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Pub Talk: Last in the series…

The Chinese Super League 2012 has finally reached its conclusion, so in this week’s pub chat, the dynamic duo of Shanghai Ultra and Bcheng look back over the past season’s highlights. However Shanghai Ultra wastes no time referring to more recent events, in particular Shenhua’s last-gasp victory in the China derby on Wednesday afternoon – as the subject of mid-afternoon kick-off times on working days rears its ugly head again. Bcheng bemoans Guoan’s inabilty to win when it mattered this year, whilst Shanghai Ultra ponders over exactly how to look back on a Shenhua season during which fans saw the team’s worst ever run of defeats, but also last-minute goals to seal victories in four big games. Elsewhere on the agenda, the pair anticipate a frenzied transfer market this close season, and take a general look back at the good, the bad and the ugly in what was Chinese Super League 2012.

This is the last regular pub chat this year, but don’t worry, the pub will re-open from time to time during the close season for impromptu virtual drinking sessions.

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): So let’s cut straight to the car chase. That was a pretty stunning end to the China Derby yesterday wasn’t it?

Bcheng (Beijing Guoan): China Derby? Yesterday? I don’t really remember much…There were games yesterday?

S: Yes, and I believe you were in attendance at a certain match.

B: Oh that…Yeah, it was a confluence of the two reasons Guoan aren’t celebrating a championship this year 1. Away ineptitude, and 2. Late goals.

S: I looked at the record books and found that Guoan have only ever beaten Shenhua in the league in Shanghai once, ever.

B: Thus making Shenhua’s move to Anhui all the better for Guoan! But yes, only one win in the Chinese Super League era, pathetic if you ask me.

S: Hahah. I think everyone understand’s that Shenhua are not going to leave Shanghai, that’s just too ridiculous even for the Chinese Super League.

B: We’ll see about that, Zhu Jun, work your magic! After all, you had one of your largest attendances of the season (if not the largest) in Anhui. Zhu, you know it makes sense, I’ll chip in RMB100 if it will help the efforts. And whatever change I can dig up under my couch cushions.

S: Hahah. Shenhua’s support leaves a lot to be desired numbers-wise. But the Anhui thing was just another one of Zhu Jun’s clumsy party tricks. But would we see scenes like these in Anhui? I doubt it.

B: Too bad nobody in Shanghai can speak Mandarin, “蓝色申花” (lanse shenhua) ” comes off as the far more appropriate “干死申花” (ganse Shenhua lit. fuck Shenhua to death) to those who speak a more standard version of the language.

S: Standards are boring! It’s your problem if you can’t understand the local lingo. Also I think its fantastic to see Shenhua fans singing Shanghainese songs, this brings more richness to the local community and culture.

B: Yeah, it’s a nice touch, too bad its only like 50 people involved in it. Seriously, the numbers are pathetic. I think up until moments before kickoff, the 300 or so who made the trip south outnumbered Shenhua fans. Can’t you people take a day off from work? Or do you melt in rain?

S: Much as I have to commend the efforts of your mob who made it down, its pointless to talk about the attendance of a match staged in the middle of a working day.

B: True,shocking that the largest attendance was in Xian with only 16,000 fans.

S: I don’t find that shocking at all. The only thing I find shocking is that there is not more uproar about scheduling what are usually the most important matches of the whole season to the middle of a working day.

B: The crowds were down in some places, not really down in others. It is very frustrating to end the season on a weekday afternoon, but I think most Chinese fans understand that “uproar” would be pretty pointless. Such is life when dealing with the CFA.

S: Good point. So, that’s the Chinese Super League for another season. Thoughts?

B: It was a long season, Guangzhou were worthy victors who stayed more consistent than anyone else (and were beloved by the CFA). Guoan did far better than I would have thought, though late goals and away games did us in. Most of all, congratulations to Liaoning for doing more with less, if the CFA aren’t going to give Pacheco manager of the year, the Liaoning manager Ma Lin deserves it.

S: I’d agree with that. I think there are two other teams who really excelled themselves this year, Jiangsu and Qingdao.

B: Good point, those two sides really turned themselves around in the second half of the season and impressed.

S: Yes. I think I predicted them amongst the favourites for relegation – Qingdao I mean. In the end they almost got into the ACL.

B: Haha, any desire to look back at our start of the year predictions?

S: Yes, if only to amuse our readers by allowing you to deliver a virtual custard pie to my face.

