Middle-aged Shanghai Shenhua chairman to play against Manchester United?
Shanghai Shenhua’s eccentric owner Zhu Jun is set to heap embarrassment and ridicule on his side again by appearing for his club on the pitch in tomorrow night’s friendly with Manchester United at Shanghai Stadium.
According to a report in the Oriental Sports Daily, the overweight 45-year-old will line-up upfront alongside Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to form a somewhat unconventional strike force to face a Red Devils defence featuring former England centre-half Rio Ferdinand.
Zhu is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with the world’s greatest players on the pitch – he famously appeared for Shenhua against Liverpool in a friendly match in Holland in 2007, and also lined-up alongside Anelka during a pre-season practise match earlier this season.
The Oriental Sports Daily reports that the Shenhua fans are largely supportive of their self-indulgent chairman, stating “As regards Zhu Jun’s desire to play, the fan’s mood is very supportive because he has brought the biggest name every to play in the Chinese Super League, Didier Drogba.
“Currently Shanghai Shenhua fans are feverishly discussing for how many minutes Zhu Jun will appear on the pitch.”
This above statement is simply not true – a quick scan of Shenhua fans on weibo reveals a range of views including some which are openly hostile to the prospect of Zhu Jun stepping into the turf.
Meanwhile Sina Sports also carries a report, saying Shenhua manager Sergio Batista which did not rule out the possibility of Zhu appearing.
“He’s played in games before to let us see his love for football. No matter if he appears on or off the pitch, I look forward to him standing shoulder to shoulder with us in battle,” said the Argentinian.
With Chinese football in the world spotlight and craving international credibility, Zhu once again risks turning Chinese football into a laughing-stock.
Author: Cameron Wilson
UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football since 2005 for various International and China-based news outlets such as Agence France-Presse, Goal.com, Shanghaiist, China Sports Review, That’s Shanghai, Time out Shanghai and City Weekend. In August 2010 he decided to launch a website dedicated to Chinese football as a central despository for all of his writings ont he subject.
He’s traveled all over China following Shanghai Shenhua as a fully paid-up member of its infamous Blue Devil’s supporters group.
His association with China stretches back over a decade, having first arrived in August 2000 to teach English for a year in a rural town a few hours northwest of Shanghai. He took in his first Chinese football match during this time – a 2-1 victory for Shanghai Shenhua against Dalian Shide. He went home to the UK in July 2001 but returned to China to live in Shanghai in 2005. Since then he’s been a Shanghai Shenhua season ticket holder and a member of the Blue Devil’s supporters’ club. The views expressed by him on Wild East Football may suffer from a slight bias to this effect.
He is also however, still very much a fan of his hometown team, Dunfermline Athletic. A “Par from afar”, as it were.
A passionate believer in the power of the beautiful game to build bridges between diverse peoples and cultures, he was the first foreign fan to travel with the Blue Devil fans’ club to an away match – a tremendous 3-2 victory for Shenhua over Beijng Guoan in September 2007.
Cameron speaks decent mandarin and can crack jokes in Shanghainese.