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Pub Talk: Guangzhou lose at last!

This week in their regular pub discussion, Bcheng and the editor discuss a very exciting development in the Chinese Super League – Guangzhou losing their first game all season. The pair share their views on Guangzhou’s false position of dominance, and cast glances to the other end of the Chinese Super League, where the relegation battle is heating up. Elsewhere, once again the editor tries to avoid discussing another embarassing Shenhua result, and the Chinese Super League cup provides a welcome distraction this week. Meanwhile, dodgy badges, Feng Renliang’s rumoured move to Spurs, Shenhua playing home games in other cities, Bcheng filling empty beer bottles with urine for Henan,  and greedy marketing fat cats ruining player’s careers in order to sell a few jerseys are the topics on the agenda as the pair down a few virtual pints once ore.

B. Cheng (Beijing Guoan): A big Chinese Super League weekend past, the CFA Cup quarterfinals, and another interesting weekend of matches coming up, we have a lot to discuss, don’t we?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): We do indeed. It’s a relief, the last few weeks things have been a bit stangant.

B: Should we start at the last weekend? Seeing Guangzhou lose is sure reason for all to rejoice.

S: It certainly is. And at last, it showed what we have been saying in the pub all season, that Guangzhou aren’t as good as they seem on paper.

B: Exactly, its up to the top few teams to spend a little money, all that’s needed is one or two players and they’ll be able to compete with Guangzhou. They are strong, but they are beatable.

S: Yeah. I mean, I am not saying they aren’t going to be worthy winners of the Chinese Super League. They’ve been the best team from start to finish. I just think the big gap at the top and their hitherto long unbeaten streak were more down to them getting the breaks, than any overwhelming dominance as the Chinese Super League table suggests.

B: Totally agree, they’ve gotten a lot of breaks this year, they’ve gotten a ton of late equalizers in the last 10-15 minutes to keep that unbeaten streak alive. They also haven’t impressed against the leagues strong sides, often drawing. They have Tianjin this week, who looked good in the cup, could we see Guangzhou lose two in a row?

S: I hope so. I can see why people think Guangzhou are dominating it, because on paper their squad is so good, not just the likes of Muriqiu, Conca and Cleo, but top Chinese players like Gao Lin and Zhengzhi, who are playing a key role in the team. So at least, I’m happy that Guangzhou’s success isn’t all down to the big bucks foreign players.

B: Yes, Gao Lin has been crucial for them. If you aren’t watching the games and just looking at the table, it’s a huge gap, but when you actually look at the results, it tells a different story. Then again, the second place side hasn’t managed to beat many of the top sides either. It seems more often than not when top Chinese Super League teams meet, the matches inevitably will end in draws.

S: That’s often the case. So what about all these transfer rumours going around then? Our story about Feng Renliang was the first published in the English language net, now ESPN is all over it. You read it here first folks!

B: Yeah, it’s no surprise, like I said in my follow up on the other players that are garnering some interest, while I don’t always believe all the rumors, the Euro clubs have taken the best talent from Korea and Japan, they’re looking for new markets, and China’s a great choice because the “market” isn’t only about the players.

S: That’s exactly right. I think what we are doing well is filtering out some of the more baseless rumours. For example, Feng was linked with numerous “European teams” according to the Chinese media, but we didn’t report any of that until they mentioned a solid name – Tottenham Hotspur. One of our regular readers Yiddo, a Spurs fan, said he hadn’t seen it on any of the Spurs forums… but that’s because it wasnt anywhere in the English language net. Anyway, Feng has the talent to succeed at a high level but he’s still so raw. Maybe the EPL would be a good place for him to develop. But as you say, the last time a Chinese player went to the Chinese Super League, it was all about selling jersey’s in China. Yawn.

B: I think you’re thinking of Dong, he wasn’t quite the last Chinese to the EPL (Zheng Zhi was in between), but yes, I think clubs have advanced a little more, they are looking at a player for his skill more than anything, but at the same time, in the back of their minds is definitely gaining entry into the Chinese market.

