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Pub Talk: Beijing v Shandong the match to watch

beers lined upBCheng and the Editor once again meet up to pontificate on recent happenings in the Chinese game. This week, the dynamic duo solve all of China’s football problems in one Pub Talk, Bcheng becomes a nervous wreck ahead of his side’s big game, whilst the Editor looks back on THAT game, and once again indulges himself over large-testicled comic book characters.

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): So lets get the big elephant sitting in the room out of the way – A night at Hangtai. Any developments since last weekend’s shenanigans?

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): It is what it is…sort of all talked out about it now, the league has yet to do anything, the CFA has yet to do anything, and there’s a lot of debate over liability for the seats and buses…

S: Yeah your story has been the only English language one out there and attracted a lot of attention. How do you feel about it nearly a week later?

B: It was the only GOOD piece on the incident. There was this asinine piece in the China Daily saying the “riot” was due to the late penalty kick given (things had long since been subdued by that point)…I’m still frustrated by what happened, but kind of just want to get past it, focusing on this weekend’s match and feeling nervous.

S: The China Daily is lacking in credibility, hence I hadn’t even seen that piece.

B:It’s the China Daily, what would you expect? Regarding another story on the site this week, seems Wang Jianlin isn’t only investing in the national team, he’s putting RMB 3 billion into the Chinese Super League over the next 10 years and his Wanda Group appear likely to be the league’s new title sponsor.

S: I’d welcome that news, but I hope the money is spent wisely. Do you think that is likely?

B: Well, he’s also committing to sending 30 young players to play and study in Europe and/or South America each year, so that should be good news.

S: China did that before, sending some players to Brazil – doesn’t look like it had any lasting effect, if any.

B: Well, the Jianlibao team that went to Brazil actually had a big impact, it’s unfortunate that it didn’t continue.

S: That’s what I’m saying, no lasting effect, no legacy.

B: Well, it was a short term thing, but if you look at the names that went, almost all of them are recognizable, and the Lis (Li Tie, Li Weifeng, and Li Jinyu) did the best of all, a solid player at Everton before an injury, a captain of the national team, and the Chinese Super League all time leading scorer. It’s an interesting piece of history, I plan on writing about it (but maybe not until the off-season). Xu Yunlong (Beijing captain) and Sun Jihai were two of the final players that got cut from the team and didn’t get to go to Brazil.

S: That is good – but I’m not sure its practical to continually send players overseas in that way. I would like the see the money invested more in grass roots football in China, since it appears to be sadly lacking at present. It’s difficult to find anywhere to play football in Shanghai, for example.

B: I agree to an extent, but you aren’t going to get the youth leagues that you have in the US and UK, where kids just play football for fun on the weekends, especially in the cities. So spending the money on the best kids from the football schools to receive the best training out there should help the national team, though it won’t grow the game all around.

S: You don’t need youth leagues. You just need spaces where guys and go and kick a ball around. There’s plenty of guys playing basketball in Shanghai, although its true that sport is more suited to urban environments. But more all-weather 5-a-side pitches would make a big difference.

B: The more pitches the better, but the problem is that since it’s an urban area and the pitches are in high demand, they are expensive. It’s unfortunate you don’t really see kids playing street football, or even using the ubiquitous basketball courts as soccer pitches

S: Yeah. So that’s a very comprehensive discussion of China’s football ills there. If only the CFA were avid Pub Talk readers, I think China would be winning the World Cup before long. Don’t you agree?

B: Most definitely, I could run the Chinese Super League, you could take charge of the CFA, and we’d drunkenly hammer our way through it all, no more corruption, no more horrible referees, and (especially this week I’m sure you’re all for it) no more Wu Jinggui and Du Wei!

S: This week I’ve been rammed with my day job, what’s going on with that pair?

B: I just really dislike them…and of course your lot is headed to Yiwu this weekend, you making the trip?

S: Ah I see – being the ex-Shenhua boss and captain. Actually I think Wu Jinggui is still very highly thought of at Shenhua since he won us the title in 2003 (if you ignore the bought the title allegations). Not so Du Wei, he’s said to enjoy gambling a little too much. As for Yiwu, I’m not going, I have some personal commitments

B: I see…Nervous about the match? Both our sides have some big tilts this weekend.

S: I’m just dissapointed the match is not in Hangzhou and we are not all heading down for a weekend of debachery – its a big tourist city and a great place to party. Yiwu is a dump, I’ve been there before. Hangzhou are playing there because their stadium is being rennovated for some disabled games event. i don’t understand why stadiums in China need refurbished every time they host a one-off event

B: I can understand your disappointment, I’m hoping they’ll head back to Hangzhou for the CFA Cup game against Guoan in November (a long way away). As an aside, the disabled sports event is a major one that only happens every four years, and it’s a bit shocking that a stadium in China built in 2000 was not made disabled accessible, but that’s China for you (and for another day).

S: Yes, and not only that, it was refurbished for the woman’s world cup in 2007. So, that’s a joke. They don’t bother to build shit properly around here.

B: So Hangzhou, it’s a big clash, a bit of a local derby element to it, and a crucial match for both sides.

