“China is in a complex worldwide surroundings at current, the legendary story of the Chinese female volleyball team could bring nationals self-confidence and ambition to overcome international difficulties,” Shi told the Global Times on Monday, noting that’s why the public urges the actors and actress with more matured acting skills and inspiring experiences to act the sports players.