The most eagerly anticipated Chinese Super League season ever will open with a bang on March 10 with an local derby between Shanghai Shenhua and Nanjing-based Jiangsu Sainty.
Games involving the Yangzte Delta-based clubs, Shenhua, Sainty and Hangzhou Greentown have been amongst the Chinese Super League’s most eye-catching in recent years. Stunning late goals and after match fisticuffs between rival fans have the order of the day in these eagerly anticipated local clashes.
Elsewhere on the opening day fixture list, Guangzhou Evergrande begin the defence of their 2011 crown against Nanchang at home, whilst Beijing host newly promoted Guangzhou Fuli. Shandong raise the curtain on their 2012 season with a home clash against Guizhou Renhe – the team formerly known as Shaanxi Chanba and based in Xi’an last season.
The March 10 start marks the earliest start of a Chinese league season for five years. Being a huge country which spans wildly contrasting climate zones, league bosses have a hard time scheduling games so that teams in northern China don’t start their season in Arctic conditions. Average lows in Changchun, Jilin province, the location of the Chinese Super League’s most northerly club, are around -7c in March. In 2007 when the league started on March 3, the club played its first three matches of the season on the road.
The early start date also augers well for what is sure to be an exciting 2012 in Chinese domestic football. In previous years , Chinese Super League seasons have often began in somewhat shambolic circumstances, with fixture lists not announced until just a fortnight before the action kicks off, the start of the season being delayed because sponsors had yet to be found, and other such basic oversights. This year, with big-spending Guangzhou winning the title last year and the Anelka factor revitalizing interest in the league, the authorities appear to be on the ball and the full fixture list should be confirmed very soon.
The full opening day fixture card is as follows:
Guangzhou Evergrande v Nanchang Hengyuan
Beijing Guoan v Guangzhou Fuli
Liaoning Whowin v Henan Construction
Shanghai Shenhua v Jiangsu Sainty
Shandong Luneng v Guizhou Renhe
Hangzhou Greentown v Qingdao
Dalian Shide v Qingdao Jonoon
Tianjin Teda v Dalian Aerbin
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015