Connect with us

Chinese Super League

Pub Talk: The Penultimate…

With the Chinese Super League about to reach its concluson for another year, there’s plenty to mull over in this week’s pub talk. Bizarre goings-on dominate the discussion, from Hangzhou’s curious committe-of-seven new management team, teams changing their names all the time, the prospect of two city derbies next year, and, as always, the unusual conduct of the CFA. Meanwhile, the dynamic duo talk about who is going to be in the ACL next year, with Shanghai Ultra tipping Jiangsu Sainty to grab the last spot. The relegation battle is more or less settled, but excitement may still arise there, and Shenhua, who weren’t far off going down themselves, may have yet another new manager next year, as the pair reveal. Meanwhile, replacements for the head of the CFA are on this week’s agenda, with animals and inanimate objects amongst ‘s suggested candidates.

Bcheng (Beijing Guoan): The champion has been crowned, all but one ACL spot is up for grabs, relegation is more or less set and yet….there is so much to talk about this week.

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): There certainly is. And where, dear Bdog, shall we begin?

B: What do you think? Hangzhou? Tianjin? Guangzhou? Liaoning? or good ol’ Shanghai?

S: Oh…. its hard to say. It’s been an action packed week here at . Lets start with the ACL situation, that is what I have a desire to discuss right now.

B: Well, Guangzhou and Beijing are in, who do you think will grab that third spot?

S: It’s really hard to say. There were some rather surprising results which really threw the race wide open, namely, Liaoning getting beat, and Jiangsu’s stunning 5-2 victory over Guangzhou.

B: On paper, Jiangsu actually has the best shot of everyone, but a lot will depend on the massive clash in Shenyang this weekend, this is one where it really is all on the line.

S: Well with only two games left, and Liaoning 2 points ahead of Changchun, and three ahead of Shandong, Jiangsu and Qingdao, Liaoning are surely in the driving seat. And because Changchun is playing Liaoning as you allude to, that means whatever happens, Jiangsu, plus Shandong and Qingdao can’t move into 3rd place by the close of play this weekend.

B: Plus, Changchun ends the season by hosting Shenzhen while Liaoning have a tough match at Tianjin to end it, so if Changchun can get a result over the weekend, they’d be in a good place.

S: Yeah. I’m afraid my maths leaves something to be desired, there are too many permutations for my feeble brain to calculate. Suffice to say it will all be a lot clearer come Sunday night. I personally hope Jiangsu make it, they have been one of the standout teams this year, had they gotten off to a better start, they may have even been able to challenge for the title.

B: Woah, simmer down there, despite their crushing of Guangzhou this past weekend, I don’t think they ever looked like title contenders. This is still a side that has looked very average much of the year and I think was majorly helped by its midseason pickup of Jevtic.

S: I’m not saying they looking like title contenders, just that if they had gotten off to a better start, they would have been, the foreign players they picked up have obviously clicked, I think that’s the secret to their success.

B: Definitely, it took them from a side that was struggling and stuck in mid-table obscurity into one that could play with anybody in the league. I wouldn’t mind seeing them get in, Shandong has an easy remaining schedule as well, but I’d still love to see Liaoning get in, they do everything right up there and management said if they make it into Asia, they’ll finally invest some money in the side, the fans deserve it.

S: Interesting. Is this the first real sign that teams are going to splash the cash to compete with Guangzhou as well?

B: One of them, yes. If you believe the media, Guangzhou Fuli (or R&F, what are we going to go with?!?) is majorly guilty of tapping up Tianjin manager Arie Haan as well as multiple players.Rumor is that Wu Wei’an going back to Guangzhou is already a done deal.

S: The Guangzhou Fuli story sounds full of intrigue. It’s going to be very interesting seeing what happens next season, particularly are they going to be able to establish much of a fanbase with Guangzhou Evergrande drawing in nearly 50,000 every week.

B: I think it’s going to be interesting. I’m not so familair with Guangzhou, but there is a lot of talk about there being a shakeup in where each team plays, as Tianhe (where Hengda currently play) only holds around 50,000 and the Olympic Stadium holds 80,000. One thing to note is that unlike with the Shenhua-Inter derby in the old days, Hengda doesn’t have strong roots in Guangzhou, so Fuli could easily siphon off fans.

S: But the Hengda team is a continuation of the Guangzhou team which has existed since the start of the Chinese Super League, is it not?

B: Well, Guangzhou weren’t founding members of the Chinese Super League, though they are a continuation of a founding Jia A side in the same way Fuli is a continuation of Shenyang Liuyao, also a founding member. Guangzhou spent almost a decade in the second division before finally breaking into the Chinese Super League.

