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Pub Talk: Peek ahead to the China Derby…

It’s that time again – beers lined upBcheng and the Editor meet for their regular Pub Talk feature, in which they mercilessly bang Chinese football to rights. This week, in a specially-extended virtual drinking session, the pair cautiously tip-toe around a certain match between a certain two teams next mid-week, and Bcheng laments over his inability to indulge his Arsenal fetish this summer. Meanwhile, the Editor cuts loose on glory hunting fans following big European clubs, and reveals that he’s shamefully headed for a weekend on the beach down in Xiamen instead of going to the Shenhua game.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): Have you heard about Guangzhou’s offer for Feng?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): Yeah I read about it. I read Shenhua had ignored it.

B: RMB18 million?!? That’s kinda hard to ignore. Almost US$3 million for a young player who has potential, but isn’t all that dominant yet.

S: I think 18 million isn’t as much as they could get if they held onto him for a few years and sold him to a European team…

B: That’s taking a major gamble. And Henan only paid RMB 3 million for Flores, who was Aussie player of the year.

S: Hes maybe out of contract.

B: True, not sure about his contract status. But think what Shanghai could get with that money.

S: Im a great believer in a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush 18 million RMB… I’m not sure what Shenhua could usefully do with that money. Because foreign players are always such a gamble, you can never tell if they will be able to hack it in china or not.

B: True.

S: Domestic players…. well, not many to choose from. I would only sell Feng if the offer was truly stupid 18 million… that’s only 1.8 million pounds, that’s nothing.

B: That’s a pretty massive offer, I’d imagine it would be a Chinese Super League record, but not sure.

S: I’m not sure how much Chinese players have left for before. But what would it say about Shenhua’s ambitions when they are in 2nd place 5 points off the leaders and selling their best player? Selling Feng would be like admitting they cant win the league.

B: You see him week in, week out, but from what I’ve seen of Feng outside of the Tianjin match this year, not really sure he’s deserving of the hype.

S: Yeah for sure its still potential mainly. Plus i would say this year he has been much more inconsistent.

B: The more this season goes on, the more it seems there could be a fix in for Guangzhou.

S: What do you mean?

B: It’s impossible to believe, because its too widespread effecting a lot of referees and the decision makers at CFA. But it just seems like Guangzhou is getting all the calls and Guoan keeps getting screwed over. It is completely irrational to say that they’ve paid off that many referees AND some CFA officials.

S: I saw Guangzhou’s penalties against Jiangsu, they weren’t that bad.

B: The first one was pretty straightforward, the second one was…meh… On another subject, I’m at the point where I can’t be bothered about the 8 game suspension, it’s just so absurd.

S: For Pacheo? Ridiculous, he gave someone the finger, so what? Personally I like to see managers and players getting emotional. As long as there’s no violence, I don’t see what the problem is.

B: Exactly, and it’s a first time offense….just hope this doesn’t sour him on China. Did you see this? about Marco Flores? This guy could really be the Chinese Super League’s Marbury if he makes an effort like that here.

S: That’s really interesting. It’s good to see players connecting with the fans. But I’m wondering if money doesn’t count as he suggests, then why is he moving to Henan?

B: : Will be interested if he keeps up all the PR stuff in Zhengzhou. The Chinese Super League really needs a player like that. Not sure if it’s the club that can’t hang on to him based on transfer fees or what. Anyways, good to have him, if he’s as good as all the talk, will be interesting to watch.

S: Indeed.

B: There is also this report on his move. I especially like this quote “It’s very hard to compete with the money and conditions that are available in the Chinese Super League. All we can do is the best we can to keep players in South Australia,” Not sure about the “conditions” part, but it’s still amazing to think that the Chinese Super League has this kind of power/draw.

S: It’s the psychological affect that China is seen as a place with money now. Is the pay that much higher than the A-League? I’m sure it is, but I don’t think there will be a huge difference.

