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An Evening with the Canton Blue Dream Army

This is an addition to my earlier match report on the Guangzhou derby and gives a view from the five or so hours I spent in the away end. It is also intended as a thank you to the police and Evergrande officials for allowing me to remember my first CSL away game for all the right reasons.

R&F fans had been told to arrive at the ground two and a half hours early to avoid any pre-match incidents. The atmosphere among the Fuli faithful was pretty muted until the Evergrande fans started chanting and singing an hour before kick-off at which point there were more home fans inside the stadium than R&F have managed to get to any game this year.

The party really started in the away end when five Nigerians equipped with horns arrived to cheer on their fellow countryman Yakubu. This got everybody up on their feet and the chanting got into full swing, aided by the free clappers we’d all been given. These also doubled as R&F signs for those who’d forgotten their scarves.

I’ve heard stories about away fans being badly treated at CSL games so was presently surprised when we were allowed to reach through the bars in the concourse separating the two sets of fans to buy drinks, very necessary given the thirty degrees plus temperatures that the game was played in. Free water also appeared at half time although I think this was bought by the club rather than given to us by Evergrande.

Even if the atmosphere among the home fans wasn’t quite as good as normal it was definitely the best atmosphere I’ve experienced in China, especially amongst the R&F fans. I guess the derby brings that out in people. There was little hostility between the two sets of fans until right at the end of the game.

Yakubu’s late goal caused pandemonium in the away end as everyone started jumping up and down for all they were worth. Our view of the goal wasn’t great so nobody knew who had scored, not that anybody cared at that time, and the news that it was Yakubu only increased the joy, particularly for the Nigerians.

We were only separated from the Evergrande fans by 8 empty seats, a pathetic fence and a very sparsely populated line of policemen. After the final whistle some very angry Evergrande fans threw drinks at us which naturally drew a verbal response from the R&F fans but the police did well to push the opposing fans further apart.

We’d been told to bring a change of clothes and to expect to wait up to an hour after the end of the match to be let out but the order to remove the blue shirts was given only 10 or 15 minutes after the end. It soon became clear that this was a mistake as when the police ushered us onto the concourse we were greeted by the sight of hundreds of baying and jeering Evergrande fans massed around our exit below.

The police swiftly marched us back into the ground and we sat for five minutes before another aborted attempt to leave was made. A quick thinking official/policeman then told us all to be quiet and led us on a walk all the way round the inside of the ground from the north end to the south end which ended with a descent to the running track around the pitch just behind the dugouts. We walked past some of our heroes who had just come out of the dressing room but only had time to give them another cheer before we were hustled out down a tunnel that I think was where the ambulances had driven out of earlier.

It soon became obvious that although we weren’t wearing blue any more we still stuck out like a sore thumb because we had massive grins on our faces and all the Evergrande fans were in red, not the many different colours that we were wearing. Despite hearing some people say that we were Fuli fans, the small group I was with made it safely to the metro station where we blended in a bit better.

There was no time for celebrations as I had to get the last metro back out to Foshan but it was still a fantastic evening and one that has got me looking at the fixture list for away matches after I get back from my summer holiday.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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