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A Night at Hanghai…

the battle of Hanghai

This post is going to be long, please  put up with me and maybe take the time to read it to the end.  This was written on the bus on the way back and has absolutely nothing to do with the match, but to be honest, there were 15-20 minutes last night where the match was the last thing on our minds.  I’ll have a match report tomorrow, but what happened at Hanghai and the general issue of away supporters security needs to be discussed.  Will the CFA do the right thing?!?

the battle of HanghaiHanghai Stadium’s away stand has a high, rusty fence on all three sides.  It’s there to “protect” away fans, but on Saturday night it felt a little like a prison.

At a rest stop a few miles outside of Zhengzhou, there was a congenial mood among the supporters, but as we left the order was given that nobody should show colors.  People changed into non-green clothing, the bus curtains were drawn, and the mood got serious.

In China, the vast majority of fans aren’t looking for trouble on an awayday, they’re just out to support their side.  At the same time, they know to expect the unexpected and that aggro could be involved.

The walk to the stadium was without incident, the calm before the storm.  In a bit of luck for us, as we were being led to the away terrace, Henan’s bus pulled up, giving Guoan fans a chance to get up close and personal, chant, and offer a “welcoming” to the home side.

The pitch at Hanghai is surrounded by a large track, so the home “ultras” were just a Tony blur in the night at the other end of the ground.  Guoan fans who were expecting creature comforts like water and toilets were having a laugh, nothing was available to us. Henan made the “intelligent” decision to deploy their riot police in the stands on either side of the away end, these stands were completely empty.  Instead, their idea of protection for the away fans was locking and barricading the exits to the stand.

impromptu barracade

Yes, we tore up the seats. No, if the police would have prevented Henan fans from entering our end, this wouldn't have happened.

When things kicked off after Henan fans busted through one of the locks and invaded the away end, where were the riot police?  Still protecting empty seats.  It took the efforts of Beijing fans, and the few police that would do anything to keep them out.  It was only at this point that Guoan fans started tearing up the seats to create an impromptu barricade to slow down another invasion.  At the same time, it was the efforts of the Guoan substitutes, in particular Roberto and Lang Zheng, who prevented Guoan banners from being ripped down by Henan fans/media/club representatives who invaded the track (and went untouched by police).

At this point, the goings on of the match became unimportant and the safety of the Guoan fans, in particular the female fans that made the trip, took precedence.  Fenced in on all sides, with one exit locked, if Henan fans were to invade in numbers, there would be no way out.  Where were the riot police?  Still busy protecting the empty seats.

A stalemate was finally reached and the gate was closed, but only after garbage cans containing piss and puke was thrown on the terrace and a fire extinguisher was sprayed at some fans.

After all of this, the Guoan fans who had been in good voice up to this point were in a state of silent shock and anger.  When Henan was awarded a late penalty, it just seemed like the unjust end to a bad day.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t over.

The match ended around 9:30 pm and the away fans settled in for a bit of a wait.  Even an hour later, we could still hear a lot of Henan fans outside and had no idea what would await us once we left the stand.

As the hours passed, Guoan players, in particular Xu Liang, who knew of our plight locked in the stand without water, made efforts to get water to us but were turned back by the police. We were finally provided a substantial amount of water at almost midnight, 6 hours after entering Hanghai.

As negotiations for our “release” from Hanghai “prison” went on, weibo pictures of the night’s events were passed along and news came that our buses were destroyed by Henan fans.  When we were finally allowed to leave just after 2 am, continuing the prison metaphor, the two cops served as wardens and only saw us off to the gates of Hanghai, leaving us to head down the streets of Zhengzhou to our bus alone.  Fortunately, only one bus was damaged.  Beijing fans departed Zhengzhou just before 4 am, 21 hours after the whole journey began.

What would it have taken to avoid this incident?  It doesn’t take a police presence like at Gongti, just a willing police force to form a wall and prevent home supporters from getting to the away end.  Zhengzhou had the police in place, unfortunately they needed to protect empty seats.

I’ve asked this question before, but what will it take for the Chinese Super League/CFA to step in and standardize the away supporter process?  A death?  A massive riot?  Zhengzhou knew how many Guoan fans were making the trip and agreed to make preparations, but in the end they were unwilling or just didn’t care to carry them out.

