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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.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Damian Jones

    18/07/2012 at 11:47

    It sounds a little extreme. As we were leaving from the car park and driving around the Tianhe quadrant we saw quite a few Fuli fans in their colours walking towards bars/metro stations etc and they didn’t seem to be receiving any bother (perhaps they had been seated in the main stand?). I think you must have been a little unlucky . As a result of this, Guangzhou police have now spoken with the Evergrande support groups and told them they must disband. No drums or chanting is allowed at Tianhe stadium. Personally, I think this is a complete over-reaction and I saw a lot worse when I was watching games in Shanghai and heard a lot worse about fans of Liaoning, Beijing and Henan.

    • Donald

      18/07/2012 at 15:09

      I’ll admit that I could have been unlucky, some of my friends did see a quarrel (not a fight) in the carpark after the game but I’ve not heard of anything more serious. It did not look good the first couple of times the police tried to take us out of the stadium though.

      Are you serious about the support groups being disbanded? There was absolutely nothing between the two sets of fans during the game and although it looked like a lot of Evergrande fans waiting outside our exit, it must have been a small percentage of the total number of spectators given how many people were there. It sounds ridiculous.

      • Yiddo Huayi

        18/07/2012 at 16:09

        Hopefully your clubs could develop a friendly rivalry like the Scousers, rather than the more bitter ones in London or Manchester.

        Save the animosity for those arrogant Northerners 😉

      • Tom

        29/07/2012 at 00:11

        I was at the Evergrande Vs Shenhua match this evening and the supporters groups were there in full force.

        Must have just been the police’s way of reminding the fan groups who is in charge…

    • BulaimeiShanghai

      18/07/2012 at 15:13

      Seems like an overreaction from the authorities, maybe the organized supporters of both ends could try to plead with them and discipline those in their ranks who should behave “better”, but otherwise let the news and media talk about this, many people went to the game. Many people leave their energy at football and the best would be if loud dancing, drumming, supporting and what ever is not physically violent is allowed. Any flares involved? I always regard Guangdong or Guangzhou officials as to listen to what people think, I would say in this regard the province stands out above other parts of China, plus the language, cultural identity. I would give it a try, Guangzhou is an interesting city with interesting, creative people. What I mean is, I think the public would be siding with fans (my strong guess). Can you tell me anything about humidity during the game and attendance and how close this was to capacity?

      • Damian Jones

        19/07/2012 at 12:24

        The attendance was given as 39,900+, however there was probably about 48,000 in the ground. All tickets were sold out but empty seats were down to the “huang niu” asking ridiculous prices outside the stadium.
        For a lot of games this year our attendances are coming up shirt of the actual figure (tax reasons?).
        Last night, in our game against Henan we had an impressive cup crowd of 28,000 .. although the ban was in effect. No flags, drums or support groups in the stadium. Apparently, the group leaders are in discussion with Tianhe city government to resolve this problem.

  2. shanghai ultra

    18/07/2012 at 12:23

    Can anyone spot the bearded WEF contributor in the middle of the image accompanying this feature?

  3. BulaimeiShanghai

    18/07/2012 at 15:35

    Donald, I both enjoyed reading the match report and about this experience. I was lucky enough to have been in Guangzhou when Fuli’s home derby was played at Yuexiueshan back in March, what a game (I mean occasion), atmosphere (the climate, the weather, the vegetation, people), Friday night, straight after work to wind down, I love Friday night games anyway…that ground and the setting around that old stadium in the park was fantastic.

    Is anybody using the ground now? How are things starting up at your new home? I can only remember the rain-match against Qingdao on tv a few weeks back. I think the move will turn out good in the end, although, I am not sure locationwise, how far is it for those fans that traditionally followed Fuli at Yuexiushan, how big are they in numbers, a few thousands? Can they generate more support at their new location to set a new focal point in the city’s sporting landscape? I think Shanghai Shenxin for example starts to draw more fans as they are located in a not so football dense area.

    I think Guangzhou football culture has two great teams (or three) on their hands. I saw Sunray Cave when they played at Shanghai Tellace a few weeks back. Good match at Shanghai Tellace, won by Shanghai, played on a high, good-to-watch level. Do Sunray Cave normally play Yuexiushan or where?

    It can only get more interesting…

    • Donald

      19/07/2012 at 23:13

      The new ground (University City Stadium) is on the other side of Guangzhou to Yuexiushan but is still easy to get to by metro. The supporters group is running a bus from Yuexiushan for those who can’t make it to the new ground.

      There has only been one match at the Uni City Stadium so far but Shanghai come to town at the weekend and with Drogba’s arrival there will hopefully be a big crowd. Most of the students won’t be there now but when the next academic year starts hopefully attendances will rise.

      I’m not sure where Sunray Cave play but I don’t think its Yuexiushan and the pitch wasn’t looking great the last time Fuli played there.

  4. donaldrossfan

    22/08/2012 at 01:42

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