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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!

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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