I kept getting the question, “would something like this happen abroad?”  The answer is an unequivocal no.  Hooliganism isn’t a part of the American sports scene, where police deal are heavy handed when it comes to this sort of thing, and most of Europe has taken massive strides to clean up its leagues.  It isn’t like China doesn’t already have a model for how to deal with it.  The Gongti away experience, while it may be overkill, is a shining example for the whole league, 1/5th of the security that Gongti has in place would have been enough to guarantee last night was completely uneventful.  While it may be expensive, so is the over RMB100,000 price tag for damages to the Guoan buses and Hanghai seats.  Hopefully the CFA doesn’t just focus on what happened in Zhengzhou on Saturday, but takes time to look at the bigger issue.

WEF is greatly honoured to have aboard B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese bloggersphere. Cheng has been the other lonely soul blogging in English about Chinese football over the last few years. With both Cheng and WEF’s editor linking back and forth to each others’ sites on a regular basis, it was probably inevitable that they would eventually join forces to try to illuminate and decipher the curious world of Chinese football, with their combined musings. Cheng’s credentials are second to none – his blog focuses not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese bloggersphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. Cheng very generously decided to climb aboard and give WEF his views on the issue of the Chinese footballing day.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. GuoAn-Saddam

    13/06/2011 at 16:42

    Goooooood luck to you . wellcome to China wellcome to Beijing

  2. GuoAn-Saddam

    13/06/2011 at 16:44

    You are our pride !
    We ate the champion!

  3. Haitao

    13/06/2011 at 17:28

    Hi Man,
    I was among one of the Beijing fans at HangHai. It was a disaster night.
    When we were on the away game that I have expected difficulty and troubles, it doesn’t reduce my faith to support my team. I just hope everyone has got back home safely and we do not see this kind of “events” again.
    Thank you very much for your support to GuoAn. We all understand how attractive is our team and I am proud that I am one of the million that supports our team.

  4. Kevin

    13/06/2011 at 18:10

    i am a Guoan fan.

    Thanks for your objective comment, i regret happens this thing on Saturday.

    best wish for you.

  5. LIU

    13/06/2011 at 18:10

    Do you know what happened brfore this match?
    Do you know the BTV made a video insult HeNan Jianye before this match?
    Do you know a newsman from Beijing discrimination the whole of HeNan?Discrimination everyone!
    It’s not only a match!We must fight back who insult us!

  6. LIU

    13/06/2011 at 18:12

    Why did you ignore you provoke the home team?

  7. shoushishengwu

    13/06/2011 at 18:40

    I think the paper you wrote was clear and it was impartial no doubt

  8. Yang Zhu @ Pitney Bowes

    13/06/2011 at 22:16

    Hi mate! Well done! We are proud of Guoan fans like you!
    pls add me to your MSN. We may have the chance to drink a beer~

  9. bcheng

    13/06/2011 at 23:16

    @Liu
    Would you have not “provoked” the Guoan players if given the chance? What does BTV have to do with Beijing fans? Your excuse for your fans attacking the Beijing fans is BTV said bad things about Henan? Come off it!

    @everyone else
    Thanks for all of your comments, glad you enjoyed this post and hope you please continue to read this blog!

  10. Glen

    14/06/2011 at 05:17

    The author’s description seems quite rational at first, however some details reveal that it is not all the truth of the whole envent. A tedency carried by the author obviously pulled him from observing exclusively.
    Firstly, the writer failed to make an appropiate record of the behavior of Guo’an fans. Did they really “chant” while meeting Henan’s bus? Wasn’t that true that they provoking to many native people before and even during the match? As common sense, those Guo’an supporters could’t have been threatened unless the affronted others at first. Even the author himself claimed that “In China, the vast majority of fans aren’t looking for trouble on an awayday, they’re just out to support their side. ” So please tell me why those Guo’an fans got themselves in danger?
    Secondly, bccheng mistakingly made a wrong assertion that what the police do in Gongti were also suitable in Hanghai Stadium, totally ignoring the fact that distinctions from the layout of stadium to people’s behavior have made it obligatory for securities in Hanghai stadium choosing another way to protect those guests. Nobody can promise that plans applied in Gongti could protect Guo’an fans again right in Henan, while on the contrary, what the local police had done truthfully prevent them from further injure.
    Therefore, this post simply fails to assess what happened in Hanghai Stadium conprehensively.