B: Perfect pairing for your beer.

S: Haha. Maybe that’s something that’s better looked at in detail in a post – that way we can see just how wrong I was.

B: Yes, for those who want to get a start on it, go here. I’m pretty sure I wasted my own time making horrible predictions, but can’t seem to find it right now.

S: I think you did. So what about the Chinese Super League as a whole this year. Do you think the league has progressed, as it been a good year for the Chinese Super League?

B: Yes, I’d say so. We had an exciting season, a bigtime new sponsor that seems willing to make a serious commitment, and a lot of good with little in the way of corruption talk.

S: Yeah I really do feel the Chinese Super League took a proper step forward this year. There is still lots of nonsense going on, but, that’s how it is around here, and on the whole, crowds are up, the quality of play is increasing, the talent levels of the players are improving – all in all the Chinese Super League has a lot to be proud of this year.

B: Yes, and there will be plenty to look forward to in the offseason, I expect to see an extremely active transfer market.

S: Definately – the grape vine is buzzing already. We will be keeping up with this at with a weekly transfer rumour round-up.

B: Yes, most of the rumors have focused on teams in chaos like Hangzhou and Tianjin. In Beijing, Walter Martinez is known to be gone, most likely to Qingdao. It also appears that two popular players will be heading home to newly promoted sides as despite management’s protests regarding Yang Zhi still having one more season, it looks like he’ll be on Guangzhou Fuli next year. Also Zhou Ting will probably return home to Dalian, but for Aerbin.Any news about Shanghai players?

S: Nothing solid as yet. There is talk that Salmeron will stay and possibly Angulo as well. I’d be happy to see both of them kept on, they are better than most of the domestic players in terms of ability.

B: It’s definitely going to be interesting times, we’re in for a two months of crazy rumors before the transfer window officially opens on January 1st. If the national team does well in their two matches in two weeks, the rumors might not only involve domestic sides.

S: Yeah let’s see if any of these rumours were heard earlier are true – I haven’t heard much about Feng Renliang except some ridiculous speculation that because he was pictured chatting in a friendly manner with Yang Zhi, he’s going to join Guoan.

B: I have some photos of them chatting, it was pretty surprising because Yang tends not to talk to anybody.

S: They are national side team-mates, I imagine that’s what their connection is.

B: Obviously, losing Martinez, I can imagine Guoan would be looking for a left winger and they’ll definitely be buyers so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

S: I think the quality of foreign player next season will be higher, pretty much as a direct result of Guangzhou’s big spending.

B: I would expect we see some bigger European names in China next year and news will start coming out pretty fast. Guoan’s already scouting heavily and has a few targets.

S: As far as Shenhua’s foreigners have gone, I think Castro has just been a total waste of space. He’s just totally mediocre and I don’t see how he’s any better than a Chinese player. Salmeron’s been a revalation, he joined looking overweight but plays with passion and score loads. Lobao is no Riascos, he looks lively but we could get much better. Angulo is a fast and effective wingback – keep

B: What about Qiu? Sorry, he’s just such a soft target, literally.

S: Hahah. Recently he’s showed how he perhaps passed himself off as a professional goalkeeper. But, no offence, but i just can’t understand how anyone can really think he’s good enough to earn money from playing football.

B: He’s fun to watch, he reacted to just about everything happening in front of him, but I agree, some of his goal kicks were laughably bad (must have been taking lessons from Dai Lin).

S: Wang Dalei at least has some potential if he can concentrate better and walk the walk as much as he talks the talk.

B: Wang is a character as well, but I don’t see him staying in Shanghai very long, I can see a big money offer from a certain team in the south taking him away. He had a tough year, but he’s still one of China’s top keepers.

S: Let’s see. He’s still pretty young for a keeper. So what’s been your best Chinese Super League memory this year?

B: Good question, to be honest, I think it has to be crushing Shenhua at home this year. It has nothing to do with yesterday’s result, but as a Guoan fan, there isn’t much in the way of a high this year from a win. Maybe the 6-1 CFA Cup match against Nanchang or the 1-0 win away at Tianjin. How about you?

S: I think most Shenhua fans would agree this has been a really odd season for the club. Only 2004 when they finished 3rd bottom compares with this year. But, strangely too many memorable moments to choose from, incredible as that may seem.

