Fan furore that Yao's baby could be American

BEIJING: China's star NBA centre Yao Ming can do no wrong on the court in the eyes of basketball fans, but some diehards are crying foul over the possibility that his firstborn could have an American passport.

Yao and his wife have headed back to the United States, where he plays for the Houston Rockets, ahead of the birth of their first child, which is reportedly due sometime between May and July.

If the child is born in the United States, he or she will automatically be considered an American citizen -- a prospect that some nervous fans say could potentially deprive China of a new basketball superstar.

"This will not only be a huge loss to Chinese basketball but, as far as feelings are concerned, will be something very difficult for Chinese fans to accept," the Chongqing Business Daily said, citing angry online comments.

But on popular web portal, some users expressed support over the possibility of an American Yao.

"To not become an American is stupid... China is a paradise for officials, but hell for ordinary people," said a poster named Limin.

Another user from Shanghai named Kekeweiqi said: "We have no right to interfere in the future of baby Yao. When baby Yao grows up, he/she will have the right to choose his/her own nationality and occupation."

Yao and his wife have been in China for several months as the centre recovers from a broken foot that has forced him out for the entire NBA season and helps to manage the Shanghai Sharks, his former team which he now owns.

Yao's agent, Zhang Mingji, said the place of birth of the child was a "family matter" and was not an issue up for debate, the Chongqing paper said.