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Pub Talk: The Cantonese Chaos Machine

It’s a busy discussion in the pub this week, as your dynamic drinking duo get stuck into Guangzhou Evergrande for sacking their manager when top of the league. They also discuss the prospects for the Cantonese’ new boss – some old Italian bloke you might have heard of. Also staying in the deep south, Conca’s bizarre ban that never was comes up – was it a suspension or was he just dropped? Elsewhere, there’s more droppings, as a donkey walks through the pub, and perhaps in an effort to ignore the beast’s work, the pair turn their attention to the far side of  of China and the massive crowds in Xinjiang for Chinese third division football. The pair ask what is going on over there, and give a minority report as Shanghai Ultra harks back to his recent exile in Kunming. All that, and more, in the pub, this week.

Bcheng: Back in the pub this week and there’s a lot for us to deal with.

Shanghai Ultra: There is, the agenda is bulging and I’m afraid we might drink the pub dry before we get through it.

B: So where do you want to start?

S: I think we have got to start with Lee Jang-Soo. What an absurd sacking.

B: Absurd to say the least. What makes it all the worse is that it comes after over a month of telling the public they were confident in Lee and had no plans to let him go.

S: That was obviously a steaming pile of donkey shite, wasn’t it?

B: Yeah. Listen, I’m not going to denigrate Lippi, his resume speaks for itself and perhaps the players will respect him enough that some of the issues in Guangzhou will clear up, but Lee’s the most successful manager in the Chinese domestic game.

S: I agree. Lippi will have a lot to learn and the pressure will be on him right from the off. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if Guangzhou’s season went pear-shaped, at least for a while until Lippi realises the crazy world of Chinese football is not like anywhere else. Not even Italy.

B: Right, Guangzhou didn’t help by pulling the trigger now instead of waiting two weeks when the season goes on break, Lippi’s going to be in charge this weekend. Plus, Lippi’s a wonderful manager, but he’s never coached anywhere outside of Italy. He’s going to have to adjust to doing everything through a translator and then learning the oddities of football in China. It’s not an easy job, though fortunately for him, Guangzhou’s schedule is in a fairly easy patch, his first match will be against cellar dwellars Qingdao.

S: Yes. It’s disappointing for Lee. He must wonder what he has done wrong. I think it’s just stupid, what exactly is Lippi going to bring to Guangzhou? I’m not sure how much room for improvement there really is, certainly not in terms of the hot seat.

B: Lippi’s going to bring his fame, that’s all. They’ve played pretty well so far this year, there isn’t the same drive they had last season, but they’ve been solid.

S: I don’t like the sack-the-boss mentality. I can’t say I was sad to see Tigana go, but I wasn’t calling for his head either.

B: That’s apples and oranges, though. It’s not freaking possible that Lee was sacked because of anything that he did, the club is in the next round of the ACL and currently sits in first place, come on! This is about the fact Lippi’s really famous and Xu likes the fact he can say he’s bossing around someone who won a World Cup and a Champions League trophy.

S: You are of course correct. There’s not much in common between Lee’s sacking and Tigana’s. And yet both now find themselves out of a job. Are we seeing a new trend of quick-fire sackings in the Chinese Super League?

B: I don’t think it’s a trend, both have their own unique rationale behind them and both are very different from Aerbin’s sudden managerial change even earlier in the season. It’s about the time we’ll see one or two managers get fired, but the firing of Lee was truly unique.

S: Uniquely stupid. It’s money gone mad, I tell you.

B: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Anyways, Lippi will face the two bottom sides, Qingdao and Shandong, before the break, but he needs to get things in order because when they come back from the international break, its Jiangsu, Liaoning, and Beijing. I’m going out on a limb and saying Evergrande won’t be in first when we reach the halfway point of the season.

S: That’s a brave prediction, and I hope you are right. But returning briefly to the subject of managers, but staying on a prediction theme – whose head do you think will roll next?

B: That’s asking to make a brave prediction. I guess I’d have to go with the Qingdao manager, they’re at the very bottom of the table and I think that since their former manager, who bolted to Aerbin, is now available as well as Old Lee, they’ll go after one of the two Koreans. I think Shenxin have to be excited with where Zhu Jiong has them, and Okada and Ma Lin are safe, in Hangzhou and Shenyang, respectively. Shenhua and Aerbin have both fired their managers. That just leaves Henan and Shandong, I think Shandong will stick with ten Cate for a little longer as I don’t think they want to spend on someone else.

S: Yes, heads are rolling everywhere in the Chinese Super League since last season, I’m having to be careful where I step. But seriously, it’s not good for continuity or development at clubs.

