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Pub Talk: Cudgels drawn for FIFA bashing as CSL takes a break

beers lined upBCheng and the Editor regularly meet to pontificate on about whats going on in the Chinese game.  This week the Chinese Super League takes a break, so the rambling pair turn their attention to corruption in Korea, corruption in FIFA, why no big-name players come to the Chinese Super League anymore, and Bcheng’s excitement over an upcoming road trip to see his beloved Guoan.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan):I’m on a high right now, can we pretend the break isn’t just for a week and that the season’s over?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua):Sounds like you are high on some illegal substance if you think its possible to end the season in May. But well, I shouldn’t joke. This is the Chinese Super League we are talking about after all, anything can happen!

B: Hell, all the Euro leagues end in May, let’s just end the Chinese Super League now.

S: I think your desire to see the season reach a premature end may have something to do with a certain green-shirted team sitting at the top of the table right now.

B: Yeah, it has a lot to do with that, we got through the first two months looking really impressive, it’s the next two that are going to show if we’re for real or not.

S: I think you guys have had it easy, frankly.

B: Easy?

S: Yes, Shenzhen and Nanchang your recent opponents. Hardly championship contenders.

B: We haven’t faced the likes of Shenhua, Tianjin, and Shandong yet, but we have played Guangzhou, Hangzhou, and Liaoning. Granted, we only have 2 points to show for those 3 matches, but 2 of them were road matches.

S: Ok. Well, we keep saying its early days, and that’s because it is. Beijing have scored a lot of goals though, I’ll give you that. How was the actual match itself last week, how did you feel after it?

B: Well, we’re one match shy from a third of the way through the season. And you can only beat the teams on your schedule, plus the old Guoan would have had a slipup or two (like tying Qingdao or Changchun). Monday’s match was a lot of fun, Guoan controlled it from start to finish and its really been an unbelievable run they’ve been on. Your Shenhua boys had a big win this past weekend too

S: Yeah, it was a game Shenhua controlled from start to finish and they could have scored more. Feng Renliang wasn’t playing, and Riascos was only on the bench and came on to replace Salermon. Speaking of which, I think Riascos leaving isn’t going to be as big an issue as we feared.

B: Well, yeah, if Salermon can continue scoring like that things will be fine.

S: It will be interesting to see who we pick up to replace Riascos. I hope its someone markedly better than the local players. All too often we see foreign players get signed and they are no better than the Chinese players, these guys are a waste of a squad place.

B: Definitely, or in Guoan’s case, they don’t even show up. I’m also very curious to see what kind of pickups we can get when the transfer window reopens. Roberto’s contract is up soon too, so we could see them replacing two foreigners, but I hope they give the big Brazilian some more time

S: Do you think we will ever see a return to The Chinese Super League signing big-name foreign players at the end of their careers? The last foreigner signed by Shenhua that I had actually heard of before he joined the club was the former Germany striker Carsten Jancker, back in 2006. And his performances were rank rotten for Shenhua.

B: Not really, the MLS has sort of cornered the market on that. I’m really surprised nobody tried to swoop in for Kezman though.

S: Well, thats just what I was going to say. Not only him, but Nicky Butt were playing in the HK league until just very recently. Say what you like about the Chinese Super League, but its surely got more draw than the HK League.

B: Definitely. But I still think the MLS is going to beat out the Chinese Super League almost every time.

S: But doesn’t the Chinese Super League have more money, at least, the club owners? Plus there is limited space for foreign stars in the MLS, they can’t all go there?

B: True, the Chinese Super League can offer a competitive salary and one of these days they’ll be able to get their hands on somebody.

S: But we should really give Guangzhou kudos for bringing someone of Cleo’s quality to the Chinese Super League. He’s someone who was scoring in the champion$ league for Partizan, now he’s in the Chinese Super League and he’s not even 25 yet I don’t think.

B: That was a big pickup, not only that, but also attracting the Korean who was at Bolton(?), but Guangzhou seemed to have all the money in the world.

S: Yeah. So, high-scoring wins for both our sides in last weekend, so pub talk is happy all round this week. No games this weekend, its an international break as China take on Uzbekistan and then North Korea. Maybe we can broaden our scope to discuss something more general?

B: Both of those matches should be fun, those sides are starting to emerge as part of the 2nd tier of clubs in Asia, North Korea even made it to the World Cup, so it should be a good test for Gao’s men.

S: China seems to focus a lot on playing other Asian teams. How excited do you get for national team games, compared with how you look forward to watching Guoan?

B: I follow the national team pretty closely, but it’s hard getting up for it when all they ever seem to play is meaningless friendlies. Plus, Guoan has hopes to win a title, you’d have to be dreaming to think the national team could even win something in Asia. What about you? Just want to see Feng match up against some new competition?

S: As a foreigner who has lived in China for a while, I just understand the power of the game to lift people’s spirits and give them a break from their routine. I like to see the Chinese national team do well, regardless of who plays for them, but it would be great to see Feng Renliang or some other Shenhua players get some recognition on the international stage.