B: I think for foreigners, yeah, it can be. With all Chinese Super League teams losing money, I have no idea where the money is coming from (rich benefactors and local governments most likely), but its hard to imagine this crappy little football league that nobody inside China really pays attention to as being a regional bully when it comes to players.

S: Yeah that is a contradiction. There is no doubt that Chinese Super League clubs must hemorrhage cash. But for sure they are propped up by local governments in most cases.

B: What a way for governments to be spending their money…

S: Long term, its probably a better investment than some of the other ridiculous vanity projects in Shanghai, like trying to build a maglev to Hangzhou, what a waste of money. I can think of a million better ways to spend that money. Seems common sense prevailed in the end and they stuck with high speed rail.

B: True. So, are there any subjects oustide of last week’s matches/this week’s matches that still need to be covered? Did we talk about how the Chinese Super League NEVER cancels games?

S: Umm. I can’t remember.

B: So last week’s matches, your team was playing a sport with a ball in the rain.

S: That’s right – how very odd.

B: BTW I’m going to be out of the country for a couple of weeks in July, I’m only going to miss one game, though the match I’m missing is a big one, away at Hangzhou. And it means I can’t head down there to take in the Arsenal match and then see Guoan play. Still waiting to see what the Chinese Super League will do about all this summer madness. As of now, Tianjin’s scheduled to play in Jiangsu on August 6, but they’re also playing Real Madrid in Tianjin the same day. Hangzhou is supposed to take on Arsenal on the 13th, then play Guoan on the 14th.

S: You must be out of your mind if you want to travel all the way to HZ to see Arsenal reserves.

B: Well, will be in US then. I’d be surprised if they don’t let the starters play a half or so

S: Either way, its meaningless.

B: Not sure when I’m going to make it to London, to see them live in China would be great. I think that’s what a lot of fans think. But yeah, it really depends how they’re going to do it. Barca last year just putting out their starters for 10-15 minutes to meet their contractual requirements was a joke.

S: Exactly, its a joke from start to finish. That there is even some need for contractual agreement in place as to who starts shows you there is something wrong right from the start.

B: Anyways, the one I would be thinking about is the Italian Super Cup, though I’ll probably end up going to Dalian. Ticket prices are crazy, but i’d spend the same amount on train tickets and a hotel.

S: Again, i probably would even bother going if it was in SH. I certainly wouldn’t pay more than 50rmb for a ticket.

B: He he, different thinking….anyways.

S: 450rmb for a fake Milan derby… yup only in China.

B: RMB450?!? that’s if you’re lucky.

S: Whats the going rate?

B: Right now cheapest ticket you can buy is RMB1099

S: Lol. Well there’s a sucker born every minute as they say. If the Italian Cup meant anything at all, the final would not be played outside Italy. That is just a statement of fact, and it seems its lost on people who think its worth paying 1,000 rmb a ticket for. Clearly more money than sense.

B: It’s a way to make money. And they’ll make it.

S: That is true.

B: Obviously none of the games played here matter, but this is a rare chance you’ll see these guys up close. And at least with the Super Cup, you’re likely to see mostly (or entirely) starters for the match.

S: I should certainly hope so. Otherwise it would be an even bigger farce than it already is. Again… I don’t see how this really helps the development of Chinese football, hosting other country’s FA Cup finals.

B: It doesn’t help, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt…It satisfies the fan’s desire to see these guys in person. Inter’s the most beloved team in the country, and the vast majority of Chinese Inter fans will never make it to the San Siro for a match.

S: Well, that’s their fault for supporting a team thousands of miles away from their hometown.

B: Okay, okay….water ball time?

S: Ha ha yeah. I take it you are referring to my report about the Shenhua v Dalian game.

B: Yeah, amazing there were so many goals considering the condition of the pitch.

S: Yes. I was thinking the same. So what do you think about the fact that, “the show must go on come what may” as I put it?

B: It has to be a bitch to play in and if it happened a lot it would be tough, but every now and then, from a fan’s point of view, it adds something different, a bit of excitement or something fresh. I’m sure you can remember back to the days of your youth, kickabouts were always more fun when the weather turned nasty, be it rain or snow.

