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Pub Talk: Back to CSL business this weekend

beers lined upBCheng and the Editor regularly meet to ramble on about on recent happenings in the Chinese game. This week the Chinese Super League takes centre stage once again after the international break, and on the agenda this time is China’s friendly victories, Feng Renliang’s prospects, Guangzhou not being top of the Chinese Super League, long bus journeys to Zhengzhou, and hot weather and short skirts.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): How did you enjoy the recent international break? Catch any of the games?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua) I actually sat down and tried to tune into China v Uzbekistan, only to find basketball on CCTV5. How unpatriotic!

B: But it was the Chinese national basketball team, right? I believe playing the “American All-Stars”.

S: I didn’t notice, I just saw it was basketball.

B: Haha, okay. No time to catch the match last night?

S: No, I forgot it was on to be honest.

B: Well, you didn’t miss much, though China was able to produce a bit of a win streak, so that’s nice.

S: Yeah I read your report on the site, looked like a decent performance. Was it?

B: At times. They did enough to beat a pretty weak North Korean side, but a win’s a win.

S: Times like this show to me that China is really not all that bad compared to other Asian sides. I think only Japan and Australia are better. China should have more confidence.

B: It’s a consistent problem for China. They have the individual talent, but it’s putting them together and getting them to play as one. Phillipe Troussier said as much recently. There’s another story on my mind from the break, what do you think of your goalie kind of taking a shot at the fans?

S: You mean Wang Dalei’s outburst of a few months ago when China got knocked out of the Asian Cup?

B: No, no, not that. He was recently quoted in an interview as saying the Shanghai fans don’t have as pure or genuine a supporter’s culture as in Beijing, and that this is a big, serious problem. In Chinese, he said: 王大雷:在哪儿守门都是荣耀。如果以后不在申花了,去大连了去北京了去广州了,都是一种荣誉。它的球迷组织也很壮大,但上海不会像北京那样有纯正的球迷文化,这个问题挺大挺严肃的.

S: I don’t think he’s taking a shot at the hardcore Shenhua fans who do show up, because I believe the Blue Devils, and the other fans groups at Hongkou, are up there with the very best in terms of supporting their club through thick and thin. I think he’s just getting at the fact Beijing’s average crowd is something like more than 35,000 and Shenhua’s is barely around 15,000.

B: I think you might be right, anyways, it was enjoyable to see a Shanghai player say something so positive about Beijing, so I wanted to throw that out there. On to the weekend then, who do your boys have?

S: We are playing Jiangsu Sainty at home. We should have gotten Kenneth into this pub chat. But I would expect a victory for Shenhua. But there has been a lot of mud-slinging going on this week in the Chinese football press. Some journalist somewhere wrote a story saying Feng Renliang was being played less because he would be owed more money as he gets some kind of big bonus per appearance That, and apparently former Shenhua boss Wu Jinggui at Hangzhou has been trying to poach Feng. Shenhua put a a very stern and harshly-worded official statement out basically rubbishing these news reports.

B: Interesting! I like the intrigue, I can’t see Feng staying at Shenhua much longer, if recent trends prove anything, the club just doesn’t seem willing to pay for top players.

S: That is true and Zhu Jun’s tight-fistedness was also mentioned in the media article which prompted it all. Shenhua also said they had no intention of selling Feng. But for sure he will not stay at Shenhua forever, he’s too good and obviously a class above most of his teammates. The only questions about him leaving are when, to where, and for how much?

B: I haven’t seen him that much this year, but from what I have, on top of his performance for the national team, my thoughts are he’s headed somewhere in the Chinese Super League, he’s just not good enough for Europe. At least not yet.

S: I think Shenhua fans would be outraged if he left for another Chinese Super League club. I don’t think Shenhua would let that happen either.

B: I would think not, but money talks and Zhu seems really tight. What do you think of Feng’s development? To me, it seems he’s a speedster, but doesn’t have the body or the touch quite yet.

S: He definitely needs to improve if he has designs on going to Europe. He has the speed and the touch, generally he needs to improve his control and crossing, and try and build his strength a bit.
Anyway. Who are the men from the capital facing this weekend and what are their chances?

B: They are heading to Zhengzhou to face off against Henan Construction, a side that has yet to pick up a win this season, so I like their chances, though this is the kind of game that could have draw written all over it.

