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Shenhua bid reluctant farewell to Hongkou Stadium

Shanghai Shenhua bid farewell to Hongkou Stadium until the 2008 season with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against their old foes, Dalian Shide, yesterday afternoon.

Normally this game is a title decider between China’s two preeminent domestic footballing powers. But on a hot October afternoon both teams were just playing for pride after Shandong Luneng steamrollered their way to their second-ever CSL title at the end of August.

The game was not a patch on the rip-roaring corresponding fixture Shanghaiist reported on last season — on that day Shenhua sucessfully saved themselves from the ignominy of watching Dalian claim the championship in Shanghai by beating the Dongbei boys 2-1.

This time the atmosphere was lively but had an inevitable end-of-term feel to it, a competition between two sides who were expected to challenge for the title, but flattered to deceive. The home team’s Honduran import, Luiz Ramirez, scored his 12th goal of the season on the hour to put his side ahead with a neat finish, before Dalian equalized 15 minutes later with a well-worked move when a killer cross into the six yard box was poked home.

Shenhua go into their final game tied with Beijing Guoan in second place, Dalian, eight-time Chinese Champions, languish by their high standards in fifth.

No matter what is said about the state of the Chinese game, Shanghaiist thinks most football aficionados would agree that Hongkou Football Stadium is the real deal — a proper venue for the sport where a lack of a running track means boisterous crowds can get right on top of the players and create that special football atmosphere.

But Shenhua will play in Pudong’s Yuanshen Stadium next year as Hongkou — home to the club since its formation in 1993 — closes for at least one year to undergo renovation for hosting the Women’s World Cup. This news has not gone well at all with Shenhua’s biggest supporters club, the Blue Devils.

Organiser Frank Ding told Shanghaiist: “The bosses of the Chinese FA are stupid. They could have refurbished Hongkou without us having to move out, but the club and the FA couldn’t come to an agreement.

“Yuanshen is a poor stadium and it is not convenient to get to. Hongkou is a transport hub, but the subway station near Yuan Shen is closed at the moment. Fewer fans will come because it doesn’t create the same good atmosphere[1] as Hongkou.”

Shanghaiist heard that Dongfang Lu, closed a year ago to build a transfer station between line 2 and 4, is supposed to re-open by the end of the year and be re-named Century Avenue station. But, as with all metro developments, don’t hold your breath waiting for it to appear.

Shenhua will share 20,000 capacity Yuanshen with rivals Shanghai United, and, in a reference to Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan who share the San Siro Stadium, Frank joked: “It will be just like the Milan Derby.”

[1] Speaking of good football atmospheres, here is what Shanghaiist did during the October break – watched Scotland spank France 1-0 in a Euro 2008 qualifer. Turn up your speakers and check out our You Tube clip, recorded in-crowd just as Gary Caldwell’s cracking goal went in.


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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