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Pub Talk: Derbies, Derbies, Derbies…and Shanghai v Beijing

It’s Derby time this week in the pub, and, following on from last week’s rumpus theme in Nanjing, the gloves are off as the big one comes around again – Beijing v Shanghai, the China Derby. Little really needs to be said to excite everyone, but your intrepid drinkers offer up their views on the big game as Didier Drogba makes a PA before the match. Proper derbies are also under the microscope – Dalian, Guangzhou and a Yangtze Delta Hangzhou – Jiangsu job. Elsewhere, there’s enough time to look back over last week’s action, and an analysis of sorts, of who, or even what, has clambered through the transfer window before it slammed shut yesterday – more big names.  Shanghai Ultra ponders what’s going on down by the beach as Shanghai Shenxin attract beach-goers at Jinshan, and Bcheng laments the international media’s understanding of transfer rules. That’s about it this time round, as the crew prepare for another rowdy meet-up on Saturday night. This week’s Pub Talk was brought to you by the colours GREEN, BLUE, and the numbers 9,1 and ZERO.

Bcheng: We’re back in the pub and we’ve finally reached the last day of the transfer window with our sanity (somewhat) intact, what say you?

Shanghai Ultra: I say there’s only one show in town this weekend, the China Derby.

B: You want to go straight to 9-1?

S: Sure, and why not Guoan’s abject failure to win a single match at fortress Hongkou – ever?

B: I’m confident this year could be different.

S: As you know, I stopped making predictions about Shenhua, being as they are, an enigmatic bunch. However if Shenhua put in the same level of performance against Sainty, Beijing will have to rely on the same thing the Nanjing team did to get anything out of the match – dodgy penalties.

B: Those are some seriously nice blue glasses you’re wearing today…

S: Haha, I don’t think so. The fact of the matter is both of those penalties could have easily gone the other way, and Shenhua were the better team on the night. Plus the nuclear bomb will be watching the match. How unnerving for Beijing!

B: I am honestly concerned about Moreno, though I think Guoan’s defense should be able to handle him. I don’t think Shenhua have the same level of talent, but Guoan at Hongkou has never gone well. I’m not that confident to make a big prediction, but I do think Guoan will come away with at least a point.

S: I’m certainly not predicting a win for Shenhua, but I will go as far as to say I don’t think this is the year Beijing are going to break their…. duck. Snigger!

B: It’s going to be exciting. We may be seeing Kanoute for the first time this weekend, and in a half hour of play last week, Guerron looked really impressive, so there’s hope for the Green faithful.

S: It’s gonna be a great game. Drogba is going to make an appearance on the pitch to greet the fans, fortunately for Beijing, he’s not going to be playing. But his presence will inspire Shanghai, I’m predicting a much bigger crowd than normal. Ooops. There I went with another prediction. Argh.

B: Just to see him walk around the pitch? Seriously? Now that’s stupid!

S: It is stupid, but that’s the nature of the mainstream casual fan in Shanghai.

B: I hear ya. I’m confident that not even Drogba’s arrival will be enough to motivate Anelka.

S: Anelka, ha. A psychologists dream, surely. So for the match itself, you are making your way south yet again, looking forward to it?

B: Yeah, optimistically, Guoan will have around 200 making the trip south. I’m excited for the match, but less so about what comes after.

S: Are you referring to an after match meetup with a certain CSL team fan group with a reputation for drunkenness?

B: Yes, the activities at a certain hot pot restaurant are sure to be rowdy, to say the least.

S: I think that’s a given. There will also be two other certain contributors in the house on Saturday evening. An explosive mix?

B: Most definitely explosive! I’m sure there will be video next week, hopefully not too embarrassing for anyone involved…

S: Yes, last time an unfortunate pair of Shenhua fans, including a certain contributor (not me I hasten to add), who were both in a drunken stupor, made something of a spectacle of themselves on video. However the individual responsible for shooting the video very generously ensured that it remained offline.

B: It’s sure to be a fun night.

S: Yes, I think we will all amuse each other regardless of the outcome of the game. So, let’s move on – the transfer window is about to close today, thank god I can’t bear any more stupid gossip.

B: Exactly, but I still think there will be some transfer rumors from idiot foreign reporters next week.

S: Yeah. Zhu Jun to Rangers?

B: I’m sure we’ll hear more about Riquelme to Shenhua, such crap.

S: Yeah. For those sitting at the back of the pub, the CSL rules say that teams can only sign two foreign players during the summer transfer window. Last time I checked, Moreno, Drogba weren’t Chinese.

B: Right…so now that the window is almost closed, what are your thoughts?

S: I think the prediction I made a year ago when Guangzhou signed Conca, namely that we would see a steady stream of star names come to play in the CSL, has been proven right. Maybe the likes of Kanute, Keita and Yakubu Aiyegbeni aren’t in the same bracket as Drogba, but they are of a way higher standard than who was coming before.

B: Yes, at the very least they are names we’ve heard of before. It’s exciting times in Chinese football these days.