B: I’m an out and out fan of the team, but it’s just hard without any major competitions and with how things have gone, Gao seemed to have things back on track, but the Asian Cup was a disaster. It will be interesting to see if he can right the ship this weekend.

S: Yeah I don’t think China’s team is lacking in talent compared to the rest of Asia. I think it’s more confidence and mindset.

B: Speaking of the rest of Asia,what do you think about the Korean scandal or what’s going on at FIFA?

S: The FIFA situation is beyond a joke. I’m not sure how Blatter can claim any sort of legitimacy at all and I’m shocked he was not opposed by more nations. I think I might dedicate a post to it actually. I mean, what kind of election has only one candidate? You couldn’t make it up, its like a tinpot dictatorship farce.

B: Yeah, term limits are a must at FIFA, but come on, Jack Warner? Mohamed Bin Hammam as the “change candidate”? That’s just taking the money out of one pocket and putting it into another.

S: I applaud the English FA for taking a stand, and deplore those FAs which didn’t. FIFA is corrupt to the core, how the fuck can Qatar get the world cup? It’s a fucking joke.

B: Yes, but it looks like sour grapes when it comes AFTER they failed to win the World Cup.

S: Maybe it looks that way, but its clear there are serious issues at FIFA, there is a complete lack of transparency in the World Cup host voting process and someone had to take a stand. I just don’t understand how it could be agreed that a World Cup be staged in the middle of the desert where its 50c, where no stadiums have been built yet, where there’s population of just 1.5 million which doesn’t watch the local league, it cant fill its own stadium for its own games in the Asian cup, it never qualified for the world cup before.

B: I can never get over that population size, or worse, the size of the country. Qatar is smaller than Beijing!!! And they’re going to host a World Cup? I can see why they got the vote, a new market, pie in the sky promises, but I can’t believe they won out, especially with a potential China bid looming if it didn’t go to Asia.

S: I can’t believe that they won that vote fair and square. It just so happens that Qatar is filthy rich from oil. I think its just fantasy for anyone to entertain the notion that Qatar didn’t buy votes.
People can say what they like about the standard of Chinese football. But its better than Qatar’s and China would be able to host a World Cup with relative ease. I think they made a mistake not entering the bidding for 2022.

B: Oh, they didn’t make a mistake, they made a MASSIVE one, which sort of makes all the new stadiums going up pretty embarrassing. Plus, other than England and the US, China’s probably the one other country IN THE WORLD that has all the venues in place, no renovations or new stadiums needed.MS
There is “buying” votes and buying votes, but the promises of donating stadiums to poorer countries certainly didn’t hurt Qatar’s odds.

S: I agree that China’s infrastructure is already in place to host. But Qatar’s stadium plans were just pie in the sky as you said. The case for playing the world cup in a tiny desert state just isn’t there. It should have gone to Australia in my view, or the USA.

B: Haha, I think we’ve beaten this one into the ground. What about revelations that it isn’t only the Chinese Super League that has to deal with dirty players, the K-League has dealt with a bit of match-fixing lately.

S: As far as the K-League fixing scandal goes, it just goes to show what I always say – match fixing is by no means a problem only in China.

B: But is it a problem only in Asia or are the other leagues better at covering it up?

S: It’s not necessarily being covered up elsewhere. Serie A had a big scandal a couple of years back, there was also match fixing in Germany, probably the last place you’d expect it. Plus you might know Matthew Le Tissier, he was a huge star at Southampton FC in the 90s, he admitted betting on games he was playing in on things like, how long it would take before the first throw-in was awarded.

B: The Serie A/Juventus scandal, as far as I know, didn’t involve the players though and these seem to be more isolated events, and on the topic of Le Tiss, there’s the scandal involving his one time teammate, Bruce Grobbelaar.

S: That’s right. But I’m just saying, corruption occurs in other leagues.

B: True, I just think nowadays, there’s too much for the top European league players to lose in terms of salary, endorsements, etc to involve themselves in these antics. It’s sad to see, but it also shows that China isn’t so isolated in this regard.

S: So, Pub Talk has been a bit heavy this week. I suppose that’s what happens when we don’t have the Chinese Super League this weekend to talk about!

B: Even without league matches, there’s still plenty to discuss, that’s for sure. I can’t wait for the league to get started again, next weekend’s going to see a couple hundred of us heading down to Zhengzhou, fun times!

S: You mean the weekend after next? You signed up for an away match?

B: Well, I’m getting a little ahead of myself because the weekend’s almost here, so it’s still next week (the 11th) to me. Yeah, signed up, paid up, and ready with my green!

S: Good skills – hope you enjoy the trip. Well, I think we have banged the footballing world to rights this week. Anything more to add before we call it a night?

B: Guoan’s #1! Cheers and have a great long weekend!

S: Haha. I’ll drink to that, the holiday weekend, that is!

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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