S: Right, I was thinking of Dong. Manchester United ruined that guys career. He wasn’t good enough for the EPL never mind Man U. It was just the usual market forces which have nothing to do with the game itself and never benefit it. They just wanted to sell jerseys in China. But the stupid arseholes don’t even realise no-one buys jerseys in China anyway, so, it was a total waste of everyone’s time.

B: Is all this Feng talk because you want to avoid talking about the fact Shanghai lost to a team that has only won 2 games previously?

S: Yes, yet another embarrassing result, where will it end?

B: On the jersey point, I think A LOT of people buy jerseys, but they aren’t going to buy one of somebody who is sitting on the bench, or not even in the lineup. If he’s on the field and scoring, he’ll get attention, but that’s it. As for Shanghai…Well…That loss to Chengdu was truly embarassing, it doesn’t get much lower, though winning in the CFA Cup has to have your spirits up.

S: Yes, a 1-0 win against mighty Yanbian of the second division, who are fighting relegation to the third tier. Maybe if we had played the game at our home stadium, instead of a city hundreds of miles away, there might have been a better result.

B: Have you heard anything about crowd numbers? I’d actually say it looked like one of your bigger crowds this year. Granted, a lot of that’s due to the novelty of it, but there was a very respectable crowd.

S: I read that there was about 20,000 there. That is about twice the size they would have gotten at Hongkou. But that’s not the point.

B: True.

S: If shenhua had played as shit as they have done all season this year, expect they played all their games in that farm town, I forgot what the fuck its called, then their crowd numbers would have been even more depressing.

B: I expect you are right. I’m not sure we’ll get to the final, but if we can, it will be a tasty clash either way, Shanghai or Tianjin, its going to be a fun one.

S: Yeah I applaud the return of the cup, I’m puzzled as to why it was away so long. Now I think all the clubs need to get behind it and build a culture for it and make it prestigious.

B: I think you’re seeing that this year, teams are taking it seriously. You look at the final four, other than Guoan, winning the cup is likely these sides only shot at getting into Asia. That said, a kit note, it was funny to see a cup patch hastily introduced last night and just pasted on over the league patch.

S: Haha. I didn’t see that. Sounds very typical indeed.

B:  The patch was massive, but you can see especially on the player in the middle (24?) how haphazard it was.

S: Typical. Everything is half-baked in the Chinese Super League. I’m glad you are able to indulge your kit fetish in the pub though.

B: Haha, and I’m still waiting for the new China kit to be released. I’m just happy Guoan finally won, we’ve talked about Guangzhou a little, when you look at the clubs in the top 10, Guoan has played most of them twice, they’ve had 14 matches against them, and only won 3.

B: Haha, of those 3, we have Jiangsu to thank for 2 of them.

S: This is Guoan’s old problem right? Can never produce it against the big boys.

B: It’s not so much they can’t produce, they’ve only lost three matches (all to sides at the top), but they can only manage enough for a draw, they can’t fight, can’t push past that.

S: I think Beijing have been the only team though to be consistent this year outside of Guangzhou. The rest of the chasing pack have been up and down, look how tight it is for the remaining ACL spots.

B: Well, Changchun deserves to be included in that, they snuck up on everybody because they were drawing a lot, something like 9 draws in the first 20 matches, so they were lurking, and have finally started winning. Outside of those three, yes, sides have been consistent, consistently all over the place. Liaoning has 10 wins, but 7 draws, and 7 losses, look at Jiangsu, only 4 draws, but 10 wins and 10 losses, Shandong and Hangzhou both have 9 wins, 7 draws, 8 losses. These sides are truly all over the place.

S: Right. But what about the relegation battle? I noticed on your round up posts, Shenhua is the only team not mentioned in either the ACL or relegation battles.