S: I would have to agree with that. I think its a bit like watching a wet F1 race. Takes different kind of skills. I’m not a purist that way, I mean, I’ve seen so many games in the UK played on what looked like a ploughed potato pitch, so some game played in a downpour now and again on a waterlogged pitch isn’t a big deal I think.

B: It’s sort of refreshing, in this day and age when in the UK, not having under turf heating is considered a major no-no in the top flights, that games would be played in a torrential downpour. Plus, you guys walked away with 3 points, so that ain’t bad.

S: It was a good victory. Dalian is definitely not an easy place to go and pick up 3 points, even if they aren’t the force they used to be. So what else happened last week that got your attention?

B: Obviously there was the Jing-Jin derby, our unbeaten streak continues, but once again we failed to win, 3 straight draws, it’s getting painful.

S: You guys were super lucky. That disallowed goal was a penalty to Tianjin, and your equalizer was offside!

B: Not if you believe what the CFA says! Then again, it’s karma, we’ve gotten screwed over enough times this year, we deserve getting a call that goes our way.

S: If the CFA says its true, we all know its not!

B: The CFA determined that Guoan should have had a penalty and a Tianjin player should have received a red card, which would have meant the equalizer probably came sooner. Plus, the guy who should have gotten the red card was the one who later “fouled” Yang Zhi, so that play would have never happened. So I’m sticking to karma as my explanation.

S: Whats the point in the CFA determining all these things when the decisions can’t be reversed?

B: I’d imagine it’s for referee review, but I don’t know.

S: We are just torturing ourselves trying to work out what goes on inside the heads of those at the CFA.

B: Exactly, I don’t know what goes on , how they come up with their decisions, and to be honest, I don’t want to, that shit’s scary!

S: It certainly is. Without the assistance of mind-altering substances, I think we can’t hope to really make head nor tail of it.

B: Yeah, so who you guys have this fine weekend?

S: We are hosting Nanchang. I still have a bad memory of being gubbed 3-0 by them last year. At home.

B: Should be an easy 3 points for your lot, setting up a big midweek match.

S: I should hope so. But Shenhua have a horrible habit of losing against against clearly inferior opponents. Actually I won’t be at the game, I’m heading to Xiamen this weekend to see from friends there and attend a beach party. It will be the first game I’ve missed at Hongkou this season.

B: Too bad! But on a beach in Xiamen is sure to be a much better place to spend the weekend.

S: It is. But this makes me realise, is this the last Pub Talk before THE big game during next midweek?

B: Yeah, for the sake of our friendship, perhaps that’s a good thing.

S: Heh heh heh. Yeah since we teamed up, our teams have yet to go head-to-head.

B: And this head-to-head meeting is going to mean a lot.

S: Yeah – it will mark the half-way point of the season.

B: Both teams go into the weekend sitting on 23 points, Guoan just ahead due to their three straight 3-0 victories. If Guangzhou keep up the pace they’ve set, a loss on Wednesday is going to really dampen that side’s title hopes.

S: Yeah i have two main concerns about the China Derby, one is that its midweek which makes it very difficult for the Shenhua fans to attend in any number, and two, a draw is going to suit Guangzhou very well, if they keep up their good form as you say.

B: I don’t think the midweek issue matters, even on the weekend, you guys wouldn’t bring that many to Beijing…but yes, a draw certainly helps Guangzhou, that said, we’re only approaching the halfway point.

S: I was with around 100 or so Shenhua in 2007 who took the train up for a whole weekend… its just not possible to do that midweek. So I’m bummed that we can’t do that again.

B: I’m bummed not to be welcoming you to the capital, but anyways, before we get to Wednesday, Guoan can’t look past this weekend, going to Xian’s never easy, as Shenhua have already found out, plus Guangzhou has a hell of a test, we’ll see if they can keep up their streak.

S: Who have you got on Saturday and what are you chances?

