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Pub Talk: Evergrande’s un-magnificent seven

Things are off to a slow start in the Pub this week, with Shanghai Ultra having fallen asleep at the back of the house, the Euros and time zones to blame. Your pundits rise from their slumber however to attack Guangzhou Evergrande and their ridiculous petition to increase foreign player slots. Corruption rears its ugly head again, but the pair fend it off with vintage Baijiu and some red envelopes. Elsewhere, its back to business as the CSL resumes after a mini-break, indeed so does the drinking in the Pub, and your dynamic duo salivate over the prospect of watching CSL games and then the Euros in a bar. That’s what’s in the Pub, this week, scroll on!

Bcheng: We’re back in the pub and I just want to offer a general apology, we’ve been slacking a bit but chalk it up to the lack of matches and the Euros, which means very little sleep…

Shanghai Ultra: ……zzzzzzz.

B: Anyways, the league’s starting up again this weekend with some tasty clashes and then Monday opens up the transfer window, sure to be action packed with a ton of news.

S: (snort). Oh B. What day is it man?

B: We’re slowly getting closer to the weekend…

S: Ah. Yeah the Euro has taken its toll on life in general over the past week. So, yeah. CSL is back, I’m glad for it.

B: So who does Shenhua play this weekend?

S: We are away to Changchun on Saturday, that is going to be a tricky fixture, especially considering they won their game in hand against Shandong the other night. What did you make of that?

B: Shandong was never really in that match. I’m not sure what to think of Changchun, but they look like a decent side. I can’t see Shenhua taking points in this one, but we both said the same thing before their match against Guizhou.

S: It’s a very difficult game to predict. Shenhua have yet another new coach, and it seems the team is on the up morale wise. You can never tell with Shenhua. I’m also not sure if Manset is still at the club or not, I haven’t heard that he has left.

B: I’d imagine he would be signed until the 18th, but not sure. It will be interesting to see what the new manager’s lineup is like.

S: Yes, I am very keen to see his first selection.

B: I would say I favor Changchun in this one, but lately they haven’t looked very good. If they want to remain in the title race, this is one they need to win.

S: It’s a tough fixture for Shenhua no doubt. I’m not making any predictions, anything could happen. But I think Shenhua could take a point.

B: I agree with that, anything more would be a bit of a shock.

S: We shall see. Who have Beijing got?

B: Qingdao’s in town. It’s a relatively easy one before things really heat up. Guoan’s next six matches will make or break their season.

S: Yeah we are entering a critical period of the season.

B: The six following the Qingdao match, I should say, its vs. Jiangsu, @Evergrande, vs. R&F, @Shanghai, vs. Hangzhou, and @Tianjin.

S: Some tricky games in there. Do you think Guoan will come out still challenging Evergrande?

B: That’s the four other teams in the top five and two serious rivalry matches. I think Evergrande’s lead is going to be about what it is now.

S: I hope so. But I can’t really see them not winning it this year.

B: While we’re on the subject of Evergrande, they have a few challenging matches, including hosting Jiangsu this weekend. This is when we start to see if some clubs can hold them in check.

S: Well they now have Barrios… who seems to have a bit of a wait to play….

B: Well, he’s not eligible to play this weekend. But yeah, Lippi paid lip service to the fact that they’ll let him get acquainted with his new teammates and won’t really use him until the end of July, though I think we both know that’s bullshit.

S: Evergrande have a monopoly on the CSL’s bullshit department. That’s quite a feat.

B: Yeah, Lippi’s new to the team, but he seems to be carrying on in their tradition of outright lying to the media. And the fans. Back to the match, Jiangsu and/or Guoan need to chip away at their lead. It’s not easy playing down there, but draws aren’t enough. Evergrande kept finding a way to get at least a point out of matches last year and that’s what really separated them. You gotta be happy coming away from there with a point, but if someone else is going to win the title, they need to take all three from Evergrande.