S: It will be a tough game, there’s a lot of familiarity between the two sides, as well as the aforementioned pair Wu and Du, Shen Longyuan is with Hangzhou now, as is Sun Ji. There is also Luis Ramirez, he was with us a few years ago. I thought he was crap but somehow scores a lot of goals. I think it will be a draw, Shenhua struggle against Hangzhou.

B: The table is really starting to take shape, the top 8 are exactly what we both kind of expected, though not quite in the order we thought yet. With that in mind, this is an important match, I think Hangzhou takes it at home.

S: Shenhua rode their luck a bit in their last match. But what a game it was! I don’t think anyone there will forget that game in a hurry. Let’s hope Riascos scores another last minute winner!

B: Speaking of strikers that are leaving soon, Guoan has one of their own, Roberto was only signed to a short term contract and it seems like the club doesn’t want to extend it, especially as Davi is still on the books and they just brought in a 1.94 central defender from the Portugese Primeira Liga.

S: Have Roberto’s bollocks swollen up as well? Lol

B: I’m thinking Guoan’s manager Jamie Pacheco is going to look for someone even better (or is waiting for Davi’s return), though Roberto performed really well the few times he was given a shot, not really sure, but have to have faith in Pacheco (who is now publicly lobbying for a contract extension).

S: I thought Buster “Davi” Gonad had already left, Or were his balls too big to get out of Gongti’s front entrance?

B: You get a little too much enjoyment out of that story, me thinks. He’s gone, but I believe he’s still technically under contract with the cluband there’s hope his erm…condition will be okay soon.

S: Ha ha ha. I am just a long-time fan of the Viz. A lot of our readers won’t know what that is, but follow that link, Buster Gonad is a character from that comic book. Besides, this is certianly pub-worthy material! Anyway, enough about Buster, your boys have a big game this weekend. How do you think that’s going to pan out?

B: I’m a nervous wreck leading up to most games, though our schedule has left me fairly calm as of late, but I’m concerned about Saturday night. I’m hoping for a win and think we play much stronger at Gongti than we do elsewhere, but it’s going to be intense.

S: Shandong started slowly but they’ve steadied the ship and are only 5 points off the lead, that’s not an awful lot with only a third of the season gone. Do you think Shandong are going to be tough opponents, or they off the pace this year?

B: They are definitely still tough, they still have Roda Antar who is one of the league’s best players in my opinion, and Han Peng’s a hell of a player. Players like Deng Zhuoxiang and Zhou Haibin haven’t stepped up yet. They’ve gone through some internal turmoil, but they are certainly going to be a tough opponent and should be a title contender. A win for them Saturday night will help move them up the table, so it’s going to be a really charged game, especially as they’ll surely have fans making the trip.

S: Antar and Peng would be in a Chinese Super League all star team for sure – and I think players of that calibre in Jinan’s side, makes Guoan v Shandong this week’s choice match.

B: Definitely, this one and the one in Yiwu are going to be very exciting. I also think a rematch of that crazy CFA cup penalty shootout between Guangzhou and Shaanxi are worthy of Chinese Super League fan attention.

S: Yes, I was just about to mention that. But you have to hand it to Guangzhou, they are getting bums on seats, not only at their own place but also on the road also, with their big money line up. Speaking of which, stories in the press this week that Guangzhou are offering 15 million RMB for Feng Renliang, but Shenhua have ignored their offer. Frankly I think they should tell Guangzhou to fuck off.

B: It wouldn’t surprise me if it happens sooner rather than later, they’re trying to recreate the national team. When they start trying to buy Yang Zhi again I’ll join you in telling them to fuck off.

S: Yes, it’s all getting a bit to Man City for me. On another note, I’m glad to see Kenneth finally got round to posting a match report on Shenhua v Jiangsu, its great to see two contributors give their take on the perspective for each side, are you looking forward to when we can indulge ourselves for the 京户大战 Jing-Hu Dazhan?

B: It will be fun, but I can’t even think about that yet, the next half month will be incredibly stressful, all derbies (or like this Shandong match, almost reaching derby level)…Shandong, Tianjin, and then Shanghai (with Changchun in between).

S: It sounds like you are expecting Guoan’s season to start falling apart at any moment.

B: I wouldn’t say that. Pacheco has them on track, and Piao Cheng will be back soon, but this is going to determine a lot, they could put their stamp on this season and take charge over the next four matches (or as you say, fall apart). Our sides seem to have the opposite problem.

S: Whats that?

B: Shenhua have done well against the top sides, with impressive wins over Tianjin and Shandong, but have struggled against weaker teams. Guoan has struggled with the top sides (2 points against Hangzhou, Liaoning, and Guangzhou), but have pounded the weaker ones (with the exception of Henan).

S: Yes this is vintage Shenhua – beating big teams, especially at home, then treading on bottom-of-the-league bananna skins.

B: Equally vintage Guoan, we’ll probably just draw against all the better sides.

S: Yeah. Well, I think that just about wraps it up for another week B. Anything you want to say before we finish off these virtual pints?

B: While I’m hoping for 3 points for Beijing, my newest cause is to see Henan get relegated, so Go Qingdao! That’s it, no more from me, cheers to a great weekend!

S: Ha ha that’s a fair call on Henan. Have a good one, enjoy the big match!

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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