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Pub Talk: Elephant & transfer window

The Chinese Super League is on a break this weekend but the talking goes on in the pub. Subjects this week: Evergrande’s ACL success – should fans of other CSL clubs support them? Bcheng’s answer is a resounding no. Things at Shenhua have settled down a bit, but of course their name features in the pub as usual – the new coach is sized up. Shanghai Ultra seizes upon another chance to slag off the European champions league, as well as corrupt Scottish media, and with the transfer window opening today – who is going to be flying through it and into the queer land of the CSL? Meanwhile, a certain drinking weekend in the capital is recalled, and this weeks pub animal is an elephant of the albino variety. Pass the shovel!

Bcheng: We’re here in the pub yet again and it seems there’s nothing to talk about, eh?

Shanghai Ultra: I think you are wrong B, China’s Hengda are flying high in Asia today!

B: Fuck me! You want to get my temper flaring from the start? And I guess I need to keep to my straight man role, that was meant to be sarcastic.

S: Heh heh. We can’t have people coming into Pub Talk and saying there’s nothing to talk about now, can we?

B: So yes, the topic of Evergrande and their victory last night. It was certainly a command performance.

S: It was better than their flukey win over Buriram in the group stages. Obviously old Lee was the problem, well done Evergrande in splurging yet more cash which could have gone to grassroots level, in signing Lippi.

B: Right, the jury’s still out on Lippi. Congratulations to him and the team on the win, but now the true test of Lippi as a manager begins. How will he deal with three competitions?

S: The next round of the ACL isn’t until the back-end of September, I think that will give him time to get to know his squad thoroughly

B: But that’s exactly where its going to get hard and when you get to the critical stages of the league season.

S: That’s right, we will see what will happen then, I’m making no predictions for the moment.

B: Anything can happen, though this time around it’s over two legs and could include trips to “West Asia”, so it will be much harder.

S: Yeah Guangzhou will be entering new territory for a Chinese club… pretty much. Do you think they can progress further?

B: It’s not really new territory, but anyways, yes, at this stage anything can happen. It’s way too hard to say until we see the draw and see what their team looks like in almost 4 months.

S: I think it is new territory, it’s the first time a Chinese club is in with a reasonable chance of winning the ACL since it reformed based on the European Champion$ league, you can talk about Liaoning before, but when they won it, no-one took the competition seriously at all. Now its profile has increased, Japanese clubs started winning it, and the prize money is much higher than before.

B: Shenzhen was in the semifinals in 2005.

S: I didn’t know that, fair enough

B: The amazing thing is this time around we only see one Korean team and no Japanese teams in the quarterfinals.

S: Yeah that is interesting, Japanese teams haven’t done well this year or for the last few years it seems.

B: In any case, I think we’ve finished with this topic, no? It’s impossible to do much in the way of predictions at this point. For the time being, Guangzhou fans (and disloyal fans of other clubs) should enjoy the victory for the time being.

S: I’ve been trying to get you to launch a diatribe against Evergrande, like you did on weibo.

B: I know that playing a Japanese team brings out a lot of emotion in Chinese fans, but it was the same against Buriram. If you are a fan of Guoan and in your screen name have things like “Always Love Guoan”, then what the fuck are you doing cheering for Evergrande? If you’re a “casual fan”, that’s fine. You can just fuck off. There’s honestly no such thing as a “casual fan” to me. I’m going to spend the next six months cheering against Evergrande because their failure means Guoan is that much closer to winning the league, I can’t put that aside for a night.

S: I think you’ll find China’s Conca and Muriqui were representing the motherland, B.

B: Right, the one goal that was scored came from a Muriqui (Brazilian) pass to Cho Won-Hee (Korean), and then tapped in by Cleo (Brazilian). Tell me where in that sequence is China?!? Even the most nationalist UK papers weren’t talking about Chelsea’s victory as a demonstration of English glory after they won the Champions League.

S: That’s because they don’t have the gall to ignore the fact Chelsea’s success is even more down to foreigner’s than Guangzhou’s is. Anyway the UK papers are too busy tapping people’s phones and printing stories about immigrants eating babies for breakfast to be claiming glory. Besides, not even Chelsea believe they are the best team in Europe this year, so, the champion$ league fails to live up to its name again, won by a lucky team which finished 6th in this year’s EPL.

