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Chinese Super League

Pub Talk: Battle of the Big Spenders…

Back in the pub once again are the dynamic duo of Shanghai Ultra and Bcheng, and this week the discussion agenda is buzzing with all manner of talking points. Two big games previewed this week, the Shenhua – Evergrande new money showdown, and the Jing-jin derby. The oddities of the Chinese media are also examined, as are the latest ACL goings-on, foreign Chinese Super League refs and Dario Conca’s alleged laziness.  Meanwhile, regional cusine makes a bizarre and unexpected appearance in the pub, roast ducks and baozi are flying around – Beijing v Tianjin food fight anyone?

Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua): Guoan beaten again eh? Pacheco must go!

BCheng (Beijing Guoan): That should be “beaten” again. The Chinese Super League has admitted that Piao Cheng scored on his laser shot and of course there was a penalty that should have been given. But yeah, it was a tough defeat, but I’m still confident in Pacheco, though there are some stupid rumblings beginning.

S: Ah its always the same eh? A few games don’t go your way and some fans starty crying.

B: That’s how things go in China, fans always have a quick trigger finger when it comes to discussing managers. I imagine if not for Cao Yunding’s winner there would be some questions being asked in Shanghai.

S: You are probably right. But what a cracking winner it was! As Steve described Cao’s goal in yesterday’s preview, “squint-and-it’s-almost-Barcelona winner”

B: It was a bit of skill, but why were Feng and Cao on the bench to begin with? Seems Tigana’s grasping at straws trying to shake up the lineup.

S: Fair question, but with all the new signings, some fiddling around is only to be expected. So lets get on to the real deal, Hongkou is where it’s happening this weekend, tonight, to be specific. How do you see Shenhua v Evergrande?

B: Other than changing the foreigners, there haven’t been any new signings. Though I do understand Tigana still juggling his lineup trying to figure out the best combinations with what Zhu Jun has left him with. I think Evergrande’s going to win fairly easily, though Shenhua will get one in the second half to make it somewhat interesting.

S: Yes there have, Wang Fei and Zhang Kaimu, who both started agaiinst Fuli, thats why Cao and Bozic were on the bench.

B: I don’t know about Wang, but I knew about Zhang’s signing and I’m not impressed with him. The potential is there, but I don’t think he’s ready for the Chinese Super League quite yet. Anyways, with Evergrande coming to town, are your boys ready for the challenge?

S: It’s a big test and its very early in the season as we know. I think its going to be a scoring draw, I think Guangzhou aren’t going to come away with 3 points. But equally, Shenhua aren’t there yet, I mean, they haven’t played particularly well at any point in the three games to far. But the Hongkou feng shui says we always do well at home against big teams, that will continue tonight.

B: Interesting. It should be a good match, but Shanghai just don’t have the same level of talent and I think the defensive struggles are going to continue.

S: Alright, well even taking off your green spectacles, that’s a fair point. I’m looking forward to seeing Conca in the flesh, I missed the Guangzhou game last year since I was exiled in Kunming. Although I hope he gets marked out of the match!

B: Very few teams have been able to do that, he’s one hell of a player. Though they are having their own struggles and Lee Jangsoo has taken to making his own lineup changes to show that nobody is above the team.

S: Yeah I think that is what Tigana has been doing also. But the one thing we have learned from the season to far is that Guangzhou are not invincible, thats going to have a psychological impact. Shenhua have a chance of winning this game, wheras last year I would have said it was very unlikely. Although in the Pub Talk at the time, I probably said something totally different!

B: Well, Lee’s been making the changes because some of the players, especially certain foreigners, only want to play one way and refuse to play defense.

S: But that’s what happens when you sign attacking players. I think there is an over-emphasis amongst Chinese Super League teams for signing attackers. I was talking to a well-known Asian football writer recently, he said this is a problem all over the continent, even in developed leagues like the K and J leagues. But again, Shenhua are the perfect example, everyone can see the defence is not up to championship winning standard, but they still keep talking about signing Drogba.

B: It’s not so much that, its just that a player, especially a midfielder, has to be willing to go and help out on defense, and some of Lee’s charges have been far too lazy when it comes to handling their defensive responsibilities, instead only focusing on the attack.

S: That wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the case, but it depends on the midfielder, for example, Conca isn’t a player with much defensive value.

B: He’s one of them who have come under fire. Lee is looking for total effort and not players who are going to ignore their duties. Anyways, I think its also due to the opponent, easy to sit your name players against Henan than it is Shanghai.

S: That’s true. So I think there’s another big game this weekend involving two certain northern neighbours. Are you pumped for this one?

B: Yeah, like you said, it’s early in the season for all of these big games, but I’m definitely excited to be welcoming the “steamed buns” to Beijing.

S: Tianjin baozi!

B: Yeah, hoping Guoan will take a big bite out of them.

S: I don’t like baozi very much, but I prefer them to Beijing roast duck….

B: Well, that’s because you didn’t go to the right duck restaurant, next time you’re in Beijing I’ll set you up right.

S: Ha ha ha. Just as long as you don’t want to give anyone a roasting, that should be fine.

B: Anyways, to the match, I’m optimistic that Tianjin is the opponent we need to be facing. I don’t think they are what they used to be, in large part because of the players they lost in the offseason.

S: Yeah Yu Dabao leaving was a real blow, even if he is a big mummies boy.

B: That was a major loss, and Wu Wei’an leaving was also not easy. They went through a lot of upheavel, including taking a long time to find a head coach and I think they’re a very beatable side, especially with the crowd sure to be hyped up for this one.

S: Right – and there is going to be a Korean referee – what do you think about foreign refs in the Chinese Super League? Do we need more?

