Demba Ba probably didn’t realise how popular he was until suffering that awful leg break while playing for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League on Sunday.
The Senegal international, 31, has been inundated with messages from well-wishers and is still trending on Facebook 48 hours after the incident occurred.
Sun Xiang was the man responsible for the challenge which broke Ba’s leg and Shenhua subsequently wrote to the Chinese Football Association demanding action by taken against the Shanghai SIPG captain.
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“In the 20th minute of the second half, our player Demba Ba, who was attacking, was deliberately kicked by the opponent defender Sun Xiang,” the letter, published by Shanghai Daily, reads.
“Ba was seriously injured and the hospital’s medical report showed he suffered tibia and fibula fracture in leg. It was a flagrant foul!
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“We urge CSL’s discipline committee to review the match video and punish Sun and Cai for their actions.”
Manzano fears for Ba's career
"It could end his professional career," Shenhua coach Gregorio Manzano, per BBC Sport, said after the incident.
X-rays, meanwhile, revealed the extent of the damage.
Video: Sun meets Ba in hospital
In an effort to personally apologise to Ba - and to his credit - Sun visited the Putuo District Hospital earlier this week.
A video has emerged of the 34-year-old left-back visiting the injured striker in hospital.
It’s understood the pair shook hands after Sun wished him a speedy recovery.
“I had to come because he was injured after clashing with me,” Sun said after meeting Ba. “I feel guilty, so I came to apologize. Hope he recovers quickly. Physical contacts on the pitch is unavoidable. But it was definitely not deliberate.”
Sun reveals what Ba told him
As for Ba’s reaction…
“Ba was understanding. He said let bygones be bygones and that’s what life is about,” Sun added. “Hope it’s the first time and also the last time (that I cause such a serious injury). To a professional player, injury is not a good thing.”
It’s unclear when Ba will return to action, although it’s likely that he’ll need at least 9-12 months to make a full recovery.
Shenhua will certainly miss Ba, who is the top scorer in the Chinese Super League this season with 14 goals in 18 matches.
Will Demba Ba recover from his leg break? Have your say by leaving a comment below.