S: I think so. Let’s be absolutely frank – 18 months ago who would have predicted Drogba, Anelka, Marcello Lippi, Dario Conca, Lucas Barrios, Kanute, Keita and Yakubu Aiyegbeni would soon feature in the CSL?

B: It’s a sudden overnight shock the league has gone through. The quality of foreigners in the league has really taken a leap.

S: It has. We knew another influx was coming, because the European season ends just before summer begins. Generally I think this is a good thing, it can help inspire local players to raise their game, playing alongside professionals who made it to the highest levels of the game has to have some benefit. I also hope this new influx of big name foreigners will help more kids get out there and play the sport in China.

B: There’s been a lot of talk about the “sustainability” of it all, it’s doing my head in, because for the most part these signings are, monetarily, within reason.

S: I’d agree. I don’t think anyone is under any illusions right now, these signings are not meant to be sustainable as such. It’s a shot in the arm for the game, but I think we both agree the crucial point is that the powers-that-be need to capitalize on the increased interest caused by these star names coming.

B: I’d disagree, beyond Drogba and Barrios, the majority of the signings are sustainable and I think we’ll continue to see a stream of players at that level coming to China.Guys like Yakubu and Keita are going to be coming to China more and more in the future.

S: I was referring to the likes of Drogba and Barrios with my sustainability comment, I agree guys like Keita aren’t going to be unaffordable, in fact, as the CSL brings more of these players and increases the profile of the competition, I think in the medium term it will cost less to persuade big names to come here.

B: True, the big names are too expensive for most clubs, or just don’t make sense.

S: So we looked at the transfer window, glad as we are that its closing, it did bring us plenty to talk about. Last week’s action… Evergrande drew away to Shanghai Shenxin, that was a surprise result/

B: Yes, definitely. Shenxin/Nanchang was able to get a draw against Evergrande for the second year running.

S: Shenxin are on a bit of a run. They also seem to be getting surprisingly large crowds of 10-11k.

B: Maybe their Nanchang supporters are making the trip to Shanghai to try to help them stave off relegation yet again.

S: That’s a lot of away supporters.

B: True, who knows what’s going on by the beaches of Jinshan.

S: So what else caught your eye last week?

B: It was pretty ho-hum, lots of draws, but Shandong crushing Guizhou did serve as a bit of a surprise.

S: Yeah that was a surprise, Shandong doing one. New signing Du Wei scoring as well. How Shenhua have missed him, not that he was amazing, but he was never replaced.

B: Yeah, we’ve talked about Shenhua’s lack of a senior leader, Du would have helped them a lot. Instead, his going to Shandong is probably enough to keep that side above the relegation zone.

S: I’d think so. Can’t see them going down. Qingdao, Shenxin and Henan are likely to provide two of next year’s China League teams.

B: There may be some surprises, but I would tend to agree.

B: I think some other teams may be pulled down into it for a while, but in the end its going to be two of those three, unless of course the CSL decides to follow through on the punishments we talked about a few weeks ago and automatically drop two or three teams due to previous match fixing incidents.

S: I haven’t heard about that much, I just can’t see punishments being given for things which happened years and years ago. Also none of the teams appear t be acting as if they expect some kind of punishment soon.

B: Any more you want to say about last week or is it on to this week’s slate of matches?

S: Last week saw some surprise results, but this week, what’s catching your eye outside of the China Derby?

B: This week has a great slate of matches, I think the Yangtze derby between Hangzhou and Jiangsu is well worth a watch but most of all, my eye’s looking toward the Guangzhou derby.

B: It’s made all the more interesting by the last gasp move by R&F today to purchase Li Yan from Evergrande.

S: Yeah that was a surprise – is it not a loan?

B: It’s a loan for the rest of the season.

S: Interesting move. As for the fixtures, another Yangtze derby, I wonder if it will be as eventful off the pitch as the Shenhua – Jiangsu edition?

B: I think we can expect a quite weekend, unless another incident happens where two buses arrive at the same rest stop.

S: That was quite amusing. What an unfortunate co-incidence. I was already in Nanjing when this happened, but I heard all about it during the match, it was the talk of the Shenhua fans.

B: I can imagine, it was good that the police arrived in time to keep things low-key.

S: Yes, all manner of shenanigans took place, what do you think of the fisticuffs involving the Shenhua channel match commentator?

B: Pretty cheeky on the part of the Nanjing fans. I’m surprised there wasn’t better security.

S: Yeah. I think the man in question did a great job managing to keep broadcasting. The show must go on!

B: Of course!

S: Actually I forgot its derby weekend. Some tasty clashes all around.

B: Yeah, it’s a fine weekend of footy. And we didn’t even mention the Dalian derby, also to be played this weekend.

S: How remiss of us. Both those teams seem to be trying to see who can finish lowest.

B: Yeah, when you’re talking relegation, those two could find their ways into that fight.

S: So anything else to discuss over these beers before we down these bad boys?

B: I think that covers it, time to close it down for another week?

S: I think so, it will soon be time for another meetup in the real pub.

B: Yes, looking forward to it my man.

S: Not long to wait. Until then, cheers.

B: Cheers!

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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