B: I should have known not to let you rant on the Champions League. I just don’t think this win has anything to do with the rest of China and as, I guess, an ultra”, I can’t understand supporting a rival.

S: It depends, I can understand people supporting another club from the same country, but it depends on the circumstances. I think the all the nationalistic fervour over Guangzhou is a bit silly.

B: On that we can agree on.

S: To be fair, it’s not limited to China. I remember when Ireland beat Italy in the USA world cup, Ray Houghton scored the winning goal, and the Daily Ranger, I mean, the Daily Record newspaper had a headline saying “Made in Glasgow” on the front page, because most of Ireland’s team were plastic paddies who weren’t born or raised in Ireland. It was a pathetic headline.

B: It’s hard for me to grasp, especially when it comes from fans who consider themselves “loyal”. I think there’s definitely a different mood among the supporter’s sections across China and the general fans today.

S: Definitely, and there probably should be. Well, let’s get back to the CSL, its break time again, what happened last week which caught your eye?

B: There was a lot, the R&F victory was certainly impressive, Shandong’s picking up a point against Evergrande, and of course Shenhua’s win.

S: Yeah it was an interesting weekend. And a surprise victory for Shenhua as you say. That was not expected at all.

B: Definitely not. That goal by Manset was one of the worst goals I’ve seen given up all year. And once again Cao Yunding steps up and shows why we keep talking about him.

S: You are spot on with both of those observations. Manset I suspect has played his last game for Shenhua, with the transfer window opening up today, I think his loan is up. He won’t be missed, he’s the worst foreigner I’ve seen play for Shenhua. He has the touch of a drunken elephant and the turn of an oil tanker in the Yangtze. Cao Yunding on the other hand should surely be on Camacho’s radar at the very least.

B: It was certainly a shocking win, amazingly only Shenhua’s third in 12 games, but it pushes them right up the table and distances them from the relegation zone slightly.

S: Yeah and now we have a new boss. Batista didn’t exactly set Argentinian football alight with his coaching and his record is even less impressive than Tigana’s. But I think coaching in China is more about personality and adaptability over raw technical know-how than elsewhere, so we really have to wait and see. It’s impossible to predict, but it appears that Anelka is placated. At least we now have a proper manager, that is a step forward in itself, if nothing else.

B: Right, it’s impossible to predict how things will work out, but I think you’d have to be cautiously optimistic right now.

S: Yeah that’s a good way to describe the general feeling on the terrace at Hongkou just now. And we are still waiting on Drogba, which of course will have a big bearing on the rest of the season should he finally arrive.

B: Right, now’s the time that things get interesting (and frustrating). The Drogba story seems to have gone silent for a bit, but when the window does open up again, I’m thinking we’ll see at least two “big names”.

S: I think so, plus Batista made some oblique comments about everyone looking forward to Drogba coming. So, perhaps this long saga will conclude shortly.

B: I hope so. It seems the big moves are going to happen in Shandong, that club seems ready to lose a number of players who its hard to imagine playing for anybody else.

S: Right, in fact I saw Han Peng’s name mentioned in connection with Shenhua, but I can’t see that given we already have two strikers even if Manset leaves soon.

B: True, I think that’s the big problem with having Griffiths as your Asian player.

S: The problem is his fitness unfortunately. But nevertheless I can’t see Han swapping one bench for another, especially considering he’s been a long-time servant to Shandong.

B: If Drogba’s coming, then Han wouldn’t make any sense, if he’s not, then I think he could still fit in as a starter.

S: Definitely, he has the ability, he’s Chinese best striker in my view.

B: He’s definitely in the argument.

S: Anyway we will need to see. There is sure to be frenzied transfer activity in the coming weeks, transfer stories never go away, but we are about to be hit by a deluge of them.

B: I’m not looking forward to it, especially because I don’t see Guoan making a really big splash this time around.

S: Guoan seem to be distinctly low-key, they are not jumping on the Shenhua and Guangzhou bandwagon

B: Pacheco’s come out and said they are looking for a left back and a midfield winger, he’s been very straight forward about that.

S: I thought Mao Jianqing was a midfield winger?

B: I don’t think Pacheco’s been very happy with Mao. I don’t think he’s been able to fit in so well, plus a death in the family kept him away from the team for a few weeks.

S: He’s a complete waste of talent.

B: I wouldn’t go that far, but picking him up was unfortunate. The club settled and accepted him.

S: Why not go that far? He only plays well against Shenhua, he’s obviously got some motivational issue.

