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Love Football Hate Business: Fans from Shanghai and Beijing come together to make statement

There was a lot of excitement in Beijing and Shanghai this week about the arrival of Bayern Munich and Manchester United, respectively. Both matches were “away” games for the Chinese Super League sides that hosted them, with fans of the European clubs they were playing coming out in large numbers from all over China to watch their heroes.

Not everyone was happy about these matches. They are taking places in a crucial (and crowded) part of the season schedule, with league matches on the weekend and weekday cup matches. Both Beijing Guoan and Shanghai Shenhua played their reserve side (for that matter, so did Manchester United), making these games even less interesting for the fans.

Some of them decided to speak out. Despite the somewhat unhappy goings on two weeks ago when Beijing fans travelled to Shanghai, Beijing’s E90 (an “ultras” group within the Yulinjun) and Shanghai’s Bluesland (a similar group within the Blue Devils) came together to make a statement in their respective cities “Love Football, Hate Business”, taking a strong stand against these meaningless friendlies.

Their attitude is in line with ultras across the world who are rejecting business interests that have taken over the sport. These summer tours are no longer the special, rare event that they were in the 90s and a lot of fans are simply getting sick of them. We at agree and salute this campaign, as well as hoping that Changchun and Shanghai Shenxin fans join in. These pointless matches do nothing to help Chinese football.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.



  1. Arxtor

    26/07/2012 at 15:08

    I don’t agree with this article nore the protests. This summer tours are interesting. For one they allow the crowds to see the best teams in the world at home (even if they don’t bring all the stars). Also because it allows local players to realize that they still have a lot of work to do to reach a higher level of skills.
    The question of the calendar being full at this period is no excuse ; a calendar can be arranged, move some games…whatever can be done. Summer tours have always been in the summer ; the leagues receiving them should just work better on their schedule.

    “a lot of fans are simply getting sick of them”… well it didn’t seem like it yesterday in a full Shanghai Stadium. But maybe we can suggest that people in the stadium yesterday were not fans…
    The sad part being that 80% of the chinese crowd was supporting Manchester instead of their own town. Foreigners were more supportive of Shenhua than chinese people. Pityfull.
    That is why the “business taking control” argument has no credibility. Chinese fans make it about business themselves because they don’t have any passion or faith in their clubs. They prefer to support the best team around rather than their own team… hence creating themselves the business for others , leaving them the only hassle in bending to pick up the money.

    Other big desappointment was that Shenhua didn’t play along and didn’t even put Anelka, Drogba or Moreno on the pitch.

    I would suggest 1 thing though ; change the format maybe. Organize a tournament like they do in Middle East around Christmas instead of single games here and there.

    But anyway, as football is still very far from being a passionating sport for chinese ; anything that is done professionnaly will always only be a show like cinema or a concert for them. If there was a true passion for football here ; there will be no need to have big teams coming. International tournaments , even with non professional teams or youth teams would be enough for the true lovers of the beautiful game.

    One thing I saw last night is that the B team of Shenhua can play as well as the A team ; even better for some of the players and that Manchester , even if all the “stars” were not there has to make some progress before the begening of the Championship.
    And one funny thing last night was people in the stands asking for Rooney to play or chanting his name every time there was a substitution… the guy didn’t even made the trip !!! if they liked football they would have looked for the information before the game , no ?

    • 9-Tail FOX

      26/07/2012 at 17:24

      I’ve always wondered why the fan base in China is so weak although football is definetely NO.1 sport and most chinese are crazy over football.

      Perhaps, the problem lies with the clubs that are owned by the rich who regularly relocate and change the club from one city to another, time and again. With no permanent clubs it’s hard to foster loyal and passionate fans .

      Maybe, some “genius” in China are threatened by a large football fans that can stand up / challenged their power …

      Indeed, historically, the Chinese emperors always relocate generals to prevent soldiers becoming to attached to them…HAHAHA, i know i think to much…

      • Tom

        29/07/2012 at 15:59

        I wouldnt say the Chinese fan base was weak. Attendances in the CSL, considering the football on offer, are very high and will only improve over time.

