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Shenhua – Xian Shenanigans

Inter Xian held Shenhua to a 1-1 draw at Hongkou stadium last night in a tempestous and rowdy which was marked by several crowd disturbances.

With the game being a derby in some senses, with Xian being known as Inter Shanghai until moving last year, Xian were cheered on by a group of around 100 Inter fans, who couldn’t resist turning to oppose their bitter rivals Shenhua.

The crowd was far from the capacity 35,000 sell-out which was common for matches between the two sides when Inter was still based in Shanghai, the sting being taken out of the fixture somewhat since Inter’s move. But the fans clearly had lost none of their passion — Shanghaiist witnessed a noisy disturbance at half time we caught on film where the police had attempted to arrest some Shenhua fans for whatever reason but found themselves in a Shanghaiese shoving match and suddenly outnumbered.

The game itself saw Shenhua take the lead with a free-kick the goalkeeper should have done much better with, sending much of the stadium into raptures. Inter hit back right after half-time — Shanghaiist in fact missed this goal as we were observing the disorderly scenes outside. Later, Shenhua replaced the inneffectual Carsten Jancker with the equally inneffectual Luiz Ramirez. No surprise then, that there was to be no more goal-scoring.

It was a night were there was a distinct edge to the atmosphere — this was no ordinary game, it was a chance for fans to let off some steam through one of the only channels they can get in China. Thunder crashed overhead and lightening forked spectacularly accross the skies as Shenhua fans gathered outside after the match chanting Guoji Dui, Xia Bi Dui! (Inter team, c**t team!) and setting off flares (movie link), turning the sky red as a light rain sprayed the faces of all. It was almost sensory overload, quite an experience, simply not the kind of thing one expects in China. It was a glimpse of a world gazed upon by few foreign eyes.

There was no repeat of last year’s ruckus, the Inter fan’s being well outnumbered and were given a police escort away from the stadium — nevertheless, tempers flared when the Shenhua fans set fire to a replica of an Inter’s club badge. Shortly afterwards, fans stampeded a few hundred yards as more Shenhua fans unravelled a large Inter flag and began spitting and stamping on it, and attempting to tear it to shreds, before police with riot shields intervened. But, there was no serious trouble, just a lot of rowdiness and the police intervening where it perhaps wasn’t strictly necessary.

Literally, an electric atmosphere and an evening not for the feint-hearted.


This post was originally published on Shanghaiist.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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