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Beijing Guoan 20 Years, 20 Moments #3: Black whistles come out in Shenyang

Beijing Guoan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and we’re here to celebrate 20 of the most important moments over the past 20 years. Not all of these are positive, but all of them shaped the history of the club and the league. I said not all would be positive, this is just one example, but in the long run the club was vindicated. With Beijing going up to Shenyang this weekend, it’s time to remember THAT match against Shenyang Ginde.

October 2, 2004. It’s a date that for many Beijing Guoan fans is hard to forget. It’s not the date the team won a title or even a big match, it’s the date fans watched as their players gave up and walked off the pitch. At the time it was an unthinkable disgrace, leading to punishments from the league, but seven years later, they were to be vindicated. The referee on that day was Zhou Weixin, who would later admit to taking RMB200,000 from Shenyang to guarantee they would win.

The Chinese league was going through some hard times, the black whistles scandal was only a few seasons before and the league was trying to find ways to get past it. One was the rebranding from Jia A to the Chinese Super League, however there was still plenty of doubts about corruption in the sport.

The match took placed at the beloved Wulihe Stadium in Shenyang and was rough from the start. Lots of fouls and violent play from both sides before Guoan suffered their first shock of the match. In the 30th minute, Guoan defensive midfielder Dan Alexa was given a soft second yellow and sent off. There were protests from the players but to no avail. Guoan, now a man down for the next hour, was on their heels when Shenyang scored just before the half.

That remained the only goal in the match until the 74th minute, a rough tackle on Yang Pu in the box forced the referee to give a penalty kick. It took the referee, some time to give the penalty, but it was so obvious and blatant that even a black whistle had to finally point to the spot. Tao Wei stepped up and knocked in the penalty.

Now the referee needed to earn his pay and he found a way to do so. Five minutes later, Shenyang forward Zhang Yang was barely even touched by Guoan defender Zhang Shuai when he went down, Zhou signaled to the penalty spot and thus started the chaos. Guoan players immediately started arguing with the referee when finally Xu Yunlong and Yao Jian led the players off the pitch. The image of Yang Hao taking off his jersey is one that few fans can forget.

The chaos continued, Guoan team official Yang Zuwu was on his cell phone with Guoan officials and the CFA, there were CFA officials and Shenyang players and coaching staff members on the pitch discussing the situation, while referee Zhou roamed around as if in a daze. Everyone waited around for the next 10 minutes until the referee blew the final whistle in the 90th minute, though the match had already ended.

A week later, the CFA’s decision was released, Guoan was fined RMB300,000 (interestingly more than it cost Shenyang to buy off the referee), were considered to have lost the match 3-0, and were docked three points. Strangely enough, the CFA also recognized how badly Zhou did as a referee and he was suspended for eight matches.

Where are they now?
Zhou Weixin was an international level referee and presided over a number of international matches as well as Chinese Super League games, but in February of this year he was sentenced to three and a half years in jail by a court in the Liaoning city of Dandong. His open admission of accepting bribes from Shenyang somewhat vindicates the Beijing players’ decision to walk off the pitch, they literally couldn’t win.

Zhang Shuai’s career took off after 2004, he even made it into the national team, but a bad mistake in a Chinese Super League match in 2008 led to rumors about him fixing matches, he was freezed out of the starting XI and retired at the young age of 26.

Wulihe was to meet the wrecking ball in 2007, Shenyang couldn’t work out a deal to stay in the city and headed south to Changsha. After they were relegated in 2010, the team’s ownership changed and it was moved to Shenzhen, where it was almost disbanded midseason due to failure to pay salaries. Days away from falling apart, R&F stepped in, bought the team, and moved it to Guangzhou.

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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