B: Well, of the eight teams at the bottom of the table, five had managers new to the Chinese Super League. At the top half of the table, only three teams started the season with new managers, read into that what you want.

S: Indeed. So moving on, but staying on Guangzhou, they are through to the next round of the ACL, what did you make of the match?

B: They were completely outplayed in the second half, especially the last 20 minutes when it was really hard to tell which side needed a goal to advance and which side was playing for pride. But stupid defending by the Thais, who struggled all match to deal with Cleo’s height (about his only strength), gifted them the game allowing that {expletive} Conca to score the winning penalty.

S: Yeah I think Guangzhou were very poor, especially towards the end of the game as you say. But, they are through, which I’m glad about, lest I have even more egg to wipe from my face prediction-wise.

B: Haha, yeah, I was so close to being right, oh well…They’ve announced Lippi as the manager as  and I’m throwing up a little in my mouth. I actually have a very similar reaction every time I see Gao Lin’s face.

S: Ha ha. There is no love lost for Gao Lin in Shanghai either. His bird is a bit of alright though.

B: Can we get back to thinking happy thoughts? There was a really feel good story in Chinese football this past weekend.

S: What was that?

B: I never thought we’d ever really talk about the China League in the pub, let alone the league below that, but over 35,000 people came out in Urumuqi to watch Xinjiang play in China’s third division. That attendance was bigger than every Chinese Super League match except the one in Beijing.

S: It’s great to see. I firmly believe Xinjiang is going to make a significant contribution to the game in China, we’ve already got three Uyhgr players in the Chinese Super League, at least that I know of, I have some Xinjing friends, their passion for the game is massive.

B: I think the counts closer to seven or eight, with Bari Mamatil in Hangzhou leading the way. Of the 35 players on the Xinjiang squad, four are Han Chinese. I think it once again shows the amazing success of the Song Qingling Foundation, they should take their format national.

S: Tell us more about this Song Qingling.

B: Song Qingling Foundation has set up football schools in Urumuqi and the ethnic Korean region of Yanbian, in Jilin Province. Out of these schools have come a number of talented players, but the biggest successes so far are Bari, Maitijiang, Piao Cheng, and Jin Jingdao. All were part of the U-23 team and all will one day be part of the national team. Maitijiang already has a cap or two. And Piao has a good shot at being part of the team when they leave for a big friendly against World Cup champions Spain in two weeks.

S: I think Piao has great potential. I think ethnic minorities make up something like, less than 10% of the Chinese population, so they are really punching about their weight here. Can we say something intellectual and sociological about this?

B: I’m generally against saying intellectual things, but if pressed, perhaps due to ethnic minorities being allowed to enter top schools with lower test scores than Han, their parents aren’t as strict about playing sports and allow their kids more freedom. At the same time, I know Uyghurs love football and, though hard to believe, Yanbian’s almost all ethnically Korean sides of the mid to late 90s was in Jia A, the top flight. So perhaps there’s a deeper passion for football? But I don’t know, Han love football just as much I feel, they just seem less willing to let their kids play the game.

S: That’s very insightful B. But during my time in Yunnan, as you can imagine I spent quite a bit of time with ethnic minority people. Generally speaking they seemed a bit more relaxed and not so obsessive about keeping up with the Joneses. But I agree Han love the game just as much, they just don’t know how to express it….

B: So time to move from the far west to the eastern coastline and the whore of the east?

S: Haha. Shenhua time!

B: It’s the same old for me, blah blah blah you failed to score, Anelka played like he was sleep walking, your midfield sucks, blah blah blah.

S: Yeah, I don’t have an awful lot to add to that, quite frankly.

B: What will Drogba change?

S: Nothing, unless we get a proper defensive midfielder, as Anelka himself duly noted today.

B: Right, I just don’t see this ending well, though if Valencia’s Senna heads to Shenhua, I think things might seriously pick up. I just wonder how these guys are going to deal with being coached by Anelka. It seems like a halfway house to retirement.

S: Seems like a fullway madhouse. Anelka is taking all the press conferences, his mate, Jean whats-his-name, is not even mentioned anywhere. They should just pinch a black mannequin, put a tracksuit on it, and leave it in the dugout, save Jean the bother of having to turn up at Hongkou every fortnight.

B: Well someone has to sign his name on the substitution forms.

S: That seems to be the extent of his responsibilities. Anyway, seems like Shenhua are banking on more big names coming in the summer, as far as the coaching debate goes, I think its fair to say there is a lack of anyone with much confidence in Anelka’s managerial abilities.

