After the Beijing Guoan match on Saturday night, an incident took place a block away from the stadium at a busy intersection in which a silver Jaguar with Tianjin license plates was attacked by alleged Beijing Guoan fans. I was close to the scene toward the end of the incident, but chose not to do a story on it because it seemed an isolated incident with little connection to football. Granted, it did involve Guoan fans, but I (and seemingly nobody else from the reports I’ve seen) did not see what started the whole incident. Anyone who has been in China for awhile knows how things like this can escalate with the wrong words being exchanged back and forth, and that’s what I suspect happened here.
That said, I was shocked when the Global Times released a very harsh editorial about the incident and “hooliganism”. Attacking the Global Times is low hanging fruit and in most cases is hardly worth it, but in this case, it’s a foreign writer from that bastion of journalism who produced the laughable piece. Fortunately for that writer, his article was in English or else there would be plenty of very pissed off people contacting the Global Times.
It’s the author’s turn of phrases and total lack of knowledge about the Chinese Super League that is striking. Statements like all Beijing Guoan fans should be “red-faced” or that “many” fans were arrested for smashing the car (in reality, the number was in single digits). Even the idiotic declaration that “cynical fans” may have believed the match was fixed (obviously the “journalist” didn’t watch the match). His insistence that fans paid almost RMB200 for a ticket further shows how little he knows as more than 20,000 of the fans paid RMB500 for their season tickets and the rest bought single tickets online for a maximum of RMB150 (only an out of the loop “laowai” would bother with scalpers for a match like this). I’m also riled by his belief that “Chinese soccer has become so preoccupied with throwing cash at aging star players to revive the sport”, a statement that is simply not true outside of Shanghai.
The article talks about security at Worker’s Stadium and in this he does make a good point, while there is a presence outside the stadium pre-match, once the match begins, its all focused on inside the stadium and once the match ends and the away fans (if any) are on their way, these forces dissolve. There is very little crowd control along Gongti North Road, though that is sure to change at the next match.
An actual journalist not serving as a tool of the Chinese Communist Party may see something different in the incident. Noting that the car attacked was a Jaguar and many of the Guoan football fans are young, working class types. With the difficulty to win in Beijing’s license plate lottery forcing Beijingers to buy cars in other cities, its hardly difficult to find Tianjin license plates around Worker’s Stadium. There’s also the interesting paradox that Worker’s Stadium serves as the venue of the “people” for football matches, but shortly after the match reverts into a play area for elites, chuppies, and expats.
Beijing has no problem attracting fans and families are seen all over Worker’s Stadium on a matchday. With Father’s Day having just past, it was an awesome sight to see all the young children inside Gongti Saturday night. What happened outside the venue was an isolated incident, over 40,000 people showed up for the match proving that Guoan is attracting plenty of well-behaved fans and that the league is nowhere near “spiraling into a weekend pasttime for thugs” and saying as much is an insult to Beijing’s great fans.
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