Shenhua’s big-money signing Nicolas Anelka is well-known for his abilities with a ball at his feet. But according to his new team mate Wang Dalei, the light-footed Frenchman is something of a linguaphile.
Despite having only been in Shanghai for a week or so, the well-travelled former Chelsea striker has taken a shine to the Shanghainese dialect, and can already differentiate it from Mandarin, according to a report on Sina Sports.
“He absolutely has a gift for language,” Shenhua goalkeeper Wang Dalei said of Anelka’s oral abilities to Sina, adding that Anelka told him, “I think Shanghainese sounds pleasant, a bit like someone singing a song, can you teach me a few simple words?”
Wang, himself from Dalian in northeast China, but based in Shanghai for the past six years, said he taught Anelka the Shanghainese for hello and thanks, adding, “His Shanghainese is definitely better than mine when I first arrived in the city.”
The 23-year-old custodian revealed that Anelka had also asked him some of the Shenhua faithful’s most commonly used songs, adding “I said the song they sing most is ‘Shenhua are the champions’, although this was hard for him to learn he insisted that I must teach him it.”
The report also claims that, in between training and wrestling with the complexities of the local language, Anelka made a secret visit to Shanghai’s famous landmark, the Bund, on Friday, but because there were few people on the Bund at that time, and due to the fact he wore sunglasses and a hood, he was not recognized by passers-by.
Anelka also made his first visit to the teams Cambridge training base in Pudong on the east side of Shanghai. An unnamed player was quoted by Sina as saying that Anelka was in tip-top condition and already fully match fit – so much so that he accidentally knocked a defending team-mate to the ground with a fiercely struck shot on the training pitch.
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