B: That was a major loss, and Wu Wei’an leaving was also not easy. They went through a lot of upheavel, including taking a long time to find a head coach and I think they’re a very beatable side, especially with the crowd sure to be hyped up for this one.

S: Right – and there is going to be a Korean referee – what do you think about foreign refs in the Chinese Super League? Do we need more?

B: To be honest, we’ve seen foreign refrees a lot over the past few seasons and they rarely are a major improvement over the domestic ones.

S: But we all know why the foreign refs are officiating Chinese Super League matches, and its not necessarily because they know the rules of football better…

B: Right, well, even a foreign referee wouldn’t solve the big controversy from last week, Piao Cheng’s goal that wasn’t given, it’s still killing me to watch the video of it.

S: That happens at all levels of the game, as England very sadly and unfortunately found to their cost aganist Germany at the last World Cup.

B: True, it’s just as sign that international soccer absolutely needs to do something about it, its time for goall line technology and bringing the game into the 21st century.

S: I’m not sure what I think about it. If they bring in video technology, then it might break the flow of the game. And that could be an excuse to bring more advert breaks into the game, the thin end of the wedge.

B: This sort of controversy doesn’t happen all that often, nor does it take a lot of time, a goal already stops play, and if they implement something like tennis, it would be brief enough. Anyways, any other matches this weekend that interest you?

S: Fuli v Greentown looks interesting, Hangzhou might have gotten the kick-start they need after the win over your lot, fortunate or not. And Fuli’s morale might be on the way down after their defeat to the mighty Shenhua.

B: I’d be nervous if I was a Hangzhou fan, Fuli’s a solid team and there’s no reason the loss at Shenhua should hurt the side’s morale.

S: Yes there is, getting beat is always a risk.

B: Well, it wasn’t a dominant beat down, and Fuli played very well against Shenhua, it was the wave of second half subs that really changed that match. For me, the Shandong derby is going to be exciting. Luneng have struggled the past few weeks and Qingdao has had some surprising success in the derby.

S: That’s true. Wonder why they didn’t schedule this derby along with the other round two weeks ago?

B: well, this is another big matchday, with the Jing-Jin derby and also a Liaoning derby, though not one with any history.

S: Right. And I think we learned that Qingdao are in big troube over their stadium. Could they be moving?

B: Yeah, as we reported, their stadium was found to be below standards by the league, they were given until Round 10 to make the changes, but nothing has been done. There is the Guoxin Stadium in Qingdao, but it would need a totally new pitch laid down. If nothing happens, all Qingdao matches after Round 11 will be on the road.

S: That would be a bummer. Especially for those planning take in an away game during the beer festival.

B: Are you guys that lucky this year?

S: No I think we miss it by a week, I can’t quite remember who Qingdao have, its the first week of August, right?

B: Something like that. Well, away from the league, any ACL thoughts? The next round will take place before we meet again.

S: I think Guangzhou’s defeat to the Thai champs was a real shock, and a wake-up call. But I still expect them to qualify, Jeonbuk are basically out already after two very heavy defeats.

B: Well, I’m not so confident about Guangzhou, it really all comes down to how they do against Kashiwa, after Shenhua, they’ll have to head to Japan. If they can get a result there, they’ll start looking a lot better to go through.

S: How do you rate Guoan’s chances of getting past the group stage this year?

B: Right now, all three Chinese clubs are in similar positions, they all still have a chance to get through, but it really depends on the next match, and all will be facing Japanese clubs. For Guoan to get through, they absolutely need a result at home against FC Tokyo on Wednesday.

S: Right, well i didnt have anything to add other than its early days in the ACL.

B: It is, it’s most surprising that perhaps Tianjin has the best chance of all three clubs to get out of the group stage right now.

S: That is surprising indeed, even although they did well last year by being the only Chinese qualifier from the group stages, they aren’t the same team this year as we mentioned earlier.

B: Right, well, hopefully we’ll see the Chinese Super League do well against the J-League this time around. But let’s talk about something else. Does that look bad to you? especially with the English and Chinese?

S: I think it looks fine, and I heartily agree with your sentiments. SB is just something stupid chanted by football fans and shouldnt be taken so seriously.

B: Alright…i don’t really like the looks of the English and Chinese together, and something is seriously wrong with their spacing after commas and aprostrophes. I went back and checked, it wasn’t that way in my article.


S: Like everything, there is good and bad in the Chinese media, but my experiences have been bad. My quotes changed, key facts changed to fit a particular narrative, endless stupid and irrelevant questions. They are almost as bad as UK tabloids.

B: I was surprised with how free they allowed me to be with this. There was only one thing he said was a nono, I couldn’t say that the “Jing ma” is in fact the “guo ma”

S: Well, its always a minorty who are at fault, right? 😉 I mean, I never heard anyone shout SB anywhere, until I went to Gongti. So obviously it’s only those bad Guoan fans who are to blame.

B: Of course, and now they’ll say how cultured the Jinyu fans can be although they basically turned Su Wei’s name into the same thing as yelling SB. Friday night is game 5 of the basketball series, if Jinyu wins, they are the champions a lot of discussion about going to Gongti or to watch the basketball starting to make me sick.

S: As we said before, real fans, of football or any sport, are a rare breed. Why spend years supporting a team through thick and thin, when you can just support who is winning?

B: Exactly…and the SB thing came completely from Gongti before this season, nobody went, nobody cheered…

S: Well, I think that’s it for another week, it’s been a pleasure as always.

B: Of course, can’t wait for the matches tonight, now that I’m properly refreshed, its time to head to the ground.

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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