One match, four goals, and hundreds of thousands of “Shabis!” later a sizable contingent of contributors gathered to have a real ‘pub talk’ following an exhausting roller coaster ride of football. Now that you’ve already read the fantastically fan-perspective reporting from heavyweights B-Cheng (Beijing Guoan Report) and Shanghai Ultra (Shanghai Shenhua Report), here’s a glimpse into both a neutral-onlooker and away-fan-virgin perspective of the epic China Derby last Saturday.
The innocent analogy fits perfectly in summarizing a first time experience of attending a Chinese Super League match in the away fan section. There was a sense of excitement, violation, and loss of Chinese football innocence. Excitement was for the derby match itself, but also the added element of Drogba’s first appearance at Hongkou, his new home stadium.
Violation stemmed from a blue army of 20,000 emptying its lungs in spiteful unison directly towards your vicinity. The loss of innocence? Maybe I’m just exaggerating on that one, Chinese football has never been innocent.
Perhaps it didn’t help that this correspondent was positioned at the end of the away section nearest the Shenhua ‘Blue Devils’ North Terrace, thus caught in constant “Cao ni ma!” crossfire. Yet, at the same time there was an amazing dynamic added while being in the away section at a CSL derby. And aside from the occasionally frightening moments of flying bottles and police-required-restraint, the match experience was that much more sensational with fanaticism. It’s the same dynamic that underlies the inspiration for this website’s namesake. Chinese football is indeed wild.
The match itself was wild as well. Freddie Kanoute made his first CSL appearance with a scissor kick slammed off the post, while Didier Drogba appeared before the match (after arriving to a mob earlier in the day) to try on number 11 in a brand new Shenhua kit (another one for only in the CSL). Guoan displayed an impressive passing front via the work of Xuliang and Piao Cheng. While Shenhua seemed like a one man offensive show through Moreno, who is fast cultivating a love-hate relationship with Chinese football fans (love from home fans, non-from away) with his ‘showmanship’ and omnipresent 1.9m frame in matches.
On a special night, and year, for the club, Shanghai Shenhua finally rose to the occasion. Guoan may leave it to the “Hongkou Curse” but they cannot deny that, in arguably the best football stadium in China, taking three points in such a heated environment is always going to be a challenge.
In conclusion there are encouraging signs for the Chinese Super League to experience increasing numbers of fans at matches, even if they were telling me off in unison. As one correspondent pointed out, “Sometimes China seems like the most confusing place, but when I’m at a Shanghai vs Beijing match everything makes perfect sense.”
At the end of the day it’s still the beautiful, albeit a bit wild at times, game.
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