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Chinese Super League

The big one: Shanghai Shenhua v Beijing Guoan

China’s biggest grudge match is even spicier than usual today. For the first time ever, Beijing Guoan come to Shanghai as defending Chinese Super League champions in the most eagerly-awaited fixture on the Chinese football calendar – the Jing-Hu Dazhan (京沪大战) The tone for tomorrow’s big game was set last weekend however when a Shanghai Shenhua supporters bus had its windows bricked in by supporters of Jiangsu Shuntian at Nanjing’s Olympic stadium (see video). After a fairly drab game in which Shenhua were very lucky to escape with a point after a 1-1 draw (match highlights), your correspondent was amongst 500 or so Shenhua travelling supporters locked inside the stadium for over an hour after the match. During that time, despite a massive police prescence including police equipped with riot gear, some Nanjing hooligans managed to attack a Shenhua bus, several windows were knocked out. An interesting selection of pictures from the rumpus here.

Shenhua have had an odd season so far, winning most of their games on the road but struggling at home. In their last home outing, they could only draw 2-2, after a controversial late penalty (but infact a fairly clear one), saw Liaoning leave the pitch for a few minutes, in a childish protest.

So far, fears that 2010 could be a year of struggle for Shenhua have been unfounded. Despite selling most of their first team regulars in the close season, the Hongkou side sit in second place just a point behind Shandong. However, only eight games have been played with the season not due to finish until November.

It’s with considerable relish then that Shenhua welcome, if that is the appropriate term, reigning Champions Beijing to Shanghai. Football is one of the few channels open to those wishing to express un-harmonious sentiments in China, and last year’s match at Hongkou saw a good old rumpus before, during and after the match. Footage of after-match Beijing shirt-buring uploaded to youku by your correspondent mysteriously dissapeared within hours.

Two local electronic musicians and Shenhua fans couldn’t hide their distaste for Beijing and were relishing the prospect of indulging their passions in China’s most bitter rivalry.

B6 who joked that this week’s infamous Xujiahui pants-gate woman who relieved herself in the middle of a busy Shanghai street was a “Beijing performance artist”, described himself as “hardcore Shanghainese” and made several unpublishable remarks about the capital and its citizens.

He said, “I love to see Shanghainese scolding Beijingers In my parents generation, they looked upon all non-Shanghainese as countryside people, but now, this superiority feeling is fading out, cities like Beijing or Guangzhou, Shenzhen are developing. We think we are losing face, so the hardcore Shanghainese want to take back this status, especially against Beijing, Beijing is strong just because it’s the capital, but we dont give a shit.”

MHP explained Beijing’s status as a cultural centre couldn’t be disputed but said Shanghai was the most modern and progressive city in China and that this dichotomty fueled the rivalry.

He couldn’t hide his passion for the match ahead either. “This game always smells of gunpowder. Especially the older Beijing generation, they think living in capital means they are the best – but actually everybody knows Beijing people good at talking and not good at doing. I am looking forward to shouting Guoan team, SB team, during the game.”

The touch paper is lit at 7.45pm tonight at Hongkou football stadium. The match will be well-attended but unlikely to sell out. Get yourself a ticket either from touts outside the stadium or from the ticket office next to the KFC outside the ground, don’t pay more than 40rmb or so.

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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