S: I thought Guangzhou was more or less the same Guangzhou that was there at the beginning

B: Perhaps this is a philosophical argument more than anything. To me, the only “founding members” of Jia A who can claim a direct connection to a current Chinese Super League side are Beijing, Shanghai, Shandong, and Liaoning. The others have gone through so many changes and incarnations over the years, it’s a tenuous link. Maybe that’s just me though, I don’t even recognize Dalian because of the shift from Wanda to Shide, whereas the other sides haven’t had those kind of changes.

S: I think Wanda to Shide is just a sponsor shift, I wouldn’t consider that to be a new team. But it is rather philosophical. But what I do think is that, well how to say, I regard the original Chinese Super League teams as new teams in their own right, I don”t think Guoan or Shenhua have much business including what honours they won before prefessionalism was introduced, as is included on their wikipedia profile

B: But professionalism started with Jia A, not the Chinese Super League.

S: Yes, that’s what I meant. Also when I write about Chinese Super League team’s championship history, I just describe them as Chinese championships, Jia A / Chinese Super League isn’t that important in that regards.

B: Okay, but when I see a continuation in these clubs, I’m talking logos, colors, management, these things haven’t changed. If your club’s colors and ownership changes every few years, its hard to say its a continuation, whether the club has physically moved or not. Otherwise, you get crazy situations, like in the late 90s, the professional team in Guangzhou was called Sunray Cave, they would be considered the “continuation” of Hengda, though there is currently a China League side called Sunray Cave and using the same logo as that old side. It’s a mess.  A team like Guangzhou cannot claim a history or connection, it’s all fans who came around this season.So Fuli, which is also a major corporation in the city, should have no problem getting their share of fans.

S: Yeah we are touching upon a fundamental problem here. I think Shenhua is the only team not to change their name since the beginning. But even with Shenhua, you get fools like Zhu Jun changing the jersey for the Expo, an event most Shanghainese either didn’t give a toss about, or opposed, because it contained no reference to local history, despite being a massive pain in the ass for the whole city

B: Well, I would expand on that adding Shandong and Beijing. Shandong has always been Taishan, they just added Luneng as a sponsorship. Beijing has always been owned by CITIC, its just they sold naming rights to Hyundai for a couple seasons. Liaoning also has kept a consistent ownership, logo, and colors, though sponsorship has been all over the place (and they have that shameful few months as Beijing Sanyuan in their closet).

S: “Sold naming rights to Hyundai for a couple seasons” AKA changing your name!

B: Haha, yes, the name changed, but the ownership didn’t. It’s like saying Shenhua has changed their name since they’ve added SVA.

S: Nope, we were always Shanghai Shenhua something or other, Beijing wasn’t always Beijing Guoan.

B: Argh, we could go back and forth about this for hours, but anyways. So Guangzhou Fuli looks like they’ll be a major player next year in the transfer market. There’s an interesting situation in Beijing these days as well, the club has legitimately ceded all power to manager Jamie Pacheco to make player decisions.

S: Hahah, semantics I suppose. on Pacheco, I think it says everything that is wrong about Chinese football that its news that a manager gets full control over player decisions.

B: I would agree with that, but its such a breath of fresh air to hear management types like Gao Chao and Luo Ning to say “I want to keep XXX, but it’s up to Pacheco.”

S: I’m not sure what to say. Other than its glad to see Chinese club management emerge from the dark age.

B: Exactly, though it looks like it will mean Walter Martinez, who has scored 9 goals this year, and Keita are on the way out. Joel Griffiths, who has 11 goals, may not be around as well. I just hope Guoan makes some major foreign signings to replace them. Interestingly, a certain Scot whose side is to play Guoan this weekend seems to be persona non grata in Xian.

S: Derek Riordan. I read that Gao Hongbao said his performances didn’t live up to his record as a proven goalscorer in the Scottish Premier League. I’ve not really been able to follow his progress much, other than to note he’s only scored one goal, and when he played at Hongkou against Shenhua not so long ago he was subbed early in the second half. I imagine his China adventure is coming to an end.

B: Well, Gao’s said Riordan hasn’t been around much since Gao joined the team a few weeks back. He hasn’t been showing up to practices and Gao has barely seen him. I think you’re right that his time in China will be over soon. Moving south, what do you think about the rumors that Jacques Santini will be in charge of Shenhua next year?

S: Fair play to Riordan for giving it a go. But I’m not surprised to hear he’s crashing and burning in China…. we will have a full article on him soon I believe. Jacques Santini is not a name I’m awfully familar with. I really must read up. Anyone has got to be better than Roberto Donadoni. His record is a joke, he’s been a failure at every club he’s managed.

