Guangzhou last came to Gongti as an average side low on talent but very scrappy. That was October 2009, Guoan’s title hopes rested heavily on that match. I was just married, happy and very agreeable, so I didn’t push back when my wife proposed a couple days outside the city in Miyun.
As matchday got closer, I started regretting the decision and dropping hints that I’d like to go. Again, I was just married and because of that my wife wasn’t going to “put her foot down”, it didn’t take too much before she agreed to let me go. It was only after I left for the city, an over two hour ride, that I realized my apartment key was in Miyun (and of course my match ticket was at home). I dropped 40 kuai to get one from a scalper, sat in the 11th upper (a weird experience) and watched Beijing cruise to a 2-0 victory. Hopes were raised that Guoan would win the title. I was so happy I didn’t mind the two hour return trip to Miyun that night.
The Guangzhou side Guoan faced that day was very different from the one they’ll play tonight. Different ownership, name, colors, manager, and players. The star of that side, Xu Liang, now plays for Beijing. When foreign media mention this team and talk about the 2009 side, they are doing an injustice to the present team.
My dislike of Guangzhou is different and less visceral from my hatred of our traditional rivals. It’s all about the money and how they’ve thrown it around (not to mention their tapping up Guoan’s keeper). It’s also tinged with jealousy that the spending was able to produce the desired result so quickly.
Perhaps Guoan is to blame for Guangzhou’s run, maybe it was their coming from behind twice (including a last minute equalizer) that gave the side confidence that they were unbeatable. It’s time for the capital side to kill that confidence, hopefully bringing the southerners back down to earth. My trip won’t be as long tonight as it was two seasons ago, but make no mistake, this game is almost as important as that one was.