B: Well, he’s obviously not shown any reason why anybody should be confident in his abilities. I don’t know why Zhu insists on pampering him like this.

S: Yeah, he should just concentrate on playing, its true that Shenhua’s midfield is lacking, but its not lacking in creativity, we saw Cao Yunding put Anelka through with two fantastic passes at the game last weekend, but score he could not.

B: True, I think the dual duties are starting to be too much for him to handle.

S: I think Shenhua should get Lee as their manager, and let Anelka concentrate on playing. Speaking of Guangzhou again, we forgot Conca’s rather strange ban-that-never-was.

B: I don’t know what to say about it, I have no idea what the actual decision was. Guangzhou was claiming that the ban was never intended to include ACL matches. We’ll see if he’s in the lineup for the new boss this weekend or not.

S: It’s rather complicated. What is the point in banning your own player at all, never mind banning him for Chinese Super League games only. It’s just bizarre. At least with Lippi, Conca will be making a fresh start.

B: True, it never made any sense, perhaps the club realized that and it’s why they let him play instead of hurt themselves in such an important match.

S: It looks that way, even if they should have worked that out before they made the suspension in the first place. It’s just daft.

B: I don’t disagree.

S: So what about this weekend’s action. What’s happening B?

B: On paper I’d say not much once again, but the past two weeks have shown that truly anything can happen. I think the pick of the action is Changchun vs. Beijing, though Guizhou vs. R&F and Liaoning vs. Tianjin are sure to excite as well.

S: And you are planning a trip to Changchun. How do you feel about that?

B: This is the first major collective trip since last season at Henan.

S: Yes, we all remember what happened then….

B: This time it should be far more harmonious, I’m looking forward to it and it couldn’t be a bigger game, Changchun has played one less match than everyone else, but sits three points behind us in fifth. Both teams need all three points to keep pace with the top of the table.

S: Yeah, speaking of which Shenhua are heading to Zhengzhou this weekend, sadly I can’t go due to other commitments, but I know there are a tidy few going up there, I wonder what kind of welcome they will be given?

S: Yeah, speaking of which Shenhua are heading to Zhengzhou this weekend, sadly I can’t go due to other commitments, but I know there are a tidy few going up there, I wonder what kind of welcome they will be given?

B: Just make sure they stay under the radar, a lot of fans have had a tough trip when it comes to going to Henan. That said, if Anelka keeps things up, the fact that you guys don’t walk away with a win will be the thing that probably keeps your fans safe.

S: Haha. Well I’m not predicting a win. But who knows, Shenhua seem to be playing better on the road these days.

B: Henan’s not an easy place to go, I wouldn’t be surprised if the sides split the points.

S: I think its odds-on to be a draw. Another game I’m interested in is Aerbin and Jiangsu, who were doing really well until we highlighted their progress….
B: Yeah, they’ve hit a bit of a rough patch, but that’s to be expected with how high they were flying. I don’t know, its time for them to get back on track, Aerbin provides the perfect opponent for that, though Yu Dabao has been hot lately.

S: He has. But as you say, it’s another fairly tame fixturecard this week, it can’t be so mouth-watering every week I suppose.

B: That’s right, the last few rounds have a number of interesting clashes, so it might not be too much to dream for an English Premier League style close to the season in November.

S: That would really be something. Just imagine the corruption allegations that would fly if that scenario unfolded in the Chinese Super League.

B: Anyways, time to bring this one to a close? I should note in a China League Two update, Xinjiang has defeated Hebei Youth 2-0 today to remain undefeated and top of the table.

S: That is a great note to finish on. Cheers and enjoy your trip to Dongbei this weekend.

B: Cheers my man, there will be much drinking and revelry during the trip, no matter the result.

S: That’s a must. Arrive with beer, leave with victory.

B: And drink at least one Jilinite (? Jiliner?) under the table.

S: No idea what that is, but drink it anyway.

B: Argh, you Brits don’t speak the language properly. Okay, I need to get one gentleman from Jilin Province piss drunk. Does that help?

S: Ah. Er yeah I thought you meant Jillin Lite. Haha. Until next week!

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade…

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Damian Jones

    19/05/2012 at 10:14

    It’s a frigging disgrace !!! I’m a big fan of Lee and the way he has …HAD Guangzhou playing. WTF does Lippi know about Asian football and the players’ lifestyles?
    I’d have to agrre with the Green Turtle …. Mr Hengda is a starf**ker.
    If I didn’t have a season ticket I would seriously consider not supporting this guy’s club !

    This could be the beginning of the end of a very short Hengda footballing dynasty.

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