B: Shaanxi Chanba, it’s going to be tough. We’re missing Joel Griffiths and Darko Matic due to yellow card accumulation, and that’s one of the hardest away venues to play in, but I’m optimistic.

S: As Shenhua found to their cost. Our former lad Mao Jianqing may enjoy sticking a goal or two past Guoan too….

B: It’s certainly not going to be an easy day, just hoping Hangzhou can help us all out.

S: Yeah this is what I want to talk about… Guangzhou v Hangzhou… or rather, what the title race is going to look like if Guangzhou wins.

B: We’re two matches short of the halfway point (not including this weekend’s). If Guangzhou beats Hangzhou, that’s an impressive away win and they’ll be in the driver’s seat, but the difference is only 5 points, and it’s still early, anything’s possible.

S: Yes but Guangzhou spent a lot of money putting a team together… if they were going to have problems gelling they would have by now. But it’s nearly the half-way point and they are 5 points clear. So I think I would make them favourite to win the league, at this point. But, whatever, let’s hope they crash and burn!

B: They’ve had a solid run of luck so far, but other than an away win over Tianjin, there isn’t much to be impressed about. I think it’s still a pretty open race at this point.

S: I hope you are right. And the chasing pack is certainly very tight, our sides, plus Hangzhou and Shandong, who have battled their way back into contention after a slow start.

B: There’s 7 sides or so who have a realistic shot, even Shaanxi at this point. Let’s hope it stays that way, we’d have a lot to talk about the next few months if that’s the case. Here’s hoping Hangzhou do a favor for us all.

S: We can definitely agree on that. On that note, I think its time to knock back what’s left of these remaining pints…

B: Yeah, have a safe trip and a great time in Xiamen, Cheers!

S: Cheers B-Dog. I will bring back some and sand and Fujian beer fumes.

B: Fortunately you aren’t heading to Beijing this week, otherwise our friendship would be tested.

S: I’m sure it would be fine the next day after a drunken fist-fight.

B: Cheers to that!

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

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. CP

    01/07/2011 at 13:23

    “With all CSL teams losing money, I have no idea where the money is coming from (rich benefactors and local governments most likely), but its hard to imagine this crappy little football league that nobody inside China really pays attention to as being a regional bully when it comes to players.” That’s a great sentence there, succinct and blunt. While I’m glad to know the CSL isn’t cash-strapped, it’s not good to hear that the teams are all losing money but somehow the league is being propped up by local gov’ts or tycoons. It doesn’t bode well for the league’s integrity when bureaucrats (from places where these clubs are from, right?) and tycoons have so much sway. In fact, I’m thinking of corruption right now, not to mention runaway and unsustainable spending (not that Europe esp. England doesn’t have this last problem). One last thing is an influx of foreign “stars” is good, but not if it comes at the expense of local player and youth development and playing opportunities.

    • Yiddo Huayi

      01/07/2011 at 21:50

      Just be thankful your league isn’t cash-strapped!!

      • CP

        02/07/2011 at 12:53

        Actually, where I’m at doesn’t even have a real football league. However it is very close to mainland China.

  2. Eric B

    01/07/2011 at 14:25

    Great post!

    It said that Marcos Flores was offered a three-year deal worth $1 million in Adelaide (which would have made him the highest paid player in the team). But in Henan he can earn $2.4 million in three years. $500,000 is a pretty good deal for Henan, not a good signing. Flores is a playmaker, but I don’t believe there’s a playmaking role in Henan’s strategy.

    I think in A-league, each club has a salary cap around $2 million plus a marquee player or something like that. This really makes A-league less competitive side in Asia. Joel Griffiths was set to be the marquee player in Newcastle Jets (just like Flores), but Guoan easily beat Jets with a contract considered to be a bargain in CSL..

  3. Yiddo Huayi

    03/07/2011 at 03:00

    Just saw the highlights of some of the matches on v.sina. Shenhua must feel hard done by – a very lucky goal. Guoan really are becoming the draw specialists.

    Cleo’s and Gao Lin’s goals for Guangzhou were crackers!

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