B: Santini’s an interesting choice, he’s been out of managing for a number of years, he did good things at Lyon, but was also part of France’s 2002 World Cup disaster.

S: I think Shenhua should bring back Blazevic. There was talk of him coming back during the season, but we ended up with his assistant, Bezek. Perhaps he’s been invited already and there’s some reason he can’t come back. Who knows. But frankly, Shenhua really need some serious investment in the playing squad. We need a goalkeeper, a solid centre half, and someone fast to accompany Salmeron upfront.

B: You’re not convinced of Wang Dalei’s quality? I would imagine Shenhua will spend at the end of this season, at least turn them into ACL contenders.

S: Wang Dalei has some talent, but he seems over-confident and I think quite complacent. He’s still young, I hope we can hold onto him and he can mature into a more rounded keeper. But Shenhua’s other keeper, Qiu Shenjiong, is quite frankly the worst professional goalkeeper I have ever seen. It completely astounds me that he has made so many appearances this season. Almost every game he plays in, he commits at least one of two major gaffes or howlers.

B: At least you aren’t in Hangzhou’s situation…

S: Ha. Now this looks like something you just couldn’t make up, even by the Chinese Super League’s mind-numbling crazy standards.

B: Agreed. It’s the kind of thing that I think every manager wants to do at some point (except its being enforced on Wu Jinggui by Song Weiping, the owner). You think you can do a better job? Screw you, you’re in charge!

S: It’s like something out of North Korea – a load of villiage elders getting round the tables to decide who to send out to plant the cabbages.

B: It is laughable, and probably not the way to add profit to your club, it seems counterproductive for someone desperate to sell.

S: So do I get this right – the owner has sent Wu Jinggui on gardening leave, and formed a committe of seven people, including some of the players, to vote on team issues?

B: Yes, I have yet to find a complete list of the players on the committee, but Du Wei is heading the committee and has final say.

S: It’s just so….bizarre.

B: It’s just so Chinese soccer.

S: That is very true. But to the best of my knowledge, I don’t think this kind of thing has actually happened before in Chinese football. Well, at least not since the cultural revolution or something, but I don’t think there was much football being played then.

B: Song Weiping has a lot more on his plate than Greentown football these days, I think this was just a “solution” to get everyone out of his office.

S: I don’t know what’s going on there. What’s the story?

B: Basically Greentown, the real estate/property holdings company, appears to have been involved in the Wenzhou private lending market, as are a vast majority of businesses in that city. It appears there has recently been some concern over some of these schemes crashing and causing large money losses for all involved. This is more business/finance news than football news, way too complex for my feeble brain, me just know soccer.

S: And so now, we have the Magnificent Seven in charge of the team…. awesome.

B: Yes, whoever said the end of the season was going to be boring?!?

S: Not I! There’s been all kinds of odd goings-on of late.

B: We’ve only been talking professional soccer, we haven’t even gotten to the fact that it took a 15-0 drubbing from an elite Russian side to light a fire under the asses of most Chinese and finally realize soccer in China needs….something.

S: Was that not a schoolboy team that was beaten 15-0?

B: Yes, yet it has received massive headlines in the Chinese media and touched off a lot of discussions on weibo, so much so it is one of the top 5 topics over the last few days.

S: When I look around the streets, I see lots of very fat, wimpy spoiled kids walking about. They don’t look all that inspiring for the next generation of Chinese footballers.

B: There is a poll on Sina weibo and the most popular option right now with 64% of the total is to fire all those in charge of the CFA and start with new leadership. In second, with 33% is for the education system to be changed and to add a real physical education class to the grade and middle school curriculum. Both are very good suggestions in my mind.

S: Having a proper PE system would be good. But in my view, this situation is kind of like cars, congestion and pollution. Everyone wants to see cleaner air and less busy roads. But no-one wants to quit driving. Everyone wants to see a successfull Chinese national football team. But no-one wants to let their kids pursue a career in football.

B: Very, very true. But firing Wei Di and his lackies would be a great start, no matter what.

S: That is assuming there are competant replacements to be found. Sadly, I am not fully confident that this is so.

B: Wei Di’s incompetancy knows no bounds…A monkey would be a competant replacement. Or a rock.

S: Don’t joke Bcheng, we’ve just seen a highly regarded manager replaced by a seven-strong committe who know nothing about football management. You never know who, or indeed what, might be called into replace Wei Di.

B: A scary thought indeed, I need to drown myself in something stronger, time to down these pints and head to a whiskey bar.

S: It is indeed. Here’s to an exciting penultimate Chinese Super League weekend!

B: Cheers!

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.



You must be logged in to post a comment Login

More in Chinese Super League