S: Evergrande is the team to beat. But there’s another elephant in the pub this week. In fact, seven foreign elephants?

B: Yeah, the disgraceful push to add foreigners by Evergrande.

S: What is even more stupid is that they only want to increase the number of players in the squad to seven, and keep the number selectable on the pitch to the current 3+1

B: We’ve got an article up about this today, it’s a proposal that makes zero sense. Thankfully Beijing and Shandong are doing everything they can to fight it.

S: It’s sheer greed on their part. And what is the point when the ACL is going to remain 3+1?

B: It’s basically the “Cleo rule”, Guangzhou wants to keep him, just in case.

S: Yeah. They knew the rules before they signed him, and now they want to have their cake and eat it.

B: Exactly, this absolutely can’t go through.

S: I just can’t really get my head around it. The place where they would benefit most from having more foreign players would be the ACL, but they can’t throw their weight around there. I’m trying to make sense of it, but, it’s just plain stupid.

B: It looks unlikely to go through, so that’s all that matters.

S: Right. Well speaking of off-pitch matters, seems a certain former CFA chairman has found himself in jail this week.

B: Haha, can we go back to talking about the football? There isn’t a bad match in the bunch this week, and yet the headlines in the foreign media are about the trial verdicts. It’s not a surprise, I don’t think anyone expected them not to be found guilty and receive long sentences.

S: Yeah there isn’t an awful lot we can say about it. The verdicts are there, as are whatever details the powers-that-be have decided to release. I think its a step in the right direction, and this, combined with the much higher profile of the CSL these days, will make it harder for dodgy practices to go unpunished in the future.

B: The pessimist in me says how long until Wei Di’s on trial. The optimist in me says we’re past the era of outright match fixing. Unfortunately, even the optimist in me knows that some of the “dodgy practices” will never fully disappear.

S: I feel the same. A certain level of cynicism will always persist for the foreseeable future. But I do think its fair to say that the whole world knows about the CSL these days, thanks to Anelka etc, and we know how much the Chinese government hates to “lose face” on the international stage. So that will definitely help shine lights in dark corners at least.

B: I don’t know if I agree with that. The CSL only ever made the foreign news before due to corruption. Now it gets in every now and then due to crazy rumors, but things really don’t change. Today we see it all over again, every international paper is jumping all over the corruption trials story.

S: That is true. The international press certainly doesn’t report on the CSL unless it does something “unusual” like sign big name players, or get caught up in corruption again. But the CSL’s profile has never been higher, if more big name players like Conca, Barrios and Anelka come, which I think they will, then its only going to increase the amount of attention it gets. Plus there is the “China factor”, anything about China gets more attention these days. What is in doubt though is how much of a difference all this will make.

B: Right, as fans of the league we can only hope things are headed in the right direction.

S: Definitely. So I’m sure you’ll be glad to shift attention back to this weekends action. The CSL is back after a break. Even if games aren’t taking place simultaneously, do you think attendances will be affected by the Euros?

B: No, where attendance has been good, it will remain good, where it’s bad, it won’t get any better. To me, what a great lead in to the Euros, go watch a great domestic game, there isn’t a bad one this weekend, grab a meal and some beers and then keep the night going into the Euros. Could you ask for a better night?

S: I couldn’t agree more. A footballing feast for lovers of the game is on the menu this weekend – take in the action at your local team in the stadium, then keep on rolling all night long.

B: On that note, are we going to come to a close for another week?

S: I think so. It’s been fascinating as usual.

B: Yeah, just happy the season is starting up again, and next week’s pub chat is likely to be one for the ages with all the rumors flying around.

S: Yeah I’m kinda tired of these rumours, really. I think we have seen a world record for the number of players Shanghai Shenhua have been linked with in half a year.

B: With the transfer window opening Monday, next week some of it will actually come true though

S: Yeah, I hope they can get it over with and we can get on reporting about football instead of all these tedious rumours.

B: Here’s to that. Cheers, mate!

S: Cheers B!

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

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