B: I think the relegation battle has made itself pretty clear, there are 3 sides and 2 will go down. I doubt Dalian or Shanghai can be pulled into it. None have easy matches this weekend.

S: I think Shenhua are safe, but only because there’s only 5 games left, if this was the middle of the season, or even 2/3 of the way through, I’d be crapping my pants, frankly.

B: Six games left, but I agree, you’re safe, though in the end it may look a little closer than it really was, this is something nobody was expecting.

S: It certainly wasn’t. We both joked about each other’s pre-season predictions at the start of the year, and that at least one of us may be wiping egg from their face by the time the fat lady sings. Well, looks like I have a giant omlette coming my way

B: That’s what happens when you try to make predictions about the Chinese Super League. For half the year, you were title contenders, now you’re just outside the relegation battle. That’s how things work here…So who you got this weekend?

S: We are away to Jiangsu Sainty. That’s going to be a tough fixture to say the least. I hope Kenneth is able to give us another one of his great match reports. It’s sobering to note that we have only won once since THAT game against Sainty at Hongkou back in May.

B: It should be a great environment, sure a lot of Shenhua fans will make the trip. This weekend’s going to be interesting, there is only one (well two) matches that I’d say I’m confident to predict, everything else, I believe anything can happen.

S: Guangzhou v Tianjin stands out of me, as you highlighted earlier at the top of the show.

B: That definitely should be an entertaining one, Hangzhou-Shaanxi should be a good one too, both lost midweek and now one side’s ACL hopes are likely to end as well.Hopefully we’ll see some scoring, real end-to-end play as everyone needs points, draws don’t serve anybody at this stage in the season.

S: Ok But looking at this weekend’s fixture card, there’s one question just burning on the lips of all long-standing readers which I believe is aimed in your direction.

B: Ah yes, I’m already trying to downplay this…

S: Are you going to pee into some empty Yanjing bottles to prepare a “surprise” for Henan, after a certain incident earlier this season?

B: We are far more “cultured” than that here in Beijing, its either because of that or the fact the police won’t let us get within a mile of any Henan fans who make the trip.

S: That’s not a surprise. Speaking of Shenanigans, I saw these interesting pictures of some toe-to-toeing between Beijing and Shenzhen, what’s going on here?

B: I’m a little sick of Guoan fans who are talking a lot of shit online about what they will do. They know they can’t get anywhere near the away fans on Saturday night, and I doubt anybody’s going to the reserve game on Sunday with the intention of starting a battle.

S: What is being said on the Guoan forums? Give us a taste of the rhetoric.

B: There’s a lot of talk about revenge, and a lot of talk targeted at one Henan player in particular, he was the one who Xu Liang famously threatened would have to be careful for his legs the next time the sides met.

S: Sounds pretty intense.

B: As for what happened in Shenzhen, it wasn’t too bad, but that’s what happens when you’re side is bound for relegation and you’re losing 2-0, you get bored and turn your anger on the away fans.We’re happy to take on Millwall’s famous “Nobody likes us, we don’t care.”

S: Hahah. Yes Guoan are not liked anywhere. Quite surprising given the fact that you guys haven’t exactly dominated the Chinese football scene over the years.

B: I would say it’s because we travel better than most sides (we had 10 or so fans who went from Beijing to Changchun on last Wednesday, then to Shenzhen on Saturday and then from Shenzhen to Jiaxing midweek, and are finally back to Beijing) and we have away fans at all matches, not everyone has that.

B: You can’t get any further away from Beijing than Shenzhen in the Chinese Super League, and we still had 40-50 fans make the trip.

S: I have to admit that’s impressive. So, we’ve covered a lot of ground this week. Anything else before we drink up?

B: I’m still basking in the glory of our cup success, debating making the trip to the semifinal…Here’s to a Guoan-Shenhua cup final!!

S: Yes, that would be an unexpectedly exciting end to a rather dull season. I lift my glass to that.

B: Cheers!

S: Cheers B.

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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