    • bcheng

      14/06/2011 at 08:00

      @Glen
      Sorry, your argument makes no sense. The Guoan supporters were LOCKED IN their end, it was impossible for them to leave and all this kicked off only after Henan fans invaded their end.

      As for the distinctions from the layout, it really doesn’t matter. They could easily put a line of security at either side of the “Xu Liang Stand” (ie Section 6) to protect the fans, not very hard. Instead, they put them inside sections 4 and 7 to protect empty seats, when they were most needed outside. In fact, any kind of plan at Hanghai Saturday night would have been better than the absolute disorder. I don’t blame the Henan fans, the incident is 90% the fault of Henan Construction.
      周六晚上国安球迷去航海一共有多少?200?有多少警察,武警? 超过20个?同样的时间, 江苏带700多球迷去上海,而且有多少警察?几千的! 发生了事吗?没有! 是因为北京,河南球迷野蛮,可是上海,江苏球迷文明?不是,就因为上海赛场真正接待客场球迷,安排好了!周六的事情完全是河南建业 负责任!

  11. charlie

    15/06/2011 at 00:57

    I’ve been to 3 away games in China and we were locked in the our “end” on every occaision – admittedly they were all “local” to Shanghai so considered “derbies”. Buses and fans attacked on the way into the stadium and on departure. The only thing that stopped it kicking off properly was decent policing.

    I remember at during one SH v JS game we equalised in the last minute and there was a huge surge towards the away end and home fans attempted to scale the fences to get over and into the away end – the army prescence soon put an end to that. At half time there was a bit of baiting going on across an interjoining door and it burst open and the police soon jumped in to stop it getting out of hand. At the end we were kept in for over 1.5 hours and you could hear it was kicking off with the police outside as the JS made attempts to get at us and the shanghai coaches.

    It sounds on this occaision that the policing was sadly inept or that the police were possibly in on the invasion.

    There has been an increase in this type of behaviour in Chinese football over the last couple of years, especially when the “bigger teams” visit their more provincial rivals, and whilst it isn’t 1970’s England it does need to be addreesed as no one wants women and children hurt inside the ground.

    However, I have always been impressed with the level of effort police go to to keep fans apart. When we travelled away we’d get calls asking where we were and checking up, making sure we hadn’t left SH early (when we had).

    • bcheng

      15/06/2011 at 10:07

      @Charlie

      I agree with much of what you said. I have no problem with being locked in, though at most venues you are at least allowed some movement around the concourse in the “away end”, instead of literally being locked into the stand like we were in Zhengzhou. You also kind of expect something on the way in or out of the venue, that’s part of the away match.

      I know that Beijing, Shanghai, and Jiangsu all do decent jobs of policing, it really doesn’t take that much, just having a decent number of police and not allowing access to the away supporters section. On Saturday, they put the locks on and thought that was enough, but when the home fans can roam the concourse, provoke and throw things through the fence, the cops aren’t doing their job.

      I think a lot of my anger regarding this incident is that it was all due to bad policing and, at the same time, Beijing fans are somehow being blamed for what happened.

      I’d agree with you that things aren’t nearly as serious as England in the ’70s, for the msot part the police does a good job and these incidents are kept to a minimum. As long as the CSL doesn’t have an intercity derby (which truly provides headaches for the police), then there will probably only be a few isolated incidents like this each season and nothing too serious.

  12. Yiddo Huayi

    18/06/2011 at 12:32

    One night in Hanghai makes a hard man humble
    Not much between despair and ecstasy
    One night in Zhengzhou and your bus gets tumbled
    Can’t be too careful with the Henan-ese
    I can feel the police walking next to me

  13. Daryl

    20/06/2011 at 04:05

    Good read that, first game I ever went to here (Shenhua – Dalian) something similar happened, fighting between the fans but it was put out almost immediately, the Shenhua fans had a run up at the away fans after btu security stopped that too. Still though i’d only been in China a week and not what I was expecting.

    Going from Hongkou’s fairly timid surrounding to the worker’s stadium for Beijing – Hangzhou (1-3) was like going to a different planet. Never seen such a large security operation for a football match in my life and I go to quite a few. Have to say I found it pretty replusive up there, no need to shout smelly c*nt at people every two seconds, especially not a player gone off after a horrific tackle from a Beijing player. No need to tell the referee to go f*ck his Mother either. Didn’t see one child at the match there, there’s always a good few in Hongkou, I wonder why!

