Jiangsu Sainty and Shanghai Shenhua fans clashed at a motorway service station on Sunday afternoon , and a TV commentator was assaulted during a live broadcast of the two rivals’ pulsating Yangtze Delta Derby game.
In an unfortunate coincidence, around four coachloads of Shenhua fans who made the way to the game, encountered a busload of Jiangsu Sainty who were travelling to the match from Suzhou, at a motorway service station.
At first the fans yelled random insults at each other from opposite sides of the car park, but before long the inevitable happened and a rumpus broke out. Missiles flew as some fans became embroiled in a toe-to-toe fist fight.
A Shenhua fan at the scene told , “It was more shouting than anything else, there was a lot of throwing bottles and yelling insults, some guys were running around hitting each other, but the small number of police at the rest spot managed to stop thing from getting worse, and it went back to hurling abuse.”
And in a traditional Shanghainese retort, the fan added, “The fans from Nanjing are always like this towards us, and in fact, they are just a bunch of small-town peasants.”
The video below was taken below after police arrived, with insults being exchanged from behind the safety of a police line. The Shenhua fans are mostly from the Blue Boys ultras group, and the chant heard around the 30 second mark is the Shanghainese word xiangwoning, which roughly translates as redneck or country bumpkin.
Police dispersed the two groups after a time and both sets of fans were soon back on their way to Nanjing. However, the shenanigans for the day were not over.
During the match, Shenhua’s online PPTTV channel commentator Zhou Liang was assaulted whilst in the midst of a live broadcast. Zhou told Shanghai media that he was commentating on the game in corporate box in the stadium, and after Dai Lin equalized to make the score 1-1, he yelled excitedly, being as he is, a Shenhua supporter.
However, somehow, two Jiangsu fans nearby who were within earshot took umbrage to his celebration and stormed into the box and disconnected his telephone connection to the studio back in Shanghai, before delivering some choice words to the Shanghai representative.
Zhou explained he was commentating for Shenhua’s online channel therefore, of course he was favouring the away team.
Shortly afterwards he managed to reinstate his connection and resumed his commentary, apologising to those tuning in online for the rude interruption. However when Shenhua again equalized in the 73rd minute, he couldn’t contain his excitement and again celebrated defender Moises goal in the exuberant manner the commentator is known for.
Unfortunately, upon overhearing Zhou’s celebration once more, the same two Sainty fans again stormed into the room, and this time the encounter ended in violence. Zhou Liang suffered a black eye as fisticuffs ensued, before two technical staff in the room stepped in to stop the brawl.
Undeterred despite his injury (pictured), Zhou again manfully resumed his broadcast which thankfully remained uninterrupted for the rest of the match.
There are three editions of the Yangtze Delta Derby – Hangzhou v Shenhua, Shenhua v Jiangsu Sainty, and Jiangsu Sainty v Hangzhou Greentown. Unsurprisingly, games involving Shenhua seem to involve the most trouble between rival fans.
These matches don’t have a long history as both Shenhua’s local rivals have spent most of their history in the second tier China League – Hangzhou Greentown were only promoted to the CSL at the end of 2006, and Jiangsu Sainty the end of 2008.
In recent years several incidents have occurred, including one match in Nanjing two years ago which saw your correspondent spent a very drafty few hours in a bus back to Shanghai which had its window boarded up following an assault by Sainty fans.
However with China being a very regionalized country with strong local identities and stereotypes, football derby culture has developed quickly between fans despite the short history of the Yangzte Delta Derby.
This is no fake import of European football rivalry, the angst is built on ancient tribal spats which have existed for a very long time in China.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015