B: Very much so, especially as I can’t think of too many. I mean, the away experiences were unforgettable,Dalian for the post match party, Henan (negatively) due to what went down, and Qingdao for the comraderie, but, and I guess this isn’t unusual, there aren’t that many strong in stadium memories from this season. Part of that is Guoan drawing almost every big match they played in.

S: Shenhua won four home games with 90th minute goals this season. That is an incredible statistic by anyone’s standards, but considering that three of these games were against “derby” rivals, and the other against last year’s champions, makes its a hard season to forget.

B: Yeah, I’m hoping Beijing can have at least one of those next year…

S: Shenhua have a long-standing habit of scoring late goals I believe. If I had to choose a favourite moment – it would just have to be Riascos audacious last-minute winner in THAT game against Jiangsu. I think the game itself will be remember for a very long time by everyone who was fortunate enough to attend it.

B: So on that joyful note, are you ready to close the chat?

S: I think so. Final thoughts on this year’s season?

B: I’m just glad Guoan has found a manager who can lead them to another title.

S: Fair enough. For Shenhua, it’s been a season to forget with the exception of the four games mentioned above. Next year looks even more unpredictable than ever.

B: That’s the great thing about football, next year’s a new season and everyone’s allowed to hope. Cheers to that!

S: That’s what its all about. Cheers!

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

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Bobby

    04/11/2011 at 19:35

    As a shenhua supportor, my highlight of the year must be Luis Salmerón ‘s last minute goal against Hangzhou,I can still remember vividly when he scored everybody around me screaming and jumpping with joy, at that moment all the frustration of the season was gone.

    Also, my shenhua player of the year has to be Wu Xi (and i think Dai Lin played very well too,expect for some stupid tackles and fouls),and it seems you guys never talked about him in the articles,so i’m quite curious to know what you think of him.

    Just find this blog,and enjoyed it very much ,keep up the good work!!!

    And yes,don’t forget Shenhua is still the great cook,SHENHUA LAOLV!!!!!

    • K Y L

      07/11/2011 at 10:42

      It was a rough season for Shenhua, however I didn’t expect it to be as bad as it was for them especially after Blazevic’s reign and considering he built the team around a lot of young talented players such as Feng, Dai Lin, Wu Xi, Jiang Jiajun, Wang Dalei and Song Boxuan I thought with a bit of decent leadership on and off the field this team could build on Blazevic’s success. However what we got was a truely terriable new coach in Xi Zhikang who showed no leadership or tactical ability and once Riascos left the team lost the one player who could create somthing out of nothing.

      Personally outside some of the last minute goals during the season it was one to forget, while as for next season Shenhua’s biggest decision will be either to keep their coach Besek or bring in someone new

      • WEF Editor

        07/11/2011 at 23:00

        I think most Shenhua fans feel pretty much the same way – the season was a complete loss excepting those four homegame games won with last minute goals I talked about in the Pub Chat. Also, expectation-wise, everyone thought we could build on the good achievements of last year, even if we didn’t seriously expect to challenge for the league title.

        To answer you guys issues’- Dai Lin – we have mentioned him from time to time, indeed we have described him as a Rio Ferdinand-type defender. He’s definately a class player. However his temprement is poor and he has clashed with Shenhua fans on several occasions. He is definately not a worthy club captain. However, he’s a better player than Du Wei ever was and Shenhua should hold onto him.

        For Shenhua coaches, Xi Zhikang was certainly not an inspiring choice, but he did pretty well in the first half of the season. Besek – not convinced he made any improvements after taking over from Xi. Shenhua say they are set on bringing a big name European coach to Hongkou next season. I think they should simply bring back Blazevic – he’s a proven success.

        Next season is very much an unknown quantity. Shenhua have some very good young talent, but there is a serious lack of leadership, the club needs a midfield ball winner and a solid defender to partner Dai Lin. Salmeron hopefully will stay, Angulo is good enough also. But next season remains very unpredictable, at least winning against Guoan on the last day of the season helped shake off the effects of the horrible sequence of defeats in the second half of the season.

        • bcheng

          07/11/2011 at 23:37

          I don’t know, not really sure what you lot were expecting, as you say you couldn’t have seriously expected to mount a title challenge, and you made it into the CFA Cup semifinal, a decent showing (on paper at least, in reality all it entailed was defeating a mediocre China League side). It was one hell of a disappointing run of losses, but earning an Asian spot was always a long shot.