        Good point regarding the clubs changing cities though. Hengda/Fuli are a good example of this challenge. Hengda were fortunate to inherit a fan base from GZ Pharma and now after under two years in the CSL have the highest average attendance (I assume so anyway!). On the other hand, Fuli are having to start more or less from scratch having brought their franchise over from Shenzhen. Fuli certainly have their work cut out. I really hope they can achieve it as having two strong GZ clubs (both squads and fan bases) would make for a very entertaining season!

        • shanghai ultra

          30/07/2012 at 10:13

          Hengda and Pharma are the same club in the eyes of the fans, even if they were rebranded quite thouroughly they had a lot of the same players and staff after the buy-out.

          • Tom

            30/07/2012 at 11:03

            Yes, that was my point… Hengda started where Pharma left off whereas Fuli have a much bigger challenge.

            The perception of Fuli in Guangzhou is that of a club with no roots (yet…) – it is still considered by local Cantonese fans as a Shenzhen ‘migrant’ team. Perhaps Fuli will develop into a team for the 外地人 (no Cantonese) who live in GZ and want to follow a CSL team. This certainly wouldnt help with animosity between fans but could see an interesting culture develop between the GZ teams. A bit like Man City fans being from the city proper and United fans from outside.

          • Donald

            30/07/2012 at 17:51

            Fuli do have a big challenge, quite a few people that I’ve spoken to seemed to genuinely not know that Gz has a second CSL team.

            Fuli might get more ‘migrant fans’ in the future (I’m one now) but there is still plenty of Cantonese being spoken in the stadium. As for the attendance boost for the Shenhua game, I think a certain Didier Drogba might have a lot to do with that….

          • bcheng

            31/07/2012 at 08:23

            Fuli has done everything they can to win over local fans, including singing Cantonese football heroes like Lu Lin and Wu Wei’an. I would also expect them to make a run at Yang Zhi after this season.

            For what its worth, Fuli is much more a “Cantonese” side than their neighbors across town are.

          • Donald

            31/07/2012 at 18:39

            Lu Lin always gets a great reception from the fans. I’m sure Yang Zhi would too but Cheng Yuelei has been one of Fuli’s best Chinese players this season.

        • BulaimeiShanghai

          30/07/2012 at 12:57

          Fuli’s attendance against Shenhua was around 11k, I think this actually indicates a slight improvement. The match and football they saw on that day, could entice them to come back and maybe bring more along.

          Shenxin seems to be getting growing attendances, despite being locked in a hard survival battle, but they try to play their way out of it. Wolfsburg played a match there last night, I guess like their game in Changchun it may have been at closed doors.


          Games in the North-East in the last two weeks, especially when A’erbin participated were goal-rich. So was the league and luckily the weather. I think this is what will make fans turn out more at the end. Because of the Olympics where the broadcasters these days have their focus on, the biggest chunk of the games was played Saturday night and I think this is the best time to watch football. Let’s hope this little flower is not getting trampled over again…

    • shanghai ultra

      26/07/2012 at 18:41

      Your views are often contrary to what we write Arxtor, but your comment contains some very good points and some good suggestions. Thanks for your regular contributions.

      • Arxtor

        27/07/2012 at 11:26

        I just try to tell what I believe ; even if sometimes I might be wrong on some points.

        • Roon

          27/07/2012 at 11:48

          I believe in Santa; I try not to write about it. I may be wrong, but this ain’t full:

          • Arxtor

            27/07/2012 at 20:12

            Thank you Roon for your constructive comment. Sorry though that I can’t access your link.

        • BulaimeiShanghai

          30/07/2012 at 12:49

          I have a mixed feeling about these games. It was bad timing to play Shenhua, they were busy preparing for an away match against the league leader, they experienced many changes and turmoil in the squad and around the club. I am not sure who initiated the test, but a look at events happening at Shenhua could have given them an indication.

