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Pub talk: Three big upcoming clashes to savour

beers lined upBCheng and the Editor meet up for another virtual pint. In this week’s pub talk, the eccentric duo lament the state of China’s playing surfaces, and discuss the CFA cup and three big Chinese Super League games, whilst BCheng fantasizes about Hongkou stadium being blown up on Sunday as his two most hated rivals face-off against each other.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): Shanghai and Shandong both crashed out of the ACL, hahaha!

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): Yes, how amusing for you. At least we qualified though!

B: Well, Tianjin’s still in it, that doesn’t make me happy.

S: I was going to say, this years ACL contingent was pretty much a rogue’s gallery for Guoan – Shandong, their hated local rivals Tianjin, the ultimate enemy Shenhua, and their fellow Wu-speaking neighbours Hangzhou.

B: True, the only one I have remotely decent feelings about was Hangzhou. But the CFA Cup had some interesting results yesterday, though Shenhua won’t be involved until November. I thought Dalian’s China League team were the truth, 8 matches, 7 wins, 1 draw, haven’t given up a goal yet…but they may not be ready for primetime, losing to Nanchang 2-0.

S: Yeah I was surprised by Dalian Aerbin’s defeat to Nanchang.

B: At the same time, another Dalian side, Dalian Shide, put in a disappointing performance, losing to Yanbian.

S: Yes that was a shock. At least Nanchang restored some pride for the Chinese Super League though.

B: True, only one upset this time around. And an exciting game tonight between Guangzhou and Shaanxi, before a really tasty Chinese Super League weekend lineup.

S: What’s interesting is Yanbian will play Guangzhou Rizhiquan in the next round, and the winner of that game will play away to Shenhua. So Shenhua get possibly the easiest cup run ever – a bye straight to the quarters, then a clash against a CL1 team! So whats your take on the cup so far in general?

B: What you’d expect in a cup. Some interesting upsets, some close games, not very much excitement yet.

S: Yeah. Do you think the fans are into it?

B: I don’t think so, at least not yet. Last night’s Guoan match was by far the most boring of the year, neither side really cared, nor did the fans, though I was surprised Pacheco made only 2 changes from the regular starting lineup, was expecting a lot more.

S: Was there any edge to the match because it was a team from Shanghai? I heard there was some kind of shenanigans going on with someone in the crowd who was a Shanghai East Asia fan

B: There were a few more less than kind chants than usual, but that’s about it…yes, there was a crazed East Asia fan who ended up being escorted out by Beijing’s finest and got the whole stadium riled up

S: Really? what happened there?

B: Supposedly she might be related to a player or something…she was screaming something, at first we couldn’t hear it, because we were a few sections over, there was some fighting with some local fans, the usual.

S: Sounds like the usual Shanghai-Beijing rumpus

B: So, on to the weekend, and what a weekend it will be.

S: What fixtures have you got your beady northern eyes on?

B: Three huge matches. Obviously I want to see Hongkou blown up as my two most hated teams go head-to-head. But I still think Shandong-Hangzhou is the most interesting.

S: Right. I think both sets of fans at Shenhua v Tianjin will be heartily joining in “Guoan SB” chants together.

B: Both of those matches will be worth the price of admission.

S: Yeah I would agree with you highlighting the Shandong-Hangzhou match. Shandong are under a bit of pressure and are managerless. If they lose, they risk falling behind. Hangzhou have been early pacesetters – thanks to Shenhua legend, coach Wu Jinggui.

B: Yeah, I thought they’d be the first side to repeat, but if they lose against Hangzhou, they’ll really be falling back. And I don’t think the Guoan fans forgot that when we got spanked by Hangzhou, Du Wei was also subject of much anger.

S: I bet he was singled out, being a former Shenhua player. I don’t think Du Wei is missed though, or the other long-standing players, such as Sun Xiang, Sun Ji and Gao Lin, who all left at the end of 2009.

B: I think this Hangzhou side is for real, this match is at home, we’ll see how much the Yiwu factor comes into play

S: We will. But I have to say, Hangzhou has a decent following, they got something like 25,000+ for their ACL games, which were played in Hangzhou. But for the Chinese Super League, they are only getting around 6-7000 in Yiwu, which isn’t all that far away I don’t think

B: Fans can’t be bothered though, even with Guoan, last night showed who the true fans were, I think a lot of people didn’t even know there was a game.

S: I suppose we can’t expect too much enthusiasm for a competition (The CFA Cup) which was cancelled in 2007 “because of the olympic games”.

B: Yes, and then the restart was delayed by 2 years due to incompetence.

S: It will take time to build prestiege and catch people’s imagination. I think the cup will be better next year when they let the Chinese Super League2 teams in, that way we will see some real David v Goliath type ties which may result in some embarassing results for the big boys.

B: Anyways, I’m predicting a Shanghai-Tianjin draw and a Hangzhou victory.

S: Ok, some solid predictions there from the bchengster as usual

B: Though you lot are a bit different, you don’t close down in the big games, making for some interesting results

S: Well, no matter who is Shenhua’s manager or whoever is playing, Shenhua always play like Shenhua. Good going forward, open, passing football, but lacking drive and determination, and the ability to kill teams off or grind out results.

