Shanghai Shenhua’s Joel Griffiths recently sat down with a reporter from Eastday Sports to discuss a variety of topics. Not surprisingly, his new teammate Nicolas Anelka and Griff’s move from Beijing to Shanghai were at the center of the conversation. Many Guoan faithful are very upset about the move, they were always vocal in their support for Griffiths and feel let down by his decision to go to their biggest rivals. For this Guoan fan, I can understand the realities of the game, plus you can’t expect loyalty out of a foreigner who is only here for a few seasons, he doesn’t have the same connection to the city. Whichever side of the divide you’re on, whether you think he’s a judas or you ar e happily greeting your new hero, it’s worth a read. Please note: we have tried to translate this interview as faithfully as possible, though this is a tough task, the original interview was done in English, then translated into Chinese, we’ve taken the Chinese and translated it back into English.
Eastday Sports: I’m guessing you spent a long time considering whether or not to join Shenhua?
Joel Griffiths: Yes, it was a very difficult decision. I spent a lot of time considering it, almost two months. My family and I really like Beijing, but maybe it was time to experience a new atmosphere, a new city, a new culture. My wife and I decided it was time for a new environment and start over. Anelka and I are both trying to adjust to our new teammates. Right now, we need to get past the injuries we’ve had, once all our players are back we can get back to creating a rhythum and coming up with better results.
Eastday: There is a lot of tension between Guoan and Shenhua, it takes a brave person to make the jump between the clubs, don’t you think?
Griffiths: Yes, this is something I considered before I made the move.I know that this is the reality of football,in the past I told the Beijing media a number of times that they need to respect my decision. I think that when the season starts and I return to Beijing its going to be a very interesting match, I want to see what kind of reaction the Beijing fan’s will have. But honesty, Shenhua’s paying my salary now, so I’ll definitely give all I have, give my all for them.
Eastday: Talking about Shenhua-Guoan, it looks like the match will take place the second week of the season, are you ready to go up north for the away fixture? What about if Guoan fans subject you to catcalls?
Griffiths: I don’t care, I’m sure they are going to boo. I won’t let it get to me, it’s part of the game, adapting to different match atmospheres. So no matter what they say, good or bad, it doesn’t bother me.
Eastday: Did you tell Jaime Pacheco (Guaon manager) that you were joining Shenhua?
Griffiths: I didn’t talk to him about it, but during the winter he called me and asked if there was a chance I’d return to Guoan and I told him I was preparing to sign for Shenhua. My time with him at Guoan was great, he was hoping I would stay, but he respected my decision.
Eastday: So what about Shanghai, or Shenhua, attracted you the most?
Griffiths: First off, it was because of the city, every time we come here for an away match you can feel the energy here. When I was in Beijing, many friends said Shanghai was a really great city. The other thing was, before I signed my contract, Shenhua signed Anelka.
Eastday: I heard that last night you played ping pong with Anelka and that he beat you?
Griffiths: Yes, I told him that in Australia we really don’t play the game. Plus, it seemed like he’s been playing for a long time, his serve was very good and I was having trouble returning it, but we’re going to have a rematch tonight.
Eastday: Right now you’re probably Anelka’s best friend on the team, in your eyes what kind of guy is he?
Griffiths: He’s a good guy, if you ask me, I can’t see anything wrong with him. He’s a very professional player and always going for the win, no matter what he’s doing. We’re really getting along which is important for a club’s foreign players.
Eastday: Has he asked you about what Chinese football is like? Have you given him any advice?
Griffiths: He’s asked me a little about what China is like, what the football is like, and how the referees are. I’ve tried to share with him everything I know.
Eastday: Let’s talk about a reality you now face, when you were at Guoan you were quite possibly the most popular player, but here at Shenhua, its obvious that Anelka will be the center of attention, will you be disappointed?
Griffiths: Of course not, of course he is everyone’s focus. I’m concentrated on giving them a reason to trust in me, if they have faith in me, I’ll guarantee I can prove myself on the pitch, I have no fears about my relationship with the fans.
Eastday: You’ve been in China for three years now while many foreigners often only spend a year here, what is it about China that keeps you here?
Griffiths: My daugther has studied Chinese, this year she’ll start schol and we’d like her to go to a normal school, not an international or foreign language one. There are a lot of other reasons, like the money, I’m not going to lie, I can earn a lot of money here.
Eastday: Is there anything about China that you can’t accept?
Griffiths: Other when everyone calls me a “shabi”,the only other issues are the smoking and the fog. Sometimes when the pollution is bad, the city is very grey, in these situations it doesn’t bother me that much, but I’m worried about my wife and daughter.
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