          I guess you pick a team that really wants to play the game, second tier cities, growing football markets that might turn up with their first squad, playing for their pride. This game would surely have been broadcasted, Man Utd. does not have to worry about that. Shanghai Sports Television has the broadcasting rights for the Premiership, and also covers most of the games and events around Shanghai Shenhua and other clubs in the city. I have seen the third or fourth re-run of the Bayern v Wolfsburg matches in that channel, I am sure re-runs of the Arsenal v Man City fixture might also come up, but I have neither seen a re-run of the Man Utd. match nor of the Bayern v Guo’an fixture. If you push your league do it more openly than having meaningless friendlies. And maybe really go to markets unknown where your team really is a spectacle. Just some thoughts really, open to discussion and criticism…

          They could have picked Xu Genbao’s Tellace if they were looking for an opponent in Shanghai. Sunray cave relished the occasion last season and scored quite a few goals against Liverpool in a friendly mid-summer 2011.

          I guess Alex Ferguson may also prefer a different kind of preparation for his team, since he wants to use these opportunities for fielding players that he may not have had a chance to have a good look at. I guess the point of Arxtor with the youth team tournaments makes sense here, that could do a lot more and would be much fiercer contested field…

          I for myself was happy when the mid-week charade was over and the circus left the town, to make way for what was fantastic weekend in the league.

        • shanghai ultra

          31/07/2012 at 17:14

          keep your views coming Arxtor, it would be rather boring if everyone agreed all the time

    • Roon

      27/07/2012 at 11:28

      Hang on a sec – 30,128 or 42,000 (reports vary) in the 65,000 seat Shanghai Stadium to watch the Reds’ old-timers, part-timers and pine-warmers scrape past Shenhua B suggests: a) it wasn’t full, and b) more football fans stayed away than attended. That a promoter can exploit MUFC’s brand power and have this display dished up is an insult to Shanghainese supporters of football. 1280 for a view over the running track to the back of the benches?

      • shanghai ultra

        31/07/2012 at 17:13

        the attendance was definately 42,000 officially, I was in the stadium and clearly heard the announcement. The capacity of the stadium is 80,000, locally it is called the “80 thousand stadium”, but wiki lists its capacity as 65k. Not sure why. Anyway on reflection it looked a little over half full.

  2. Agent

    26/07/2012 at 17:01

    Can anyone tell me why CSL, K-league and J-league are organized from March to Nov instead of following the European format. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that some of the major tournament is being held during the summer season…

    • shanghai ultra

      26/07/2012 at 18:39

      For China at least, its too cold in the winter for teams from the north to play, like Changchun and Liaoning for example. Chinese people tend to be less willing to go outdoors in inclement weather than, for example, UK people. So if the season was switched to winter, attendances would drop to some extent.

      • BulaimeiShanghai

        30/07/2012 at 12:20

        I tend to agree with Shanghai Ultra, you can still see lots of snow in the North and ugly weather even once the season has started. Late summer or early autumn actually proves to have the best weather for football and the pitches appear more able to host regular football matches.

        The winter months without domestic football are reserved for the domestic Basketball season.

        • Guest

          31/07/2012 at 08:21

          I think this has more to do with it than anything, this way the two leagues don’t compete against each other. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with a spring-fall league, a lot of leagues all over the world do it that and there’s no reason everyone should use UEFA as a model.

  3. Damian Jones

    27/07/2012 at 08:44

    There’s an easy way to stop these tours. Chinese CSL sides could put their first sides out and go for the win !! The Japanese sides started doing this in 2003-2006 and now you don’t see so many big clubs heading out to Japan through fear of getting egg on their faces.

  4. Yiddo Huayi

    31/07/2012 at 17:27

    From Arxtor: “And one funny thing last night was people in the stands asking for Rooney to play or chanting his name every time there was a substitution… the guy didn’t even made the trip !!! ”

    When is Real Madrid coming over to play Guoan? Would be great for the Beijingers to call out for Xabi!

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