Derby fever strikes the city once again tonight when Shanghai Shenhua cross the Huangpu to take on Pudong’s Shanghai United in the CSL, with both teams looking to get one over their local rivals to make up for disappointing seasons so far.
Excitement and hype ran high last time the sides met back in March, with all sorts of lurid allegations about United’s colourful tycoon owner Zhu Jun taking huge briefcases of money into the dressing room before games and offering his team half a million dollars if they beat Shenhua. But, it just wouldn’t be Chinese football without lurid allegations, would it? United chief Zhu, who, as owner of online gaming firm The9 and the 168th richest man in China, has money to burn — but in a league plagued by scandals and match-fixing allegations, his somewhat ostentatious win bonus approach was frowned upon in many quarters.
This time however it’s a much more low-key affair, with both teams simply battling for local bragging rights. United’s season got off to a great start, somehow managing to maul runaway league leaders Shandong 5-1 in Shanghai, but have since lost their way somewhat and could be looking at relegation if they aren’t careful. Shenhua, much-fancied as possible championship challengers, have flattered to deceive. After putting in a decent run before the season took a break for the World Cup, they blotted their copy book last week by getting beat by the lowly Xiamen Lions 2-1 away in their first game back after the break, but followed that up with a 2-0 win over Qingdao in which saw two tremendous goals scored in the second half.
Either way, its still a derby and the long-suffering Chinese football fans are glad for small mercies. Blue Devil Frank Ding told Shanghaiist, “Of course, we are looking forward to some derby excitement, but, it’s just after the World Cup so I think some people might have a football hangover. Our season has been poor so far, but hopefully we can show we are the best team in Shanghai.”
Elsewhere in the world of Chinese football, former Shenhua boss Howard Wilkinson is in the frame for the China national team job, and Chinese League matches will once again be shown on CCTV-5 instead of exclusively by Shanghai-based Dragon TV — a move which many believe will make the league more attractive to sponsors — one wonders why such a deal was agreed in the first place? This development is just as well because IPhox is cutting its current CSL sponsorship deal from eight years to just one after failing to gain a license to do internet telephony business in China — shows you how much guanxi the CSL has.
The Shenhua v United game kicks of tonight at Yuanshen Stadium in Pudong, at 7:45 pm. Best way to get there is to take the Line 2 Metro to Dongcang Lu, and then a taxi to the stadium which is at 1458 Zhangyang Lu, 655 Yuanshen Lu and 9 Yushan Lu, Pudong.
This post was originally published on Shanghaiist.