B: That’s interesting the club’s culture is so tight, it might be because all the players who grew up around the club and the long line of local coaches

S: Maybe in the backroom there is some continuity. On the pitch, I am not sure sure

B: So those are the 2 big matches, but there’s one more I kind of have an eye on

S: Really? Which other game has aroused your attention?

B: I think the league leaders have a bit of a test in the late start Sunday evening

S: Yes. That is going to be an interesting game. Henan are a tough unit, and Guangzhou I think have rode their luck a bit so far. Having said that, I’m not surprised to see them at the top of the table. How do you see that game unfolding then?

B: Henan hasn’t won yet, but they’ve been involved in some really close games, so unlucky losses…I still see Guangzhou winning it, if it was in Zhengzhou it might be a different story, but it won’t be easy. A draw wouldn’t be a crazy result

S: Yeah, there will be a big crowd though. Guangzhou are getting about 40,000 a game at the moment. That’s going to lend the home team a lot of encouragement.

B: I don’t know how much crowds factor into things in the Chinese Super League, as a fan it’s nice to think we make a difference, but in reality, the biggest home field advantage is knowing the pitches, because more often than not they are crap.

S: I don’t agree, I think fans play a key part. At least at Shenhua, the Blue Devils unrelenting support does make a difference I think.

B: Some players do seem to feed off it, but they’re in the minority…though no matter what, knowledge of the pitch does make a difference I think.

S: That I would agree with. And for certain pitches in China, I think a lot of knowledge is required, since they are in such a state of disrepair.

B: And one pregame practice the day before isn’t enough to know what to expect. I know there are more rumblings from Guoan players on weibo (shameless plug, follow me at www.weibo.com/modernleifeng) about the Gongti pitch.

S: Shameless plugs are most welcome here during pubtalk I think.

B: That’s part of the fun, enjoying a drink, shooting the shit about anything.

S: Yeah. I think these pubtalks are also proving popular with our readers. And here we both were thinking only you and I were sad enough to find our subject matter interesting.

B: And while we’re on the subject of Guoan, Sunday night at Gongti should be an enjoyable night and another 3 points for us. Including last night’s cup match, Yang Zhi has gone 362 minutes without giving up a goal, very impressive. I hope that streak continues Sunday night.

S: I was just about to ask about Beijing – we got sidetracked a bit. I don’t think Qingdao will pose much of a threat to your boys at home. Would you concur with that statement?

B: Off the top of your head, do you know where Qingdao is in the table? I had to check myself…

S: I thought they were mid-table, because they made a decent start.

B: Yeah, just 1 point back from you lot right now. I couldn’t name anyone on their side, but we’ll see if this is a new and improved side Sunday night.

S: Right – I looked now and was surprised to find they are in 7th. It’s still early days though. They were a bit lucky to draw 3-3 with us on the first day of the Chinese Super League. But they took their chances well.

B: Definitely, early days, but it’s definitely an improvement from their past form when they’d be near the bottom already. I don’t expect another 3-0, but Yang Zhi’s streak might be broken. Our defense is still just slightly stronger than butter

S: I still think they will go down. At least I hope so, otherwise I may be wiping egg off my face at the end of the year when we review our Chinese Super League pre-season predictions. But, much as I’d like to see Yang Zhi embarass himself, I don’t think he will do so against Qingdao. Beijing to win that game comfortably.

B: Fortunately our past two opponents wanted to be off drinking tea and playing mah jong in the cool mountain air outside of Chengdu and then Shanghai East Asia decided the best strategy was to not let anyone pass the center line.

S: I wouldn’t mind playing mah jong in the cool mountain air around Chengdu. Although I’d probably prefer a beer whilst I play rather than tea.

B: I’d love to join you, maybe a wildeast outing to the west.
S: That would be most agreeable – the girls in Sichuan are quite charming too.

B: Being China’s #1 isn’t saying much, but Da Zhi is certainly the best keeper in the Chinese Super League.
and he alone is the reason many females watch Guoan, I know that from personal experience.

S: Right, I heard that women like men who wear gloves, so perhaps that’s something to do with it. Have you witnessed any Guoan ladyfans getting excited over Mr Da?

B: Enough to make me jealous.

S: Ha. You are green enough already in those horrible Guoan jerseys! Well. I think its time to wrap up another pubtalk.

B: Yeah, it was fun as always.

S: Indeed. We’ve rambled on long enough. Thank goodness these are virtual pub talks, otherwise we’d probably end up piss-drunk on the floor verbally abusing each other

B: Ahh, those are the nights. But nothing beats a nice,cold Yanjing at the end of the day. It’s embarassing really, what kind of city are you, you don’t even have your own beer.

S: We don’t need our own beer, that’s for dirty nothern types like you guys. Right. With that unfunniest of quips my sense of humour seems to have run dry. Here’s to another great weekend of football. Cheers B.

B: Cheers to Hongkou being bombed! This was fun, have a goodnight.

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade...

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