S: Right. And I believe you are traveling their with one of the Beijing ultra groups. Excited?

B: Yes, it should be a great time, 9 hours on a bus with a bunch of sweaty guys leaving at 7 am, my kind of weekend! That said, we’re taking a few hundred there and I’m really looking forward to my first true taste of an away day in China.

S: Good on you. How do you plan on passing the time during the nine hour ride south?

B: Getting to know some of my fellow fans a bit. Otherwise, a full iPod, noise-cancelling headphones and plenty of beer should do the trick.

S: Sounds like a most excellent travel agenda.

B: Definitely, just hope we’ll be able to help the side secure 3 points, otherwise that 9 hours will feel like much more on the way back.

S: I’m surprised you guy’s aren’t taking the train for such a long journey – we only take buses to places just down the road like Hangzhou, or, a bit further, Nanjing. Although I understand Beijingers are hard up for cash.

B: With a few exceptions, the trains really don’t save much time, though it is slightly more comfortable. Anyways, when just the “Royal Army” has around 100 people going, it’s a lot easier to organize if by bus. Any other games catch your eye this weekend?

S: Dalian v Tianjin, and Guangzhou v Shaanxi. The results of both these games will give us more indication about who is going to be in the running come the end of the season.

B: I know we’re in the pub, but it’s a bit early to be having that many, eh? It’s Tianjin v. Guangzhou, Shaanxi v. Hangzhou, and Changchun v. Dalian.

S: Oh dear, seems I’m not quite on the ball this week at all I just realized I was looking at next week’s fixtures!!

B: While Changchun v. Dalian may have some local Northeastern interest, those other 2 are definitely important matches. I’m most interested in seeing how Hangzhou handle the hostile environment in Xian. They’ve been on a bit of a slide lately.

S: Yeah. I think Hangzhou are destined to finish top 6, but they aren’t going to get a look in to the ACL places. Unless they win the Bizarre FA Cup, which is offering a place this year at the expense of 4th place in the Chinese Super League.

B: I wouldn’t be so sure, they thoroughly manhandled Beijing earlier this year, they have all the parts.

S: Maybe, but playing outside of Hangzhou is hurting their attendances and I think that makes a difference. if you look at the tables, home advantage shows even in the Chinese Super League. But looking elsewhere, Changchun and Dalian, whilst its a good Dongbei derby, neither of those sides are going to matter at the end of the season also.

B: Haha, we’ve had this argument before, at the end of the year when I’m in Shanghai to celebrate our crowning as Champions, the loser of this Hangzhou debate owes the winner a pint (or three).

S: I look forward to that, because the only thing you will be consuming on the final day of the season is humble pie, my friend!

B: We shall see. So what about Tianjin hosting Guangzhou? The manager of the losing side may be on thin ice. The Guangzhou players did surprisingly well for the national team during the break.

S: I hardly think Guangzhou’s boss faces the sack – they are top of the table, attracting record crowds and are unbeaten.

B: They’re in second and while they haven’t lost, they do have four draws. The bosses expect a title and they seem itchy to make some changes, since they can’t buy any players at this point.

S: Ah yes, Beijing are top, Freudian slip on my part. I think you could be right. But such change would be totally wrong in my opinion. This isn’t Serie A or La Liga.

B: I’m with you on that, but there’s always that bit of irrationality in the Chinese Super League. Tianjin’s been up and down all year, and Guangzhou has struggled on the road, so it’s going to be interesting to see what happens. Any coaching death watch predictions then? Who will be next to go?

S: In the Chinese Super League, making such predictions is foolhardy at best. All manner of bizarre, unexpected and puzzling developments can occur at anytime without warning.

B: Yeah, we’ve already seen 3 (4?) managers leave in the first 9 matches, so who knows what’s next. Think it’s time to bring this gathering to a close?

S: Yeah I think so. Are you planning a victory booze-up on the bus on the way back from Zhengzhou this weekend?

B: I hope that will be in order. And for you? Post-match hotpot?

S: Pre-match hotpot. Plus the game is on Saturday night, the weather is getting nicer, the girls clothes are getting more revealing – I think that all adds up to a post-match night out with the lads.

B: Good on ya!Enjoy.

S: Cheers B. Until next time.

B: Cheers to a great weekend.

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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