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A Guide to Football in Nanjing

Nanjing is a city rich in history. Roughly 300km west of Shanghai this former capital is home to many famous landmarks and historical events such as Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum, the ancient Confucius Temple and the tragic massacre of 1937. One thing Nanjing is not famous for though is it’s football team. Jiangsu Sainty enters only its third season in the Chinese Super League after being promoted in 2008. In this short time the team has done little to garner attention from the local population.

Home games are played at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center located in the Jiangning district. Built in 2005, the stadium has a capacity of 62,000 and is 7km southeast of the city center. Transportation to and from the stadium couldn’t be any easier, with both metro line 1 and line 2 stopping on either side of the complex. From the train station it’s 13 stops and depending on what line you take only 7 or 8 stops from downtown. If you take the subway on match day you’re bound to see a handful of fellow supporters dressed in the teams light blue kit. If you also happen to be donning the jersey don’t be surprised if you get a lot of strange looks. Most Nanjing residents can’t comprehend how anybody would voluntarily watch a Jiangsu Sainty game, especially foreigners.

If you don’t have tickets before you arrive to the match don’t fret. Dozens of scalpers roam the grounds surrounding the stadium and are more than happy to sell you a ticket. If you pay more than 15rmb you got ripped off, if you pay less than that you’re much better at haggling than I am. Should Nanjing be your current base of operations you could always splurge on season tickets. The west gate normally has a tent from one of the supporter groups which sells memberships that include tickets to all the homes games as well as a knock off kit (pictured right). Tickets to all 15 home matches as well as the cheap imitation jersey will only cost 50rmb. Don’t be surprised if the next time you look up “bargain” in the dictionary there’s a reference to Jiangsu Sainty.

Once inside the stadium you’re free to sit anywhere you’d like. This season there are two main supporter groups. The biggest and oldest is called 12 Player. They’ve been around for a few seasons now and stand at the 20-30 yard line. The second group is called Jiangsu Radical Ultras (JRU). They choose to stand behind the north goal. One time I inquired to why they choose to stand in such a bad location in terms of actually viewing the game, they told me because that’s where the ultras in Italy stand. You’ll find me standing with 12 Player every match. I find them to be the more organized and effective of the two groups.

The trophy case may be collecting dust and the effort put out by the front office to attract new fans is virtually non-existent, but that doesn’t mean you should shun the team. If you have a passion for football, or live sports in general, come on out and catch a Jiangsu match. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget.

After being born and raised in Seattle, Kenneth came to Jiangsu in 2008. His first CSL match came back in 2009 when Jiangsu Sainty faced Shanghai Shenhua on the road. Despite going to the match as a neutral observer, the passion and heart displayed by the visitors turned Kenneth into a Jiangsu supporter. For the past two seasons Kenneth has been a season ticket holder for Jiangsu and been a regular with the main supporter group 12th player. Besides going to every home match he also tries to make it to away matches that can be made in a day or two (Shanghai, Hangzhou, Henan, etc.) The other club Kenneth follows is his hometown team Seattle Sounders FC. Supporting your local club is something he believes in strongly and constantly tries to convince skeptics both in Nanjing and Seattle that there’s nothing better than following your hometown team through the thick and the thin. Unlike the other contributors to this blog Kenneth does not have a solid understanding of the local language. His posts will mostly be geared towards what he knows best, Jiangsu Sainty.



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