          The offseason is going to be interesting to watch if Shanghai will be buyers or sellers. Cao will probably stay around for awhile and I don’t expect Wu will go anywhere, but Dai’s just the kind of player Liaoning is looking to go after and it’s going to be tough holding on to Feng and Wang Dalei. Zhu Jun is going to have to spend money replenishing the side and its yet to be determined if he’s actually going to do it.

          • WEF Editor

            08/11/2011 at 01:05

            we expected to kick your 龟安 asses at Hongkou, which we did with that marvellous last minute Jiang Kun goal

          • Damian Jones

            09/11/2011 at 10:51

            Really hope Shenhua don’t move to Anhui. You can’t have a CSL without a team in the country’s largest populated city.

            Down here in GZ, rumours are going around that Hengda were presented with a rather large sum of money from the Guangdong government (350 Million yuan) as a “congratulations” present.

            Does anyone know more about this? Perhaps it’s a contribution to the football academy or to get this “football only” stadium started ?????

          • bcheng

            09/11/2011 at 11:19

            I don’t think this is any surprise. A lot of CSL teams receive financial support from the city and/or provincial government, most often through the city/provincial sports bureau. Such is the case in both Beijing and Shanghai (which is why Shanghai city sports bureau figures had a sitdown with Zhu Jun midseason).

            I’ve yet to see any mentions in the Chinese media about a soccer specific stadium in Guangzhou and I highly doubt it will happen anytime soon.

          • Yiddo Huayi

            09/11/2011 at 11:58

            Grassroots football FTW!!

        • Bobby

          08/11/2011 at 11:05

          The Problem with Dai is he doesn’t feel fully accepted by the Shenhua fans,i even noticed some fans

          booed him at Hongkou,that’s why Dai clashed with them.I do agree with you he’s better than Du Wei

          ever was,But a Leader type of player is rarely found in China,Think Shandong,Think Beijing,Think

          Guangzhou even,do they have a Chinese leader on the pitch?Thus I think Dai will still have my vote

          as captain next year,He ‘s a quite sensitive lad,and maybe need some time to really fit in and lead by

          example.

          Also,I don’t think we should bring back Blazevic,of course ,his skill at man-management is a lesson

          for all the chinese manegers,but his training and tatics is not ideal,the success of the season before

          the last is largely due to the magic of Riascos(How we miss you!),and i’ve seen two many occasions

          that these young lads have to defend for their lives to keep to that 1-0 win,which is not very shenhua

          indeed.Also,he clerly lost the dressing room in the end of the season before the last as well.

          If we can bring Santini or manegers at least on the same level ,and give him 3 or 4 years to build the

          team,i do think shenhua will have a bright future.Although i think all the foreign players will be

          gone,but as the board have proven themselves successful in bring some of the best foreign players in

          the league for many years,i don’t think it’s that much a problem.

          And yes,personally ,i love to see Joel Griffiths wear a shenhua shirt next season,his passion and

          workrate will be great for the team (and he’s a asian player), it’s just like see Adebayor in a Spurs

          shirt, CSL need this kind of excitement !!!

          • bcheng

            08/11/2011 at 11:24

            Argh, Griffiths in a Shenhua jersey?!? That would be incredibly hard to take…

            I’d agree with many of your points, except about Chinese leaders. I would agree that Antar is the leader of Shandong, but more so than Matic, Guoan’s leader on the pitch is Xu Yunlong (often with assist from Xu Liang). In Guangzhou, the definite leaders on the pitch are both Chinese (Feng Xiaoting and Zheng Zhi), and in Liaoning it is without a doubt Zhao Junzhe. There are plenty of Chinese leaders, though they tend not to be young players like Dai (more commonly a senior team member like Yu Tao).

          • Bobby

            08/11/2011 at 12:26

            When i say leaders, i mean Scott Parker or Puyol,players who will do everything for the team and lead by example,so I dont think both Feng and Zheng are that kind of player,I do agree with you on Zhao,but Liaoning’s inablity to bring in quality foriengn players is also a factor to consider。

            In a word,if we have any real chinese leaders,the natioanl team will be much better than now。

            Anyway,For many years Shenhua fans have seen some of our foreign players (Rankovic,Emil Martinez)play for Beijing instead,why can’t we do it the other way around?

            Also ,I remember Rankovic only played one game for you?That‘s why he is still a Shenhua Legend,lol!

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