B: That’s not true, at the beginning of the season he put in a couple solid performances outside of the Shanghai match. I think part of the decision to bring in a winger is because of Manu’s “failure” at the club. They already have two strikers and don’t intend on changing at that position, Darko’s already holding things down in defensive midfield, so it just makes sense to bring in another option on the wing. That would free up Piao Cheng to play behind the striker.

S: Mao has only score nine goals since he left Shenhua, at least 4 have been against his former club, its normal for players to raise their game against old teams, but he obviously hasn’t raised it enough, otherwise he’d be back in the national team, where someone of his talent should be, but he’s not, because he doesn’t have a strong enough mentality.

B: It’s not all that uncommon for Chinese talent to not pan out, I think there was a lot of hope and a lot of pressure on Mao and for a variety of reasons, he’s had a hard go of it.

S: For the good of Chinese football, I hope he finds his way, he’s still got time. But I would put money on him being a failure. So any news on Guoan transfer targets during this window?

B: Nothing at this point, but I would expect them to be Portuguese/Brazilian or have played in the Portuguese league as has been the case with everybody Pacheco has brought into the side so far.

S: Right, makes sense. I think Shenhua’s next signings, Drogba aside, will come from Argentina, for similar reasons.

B: It is interesting that Pacheco has been the only manager to be so strict about this policy, but I think it’s because he’s the only one with a say, whereas most coaches have to listen to the club. Though many of his signings to date have been busts.

S: This is an area which concerns me. I think CSL clubs look backwards when its obvious the chairmen are choosing which players to buy.

B: Right, I think we’ve seen that in the Tianjin case. The coach had an honest complaint, he was shown a DVD of the player and told the club was signing him. Who is going to look bad on a highlight reel DVD? Yet it did work out for them in the end.

S: Pathetic. I know more about good players than Tianjin’s chairman. It’s just ignorance or arrogance that they think they know who is a good player. But more likely its some guanxi they have with an agent so they have to buy from him,or something typically under-the-table like that.

B: I wouldn’t blame it all on guanxi, I don’t think that really plays into it, but the team GM and club officials play into these decisions far more than they should. There needs to be more freedom for coaches to make these decisions.

S: Very much so. So any thoughts on China’s upcoming friendly with Spain?

B: No, China will get crushed, it’s a meaningless game.

S: I’m afraid I can’t really disagree with that.

B: Did Spain just paste Korea 4-1?

S: Yeah, Torres scored.

B: Thoughts on the new national team home stadium plans?

S: It’s good to spread things around in a country as big as China. Although I’m not sure why Shanghai is on the list of national team venues, people tend not to give that much of a shit about China here compared with other places.

B: I’m happy that in the end they added Xian to the list, they deserve it.

S: They do, after being shamefully disposed of a CSL football team.

B: Well, I for one am happy that after so many years, the national team is finally returning to the nation’s capital, though not to the national stadium.

S: Are they going to be playing in the white elephants nest?

B: No, it will be at Gongti.

S: Of course. Can you remind our pub-goers what the other cities are?

B: Ah yes, there will be more on this soon, but the other cities are Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, and one more. I honestly can’t remember if it’s Changsha or Guangzhou. The CFA decided that four would be too little, so they expanded it to six at the last-minute, pretty sure the final one is Changsha.

S: Seems Kunming is off the list then, they’ve realised they gain zero advantage from the altitude there, it would appear.

B: Right, I think the choices are alright, though a little too heavily east coast.

S: Yeah a bit. Although obviously the location of the team won’t matter a great deal if the national team players can’t find a way to get their fingers out of their asses.

B: Alright, I think we’re done for the day, no?

S: I believe we’ve covered a lot of ground in the pub today, I’m feeling a bit light-headed….

B: Need to keep practicing for mid July…

S: Right, that is sure to be an entertaining weekend when you head south to see your lot at Hongkou.

B: I’m already worried.

S: Well, if its anything like when Guangzhou were here, I would be too. At least though, if you follow the example of one particularly unfortunate individual who slept in a rather unusual location that evening, you may save yourself the price of a hotel room for the night.

B: Sounds like good times.

S: I think that was a classic Lanmo night, attended by ‘s Trevor if I remember correctly. Another contributor, who will remain unnamed for the time being, made a spectacle of himself that evening.

B: Cheers to that!

S: Cheers indeed! See you next time.

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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