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Pub Chat: Derby Day Looms Large

You get a different introduction than usual to our pub chat this week as Shanghai Ultra’s running to the train station to catch his ride to Beijing.  Despite the major derby match on the horizon, things are pretty tame in the pub this week as the men preview the big one in the capital and the other derbies around the country, let’s get right to it.

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): Another big week in the pub, but before we get to this weekend’s schedule, should we take a look back at what went on last week?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): Yeah – the first week was a bit of an anti-climax for all concerned in the pub today, wouldn’t you agree?

B: Yes, a not so well played draw for your lot and Guoan falling to newly promoted Fuli.
shanghaiultra says:
Last week was a bit of a damp squid at Hongkou. Particularly with Anelka not playing – the crowd…..just 17,000. It’s embarassing really.

B: Yes, but not quite as bad as Guoan not showing up for the match for the second time in a week.

C: So what went wrong with your lot? 3-1 away to a newly-promoted team is a bit of an embarassment.

B: Pacheco and his men don’t seem like they were prepared for the season, beyond that, Francois Sene has completely forgotten how to mark someone.

C: He is the new defensive signing right?

B: They picked him up in the summer transfer window last year.  He was the first choice center back, though there were some visible problems from time to time.

C: So he played alright last season?

B: Yes, though set piece marking wasn’t a strong suit of his even then.

C: Right. Well Moises, Shenhua’s new Brazilian signing, didn’t really impress that much either. Although, everyone is talking about how bad Shenhua were in the first half, but, its the very first game of the season, so I think there’s no point getting too down about it.

B: Yes, Guangzhou didn’t look all that good either, though they may have just been taking it easy on Shenxin.
shanghaiultra says:
C: What about Conca’s second goal? That was absolute magic.

B: He’s my odds on favorite for the golden boot this year, the guy is just amazing.

C: Yeah. He is looking worth every single one of the considerable number of pennies Guangzhou shell out on him. So, the first round of fixtures is over, can we say we learned anything at all from them?

B: Beyond how good Conca is?  It’s kind of hard to say, being only one game.  I was impressed with how Liaoning did against Henan, their foreigners seem to be a major improvement.  I think we saw Guangzhou’s mental state, they gave up an early goal but didn’t have a let down.  As for Guoan and Shenhua, I don’t think we saw much of anything, though (smooth segway) tomorrow is sure to tell us a lot.

C: Wow now that was smooth. Excited?

B: Definitely, friday night can’t get here quick enough.  This morning I went out on a search for the matchday program, the first of its kind anywhere in China and it pumped me up even more.

C: Yes, and I believe a certain pub talk participant may be lending the match program some added sparkle – care to reveal all ?

B: I provided a page on what it means to be a Guoan fan.  It was one of the biggest honors I’ve had since starting to write for this site, an article in the first edition of a first-of-its-kind magazine.  In all aspects, its very similar to what you’d find at a English Prem match, just in Chinese.

C: Its in Chinese or English?

B: All in Chinese.

C: Very impressive indeed – I think everyone raeding this ought to raise their glasses to that.

B: It’s a minor thing, but its a step in the right direction to a more “professional” matchday experience and caring about the fans.
And the demand in Beijing has been massive for it.

C: I’m glad to hear that, football programmes are a cornerstone of the sport’s culture, let’s hope Beijing’s efforts become the norm for other Chinese Super League clubs.

B: Yes, definitely.  So on to the match, how many is Shenhua bringing north?

C: Well, your esteemed partner-in-crime will be amongst them. As we speak, there are a few lads up there already doing some forward reconnaissance, there are a few separate groups coming up, I’m travelling in a group of 20 or so, I think somewhere around 100 in total.

B: Not a bad showing for a Friday match.  What are your expectations going into this match?  It’s been a long time since Shenhua has earned a result at Worker’s Stadium.

C: I think both sides are going into this match a bit short on confidence. Your boys come into the game on the back off a ACL defeat and a 3-1 drubbing away to a newly-promoted team, Shenhua are still smarting from a poor showing against Sainty and are mostly likely to be minus Anelka, hardly good preparation for a trip to a place such as Gongti.

B: I’m thinking a draw is in the cards, though hoping the Gongti crowd will push the team to a win.

C: Well lets just sit back and look at the game for a second. The game would already be one worthy of great excitement – as this is the biggest Chinese Super League season so far, and this is the biggest game in Chinese domestic sport. But there’s so much in this game – we’ve got a possibe Anelka debut, Griffthis first game against Guoan – and so soon too, and let’s not forget Mao Jiangqing.

B: Yes, I’m hoping we’ll see Mao in the starting lineup, at the very least, he’ll be coming off the bench.
Griffiths…..that’s a sore spot.

C: I bet. I heard through the grapevine that he’s very dissapointed that he’s having to play at Gongti so soon after leaving.

B: I can imagine why.  It’s going to be a tough game for him this early in the season, and also more emotional as he probably hasn’t fully adjusted to Shanghai yet.

C: True, although he did say in a TV interview “Wo shi Shanghai Ren” – I bet that did nto amuse the Guoan faithful.