  14. Yiddo Huayi

    20/06/2011 at 09:11

    I don’t want to belittle this (as it does sound quite vicious), but is this handbags at 10 paces or real inter -city firm stuff (“pwopa nawty” as Danny Dyer might say)?

    Has anyone been seriously injured yet?

    That aside it’s rather sad that eejits get all aggro when they’ve paid good money to watch a FOOTBALL MATCH (verbal sparring/banter notwithstanding).

  15. bcheng

    20/06/2011 at 10:08

    @Daryl
    Beijing being the capital, the security presence is always going to be massive (quite similar, it seems, to the situation in Shanghai). I don’t think Beijing fans are any more foul mouthed than fans elsewhere as you’ll hear the same curses at any ground in China (including Hongkou) and Beijingers have been more under control in recent years. Anyways, I guarantee you there are tons of kids at Gongti for each match.

    @Yiddo
    First off, that poem is awesome, very cool! For the most part, this is just handbags, a few people come away with a black eye or some scrapes, but that’s about it. There have been worse incidents, but for the most part, its limited to property damage and scrapes.

    The majority of incidents happen outside a venue before/after a match, inside the stadium the police presence is usually enough to deter anything from really kicking off. There is typically enough police to keep things peaceful outside as well or prevent things from really kicking off. As the police and clubs tend to coordinate when they know away fans are coming, they are usually prepared enough and prevent a major incident. The only time I saw things really bad was during the Shanghai derby days because the police didn’t have a strategy for separating fans, there were some pretty badly injured fans. That said, there is a hooligan element among all sides fans and, if given the chance, they’d love for some “real inter-city firm stuff”.

    • Yiddo Huayi

      23/06/2011 at 05:21

      One Night In Hanghai

      With apologies to Tim Rice and Bjoern Ulvaeus:

      [THE 老外]
      Zhengzhou, Oriental setting
      And the city don’t know that the city is getting
      The creme de la creme of the zhongchao in a
      Show with everything but Hao Haidong

      Time flies — doesn’t seem a minute
      Since the Black Whistle decided games innit?
      All change — don’t you know that when you
      Play at Hanghai it’s no ordinary venue

      It’s Gongti — or Tianhe — or Hangkou — or —
      or this place!

      [GUOAN 球迷]
      One night in Hanghai and Gongti seems nicer
      The fans have pijiu but nowhere to pee
      You’ll find the jingcha at the empty bleachers
      And if you’re lucky then the water’s free
      I see Xu Liang trying to get up to me

      [THE 老外]
      One town’s very like another
      When your head’s down over rubbish bins, brother

      [GUOAN 球迷]
      It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity
      To be locked in the stand, not looking at the city

      [THE 老外]
      Whaddya mean? Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town —

      [JIANYE 球迷]
      Beijing SB!
      说什么皮花? 我们就打死了你!

      [THE 老外]
      干吗? You’re talking to a tourist
      Whose every move’s among the purest
      I get my kicks on the football pitch, sunshine

      [GUOAN 球迷]
      One night in Hanghai makes a hard man humble
      Not much between despair and ecstasy
      One night in Zhengzhou and your bus gets rumbled
      Can’t be too careful with the Henanese
      I can feel the jingcha walking next to me

      [THE 老外]
      Hanghai’s gonna be the witness
      To the ultimate test of football fan madness
      This grips me more than would a
      Muddy old river or reclining Buddha

      And thank God I’m only watching the game – err, trying to —

      I don’t see you guys rating
      The kind of match I’m contemplating
      I’d let you watch, I would invite you
      But the chants we use, overly excite you

      So you better go back to your stands, your ultras, bus wrecking antics–

      [GUOAN 球迷]
      One night in Hanghai and Gongti seems nicer
      The fans have pijiu but nowhere to pee
      You’ll find the jingcha at the empty bleachers
      And if you’re lucky then the water’s free
      I see Xu Liang trying to get up to me

      One night in Hanghai makes a hard man humble
      Not much between despair and ecstasy
      One night in Zhengzhou and your bus gets rumbled
      Can’t be too careful with the Henanese
      I can feel the jingcha walking next to me

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