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Drogba Who? Foreigner Focus on Gabriel Melkam

Drogba Who? Wild East Football analyses those who have already made an impact on the Chinese Super League before this summer’s influx of football mega stars.

It’s been a news heavy on a slightly larger scale this week, Ghana and China have agreed developmental football ties (the friendly last week seems quite coincidental!) where Ghana will assist development of the male game in China and vice versa for the female game in the African nation. Diego Maradona is, again coincidentally, after a job whilst on a trip in China and will have some of the wealthier CSL sides on notice. Maradona’s less than subtle visit got me thinking about foreign coaches in China, the highest profile is of course Marcello Lippi at Guangzhou Evergrande but there is a remarkable amount of foreign coaching talent here and I looked at their performances this weekend. 16 teams were in action, 11 were coached by foreign managers and they obtained five wins, four draws and just two loses. The five Chinese coaches drew two and lost three with unfortunately no wins. Does this mean space for Maradona? Possibly, but whether he would suit the CSL is a different matter entirely, his style is fiery and demanding which may be a difficult mix for the Chinese game.

Foreign coached Qingdao Jonoon sit precariously in 13th place just above relegation and South Korean boss Woe-Ryong Chang’s side will have to put a stop to their recent slump if they are to improve. They do though bring under the microscope a rarity in terms of a foreign player, CSL journeyman Gabriel Melkam.

Melkam doesn’t fit the stereotypes; he has been in China since 2006 and is something of an old hand which I somehow doubt Anelka, Yakubu, Kanoute and Drogba will become to Chinese football. He started in his home country of Nigeria where he played for the brilliantly named Stationary Stores followed by a decent 50-plus game spell in German football with Karlsruher SC. In 2006, though, he came to China and joined Xiamen Lanshi which he followed with spells at Changchun Yatai and Guangzhou Evergrande in 2010 where they took the League One title before heading to Shandong.

Qingdao Jonoon, like so many CSL sides have had their fair share of short-term foreign imports, former Wolverhampton Wanderers and South Africa forward Mark Williams racked up just 14 games in 2002, Uruguayan international Adrián Paz with just four appearances in 2000 and Melkam’s Nigerian international countryman Benedict Akwuegbu just 21 games in 2007.

On April 1st, 2011 Gabriel Melkam made his first appearance for the Shandong side, he is a left back so it will be interesting to see the difference a defender can make on a side compared to the attackers already featured in this column. Roda Antar couldn’t improve his teams win rate, James Chamanga improved Dalian Shide’s win rate by 16% but thus far no-one can match the impact of Guizhou Renhe’s Zlatan Muslimović with a massive 22% improvement in the win rate, how did Gabriel Melkam fare?

Qingdao Jonoon were not on a good run of form pre-Melkam with five wins, five draws and eight defeats with a very unimpressive 28% win rate. The Sea Bulls were scoring quite well with 17 goals in 18, a rate of 0.95 per game but were conceding 1.34 goals a game, 24 in the 18 leading to Melkam’s arrival.

Donning the Hai Niu colors, Gabriel Melkam’s first 18 games were five draws, six wins and seven losses, a slight improvement to a 34% win rate. The form barely changed and neither did the goals, 20 scored, 1.12 per game and 23 conceded, 1.28 per game.

Last week we started looking at goals scored by the wai yuan in comparison with Chinese footballers, this weekend 22 goals were scored, 16 of them from the boot of a foreigner, a whopping 72% of the goals scored over the weekend! The impact a defender can have is seemingly very little on the course of a whole teams form but still Gabriel Melkam had an impact on his side’s performances and his contribution to the Chinese game so far means he is definitely appreciated!

Next week we move south to ‘that team’ Guangzhou Evergrande and take a look at a Brazilian winger and forward who has been integral to their titles in 2010 and 2011, Luiz Guilherme da Conceição Silva or Muriqui if you struggled to read his actual name!

Pete is from Sheffield, England and came to China in 2008 initially living in Shenyang where he witnessed his first CSL game, Liaoning Whowin v Chengdu Blades. Pete is a fanatic Sheffield Wednesday fan but has picked up football allegiances from various trips, Galatasary in Turkey, Piacenza in Italy and Muangthong United in Thailand. In early 2009 he moved to Beijing and after a brief time started attending Guoan games regularly. Pete graduated in Journalism in the UK and has written for several educational publications on Chinese education for his day job as well as Chinese football for WEF which he wishes was more developed but avidly follows the Imperial Guards on their quest for CSL supremacy regardless.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John Fox

    24/08/2012 at 15:19

    Good article. Remember when Guangzhou

  2. GZBiffo

    24/08/2012 at 15:36

    Good article. I remember when Qingdao came to play GZ Evergrande last season (bringing no fans at all), Melkam came over to the fans at the end and got a huge response, confusing me as I’d only started going to see them that season. Anyway, he obviously left a very positive impression.

    Looking forward to next week’s article on Guangzhou’s best import!

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