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Dalian Aerbin and Guangzhou Fuli Promoted to the CSL

Dalian celebrate their title
Dalian celebrate their title

Aerbin celebrates winning the China League

Dalian Aerbin wrapped up the China League title two weeks back, but the final promotion spot was solidified this past weekend when Guangzhou Fuli defeated Shanghai East Asia while Guangdong Sunray Cave lost to Yanbian. We don’t talk a lot about the China League here, but this has been an interesting season in the lower league with a decent promotion battle and a lot going on at the bottom of the table too.

From early on, it always looked like Dalian would be headed to the top flight, the club ran away taking maximum points in their first 8 matches and continuing on cruise control through the season. The team management includes former Dalian Shide and China star Li Ming and on the pitch they feature Johnny Woodly Lambert, who previously put up big numbers in the Chinese Super League with Chongqing and Changchun (and leads in the China League having scored 13 goals). The club currently plays their home matches at the tiny Dalian University Stadium, which only holds 10,000 people and is located on the outskirts of the city. With this in mind and with one team already in Dalian, this correspondent wonders if Aerbin will remain in Dalian when the 2012 season comes around. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the club was bought and relocated elsewhere around China, a quick way to get your city a Chinese Super League club that lacks a history or connection to any city. It is also possible the club will choose a stadium elsewhere in the province, with options in Fushun, Anshan, and Shenyang, all venues used before by Liaoning Whowin. However, the club has done what it can to promote itself locally, and so it could end up being that they enter a ground sharing agreement with Shide and play their home matches at Jinzhou Stadium.

Lacking history isn’t something that Guangzhou Fuli can be accused of, the side that used to be Changsha Jinde was relegated from the Chinese Super League last year and moved to Shenzhen where they were renamed Shenzhen Mazamba. Halfway through the season, Mazamba stopped paying the club’s salaries and it looked like the club was going to split up as players started heading home and the management lacked the money to send them to an away match in Shenyang. Fast forward a few days and R&F Properties, a major real estate company, stepped in and purchased the club, promising massive investment. The new management team moved the club from Dongguan to its home city of Guangzhou, brought in Marlon Harewood, and quickly went from mid-table mediocrity to the middle of the promotion chase. In the end, they just pipped fellow Guangzhou side Guangdong Sunray Cave 47 points to 43 points.

It appears R&F’s interest in football was piqued when watching the footballing success of Evergrande. The two are among the most powerful real estate firms in China (and specifically within Guangdong province) and it looks like R&F want to show that whatever Evergrande can do, they can do better. While we speculated last week about what teams out there had “ambition” in Arie Haan’s eyes, it seems like he’s found one, as speculation is that Haan has already signed on with R&F. The rumor mill has been churning and it appears that Haan is likely to go after a number of the non-Tianjin locals he brought to the club, including bringing Wu Wei’an home to Guangdong and also potentially purchasing Chen Tao, Li Weifeng, and Wang Xinxin among others.

At the very least, it looks like for the first time ever in the Chinese Super League era, there will be two local derbies to enjoy next year. While it’s unlikely Aerbin will be able to siphon Shide fans, if R&F spends the money they are expected to, they’ll be able to attract some of the “Johnny Come Lately” Evergrande fans.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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