B: If you look at what he said before that, it’s not so inflammatory, but fans quickly cut that “Shanghai Ren” part out [note to all non-Chinese speakers, it means I’m a Shanghainese] and made sure everybody saw it.  I would understand more if Shanghai fans felt sort of offended by the way the Griff has treated their city so far.

C: I think after he rescued a point for us with a goal on his debut, no-one is complaining. He’s going to be an important player for Shenhua this year. And I can see him sneaking a goal tonight…

B: It’s just that in all his comments, he’s been very reserved in what he said, almost as if he’s forced to be with Shenhua, it’s been very measured.  But yeah, that goal changes a lot of things.

C: I think he’s been fairly diplomatic to both sides, he’s clearly not a stupid guy. I am really pumped up for this game, but, like Griff himself, I almost feel its come too early in the season.

B: That’s how Guoan’s schedule is this year though, in the first month we have your lot, then we have the Jing-Jin derby in another few weeks, its not the way to start the season.  Your lot had to deal with it too, going up against Jiangsu last week.

C: Indeed, and not only that, Shenhua have also got a lot of big games in the first month such as the derby against Hangzhou, and a visit from Guangzhou Evergrade, before April is out.

B: Yeah, that’s one hell of a month, fortunately we don’t have Evergrande until round 15, but that’s the Chinese Super League this year, there don’t seem to be too many “easy” weeks.

C: Good point. It was pretty tough making those predictions, especially trying to forecast who is going to go down.

B: It’s not only for our teams though, this weekend you have derbies in Guangzhou and Dalian as well.
And Jiangsu and Hangzhou are going to face off as well.

C: It’s DERBY WEEKEND! I’m interested to see what happens in the other Yangzte Delta Derby – Sainty look good this year.

B: It feels like the Chinese Super League wanted to build excitement right from the start.

C: They are going for the kill. I’m not sure who is going to support Aerbin though, Dalian Shide are one of the Chinese Super League’s old guard, its not like in Guangzhou where top fight football is a relatively new thing.

B: True, I’m not sure who their supporter base is, if its made up at all of Dalian fans, but they did have some support last year, so I’m guessing they’ll have some supporters.  Like with Fuli, they did what they could to make themselves a “Dalian” team, they are very local.

C: That’s what Inter Shanghai did back in the day – signing lots of Shanghainese players. Ultimately, it takes time to build up supporter bases, but credit to Aerbin they seem to be a locally-created club, unlike Fuli or Nanchang suddenly relocating to tier one cities.

B: True, true.  It’s not only the derbies we have this weekend, we should see how serious Liaoning are when they go up against Guizhou.  Shandong also come off a tough loss by having to go north to Changchun.

C: Shandong’s defeat was a surprise result. But it really is derby weekend in this round, I think come what may, the total attendance this weekend might take some beating.

B: You mean its going to go down?

C: I’m talking in terms of average per round – more fans come out for derbies, I think the numer who come out this weekend will be the highest until the corresponding fixture card in the second half of the reason.

B: Ah yes, hehe, I’m pretty confident of that.  There will be a major crowd in Beijing, probably the biggest Fuli will have this season, Henan has their home opener and Zhengzhou typically gets a good crowd, plus we’ll get to see if fans keep coming out in Guiyang.

C: But I hear disturbing rumours that Gongti is only going to be half-full tonight….

B: Yeah, I’m expecting 35,000, possibly possibly pushing 40k depending on how many tickets are allowed to slip out through different channels.

C: Any idea why there won’t be 60,000 plus there?

B: Police and “security” concerns.  This is one of the unique aspects in China, it has nothing to do with the club, but everything to do with maintaining a harmonious capital.

C: Right. I just wonder why they bothered increasing the capacity of Gongti when they are only allowed to sell half of the available seats for the biggest match of the year.

B: I think (hope) it was a situation where the club expected things to loosen up, but the police decided against it.  Perhaps things will get looser but maybe we’re still too close to a certain government meeting that took place in Beijing.

C: Yes well, I just think its really overkill. If they were so worried about it, just schedule it at another time.

B: Well, that almost happened, though I think Beijing protested having its opening two matches moved and so only one was.

C: Anyway, it will be a good game regardless. What’s your prediction?

B: 1-1 and lots of swearing targeted at Dai Lin.  I hope Guoan fans will curse Griffiths when the teams are announced and that’s it, just get behind your own team, he ain’t on it anymore.  That said, if he scores and chooses to celebrate it, especially in the north end, I’ll go apeshit.
And not in a good way.

C: Ha I look forward to seeing that!

B: What are your thoughts on this one?

C: Tough one to call, Shenhua’s record at Gongti is poor (although not as poor as Beijing’s Hongkou record I might add), plus with it being to early in the season, form books aren’t even written let alone being thrown out of the window. I am going to go for a boring 0-0 draw.

B: Yeah, its going to be a tight affair, but with how crappy both sides played in the first match, I think we can expect some goals.  I just hope it lives up to its billing.

C: I hope so too. Well, its time for me to prepare for the big match itself.

B: Have a safe trip up, looking forward to kickoff! I guess now its time to bring up 9-1.  And with that, cheers my man!  Here’s to another great chapter in the China derby!

S: Here’s to that. Guoan SB!

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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