The Chinese Football Association is remaining tight-lipped on reports that it is considering a ban on players displaying tattoos after members of the national team were apparently asked to cover up their body art during Thursday's 6-0 China Cup loss to Wales in Nanning.
After the game, China Sports Daily reported that the CFA had issued a ban on body art in a bid to improve soccer's image here.
The newspaper also said the CFA regulations would not be restricted to the national team and could affect youth leagues nationwide.
When contacted by China Daily, the CFA denied the report. However, a senior CFA official had earlier told media that it was responsible for creating a healthy soccer culture in China and the improvement of Chinese soccer should be "comprehensive".
The news has sparked heated debate on social media, with those for the ban holding up the tattooless soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as a shining example to support their argument.
Those against point to his rival, Lionel Messi, whose tattoos have done nothing to diminish the worldwide esteem the Barcelona ace commands.
In 2012, Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo revealed he avoids tattoos because he "donates blood very often." After being newly inked, a person has to wait around four months to donate blood.
The 33-year-old Ronaldo has been a blood and bone marrow donor since he was 24 after being touched by the case of former Portugal teammate Carlos Martins' son, who regularly required transfusions and was in need of a bone marrow transplant after being diagnosed with leukemia at age 3.
Many senior figures in Chinese soccer have long expressed their dislike of tattoos.
Former national team captain Jia Xiuquan banned tattoos when he was the coach of China's Under-19 side.
Xu Genbao, the "Godfather of Shanghai soccer" who played for and managed the national team, has also decreed a zero-tolerance policy on body art.
"Players who dye hair or have tattoos would be banned from playing on my team, and those who don't change are kicked out," said Xu.
"I understand that young people want to show their character, but it can be done with scoring, not with tattoos."
Another former Team China captain, Fan Zhiyi, concurred.
"Why do players have to have tattoos?" he said. "The priority is to play quality soccer games. Will tattoos make them into better soccer players?"
Critics of the reported ban, point to the fact that numerous international stars such as David Beckham and Messi have sported tattoos throughout their careers without any negative consequence.
One of Beckham's tattoos is of an old Chinese proverb, and Zhao Zhen, a reporter with Soccer News, wrote on Weibo: "Do you know which part was the most interesting thing for students of Peking University when Beckham came there to do a speech?
"It was his Chinese tattoos. When he showed his tattoo, there was even a Chinese traditional music show prepared for him."
The likes of Gao Lin and Wei Shihao used bandages to hide their tattoos in the China Cup loss to Wales, and Beijing Youth Daily speculated that the possible ban might eventually create demand for specially tailored jerseys that would cover body art.