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Pub Talk: The Final Third begins…

In the pub this week, Shanghai Ultra arrives dripping after having to make his way to the pub in the middle of (another) recent Typhoon. Silly transfer stories raise their silly heads again, but Bcheng is there with his big mallet to bop them down. Shenhua are back on the agenda – Anelka turns up, Drogba’s impact is analyzed. Meanwhile, the pair spent a great deal of time looking back on what was a massive week in the CSL in the last round – Evergrande slipping up again. Relegation candidates are looked at – who is going down? Ultra thinks Qingdao, will Shenhua ever play in the city during its beer festival? Elsewhere, Bcheng amuses everyone with his defence of Guoan fans’ civility, in front of a scoffing Ultra. No animals or funny foodstuffs in the pub this week, just good old Chinese footy chat. That is what is coming your way, this week, in the pub.

S: Good evening B, here we are enjoying another pint.

B: Yes indeed! We’re right in the thick of things now, should we get to it?

S: We are. I see bizarre transfer stories refuse to go away despite the transfer window being firmly closed for several weeks now. Ballack is apparently considering coming to join Shenhua next season.

B: I think we’ll see plenty of those as we get near the end of the season, but let’s not allow that to spoil things. We’re still four months away from the transfer window opening up and there’s plenty of football matters to talk about.

S: Agree, but we can’t dismiss this story purely as a rumour since Zhu Jun mentioned it on his weibo, he just passed on the news without commentating on whether it was true or not. Which probably means he’s just enjoying being in the spotlight again.

B: zzzzz….what? Did you say something? Zhu Jun?

S: Alright alright, just think its daft to talk about bringing in more foreigners after your side’s finest performance in many years. How about that for a segue!

B: True, the dismantling of Hangzhou last week was impressive.

S: I think it may have been the best performance I have seen at Hongkou, ever. And it should be really, considering the amount of cash lavished upon the team.

B: So what brought it on?

S: Anelka finally bothered to turn up, and linked up the whole team. He was everywhere and I think the last of Shenhua’s goals summed him up. Having just watched Drogba score 8 minutes into his Hongkou debut, and having taken a lot of heat for not scoring even one goal at Hongkou in more than half a season, he passed the ball to Joel Griffiths for a certain goal, rather than shoot himself when he had a good chance of scoring. All that and the fact it was injury time and the game was already completely won. That shows he simply doesn’t care what others think of him, he can be a fantastic team player on the pitch when he wants to be and Shenhua benefitted from that finally.

B: So what it comes down to is Anelka wanting to show up. How big was the Drogba impact?

S: For me Drogba pushed Anelka all the way for man of the match. Most likely a similar contest for MOM will happen for most games from now on in. We talked a while ago about Anelka’s touch and general ability being obviously better than the average CSL player’s, at least, when he first arrived. Drogba is a notch up again, amazing strength and a great finish. He looks to be in great physical condition for someone in the veteran stage of their career at 34.

B: Yeah, he showed it toward the end of the year at Chelsea, and it makes it all the more impressive that he’s doing this with virtually no rest, 15 months straight of footy.

S: The man himself said as much in his after-match interview, the first time he’s had no preseason. But back to the game itself, Shenhua just basically destroyed Hangzhou, we saw a team which has had an awful lot of money spend on it finally show up. Feng Renliang’s goal was probably the best for me, it shows Shenhua aren’t just about big money aging EPL stars, also Bai Jiajun who is on-loan from Shanghai East Asia looks terrific at left-back, I hope we sign him up full-time asap.

B: It’s what I think you’ve been waiting for and expecting all year, especially since Drog’s arrival. A dominant performance all around.

S: You summed it up well. But obviously its way too late for any shot at the title and I don’t think grabbing 3rd and the last ACL place is very likely. Having said that, for the run-in, Shenhua have already played the top five twice with the exception of Guizhou. So they do have easier games than they might. However, other teams are going to have to throw it away basically for Shenhua to get anywhere near third, assuming last Saturday’s 5-1 was not a false dawn. Something Shenhua have had a great many of, if the truth be told.

B: Third’s a dream, but I do think things will get better for fans in Shanghai. So speaking of Guizhou, should that be where we go to next?

S: Yes, that was a stunning victory over Evergrande and the CSL title race is not going exactly the way we predicted, is it?

B: Unlike last year, where Evergrande would have been able to find a way to score late, this time it was the other side that got the 80th minute goal that secured a victory. Guizhou could even get into the race, but I think they dropped too many points early in the season to be a factor.

S: It’s exciting stuff, Guizhou is a difficult place to go with a very solid support there.
Also they didn’t have the benefit of the ref on their side against Guizhou, unlike they did against Shenhua the other week with the dodgiest off-side call you will ever fucking see in your life, which saved Evergrande’s arse..

B: They are a well-managed team and are getting massive crowds, most of all they’re a team that seem to always be involved in games with lots of goals, even if they’re giving them up.

S: Yes, but as you said they gave away too many points earlier in the season and they are six behind Sainty. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t win against Shandong. 3-3 at half time!!

B: 3-2 at halftime, it certainly was a wild one, with Danalache completing his hat trick just before the end of the half, but Shandong found an equalizer in the second half and were able to hold off Jiangsu.

S: Danalanche is a beast. He’s on track to break the CSL scoring record.

B: He certainly is a beast, but you think he can do it? I can’t see it…

S: Is it 26 goals Li Linyu?

B: Yeah, Li scored 26. Danalache scoring 10 more in 10 games could prove tough, but he’s certainly wrapped up the golden boot award.

S: Yeah it is a big ask but he’s on fire. So it was a big weekend last weekend in the CSL which told us a lot I think.

B: Definitely! It looks like we’ll have the title race we wished for, Evergrande and Jiangsu are going to battle it out down the stretch and if they falter too much, maybe Guizhou may enter the picture.

S: Yeah. We also saw both Shandong and Shenhua put in performances which suggested at least one of the pair will not finish in the wrong half of the table, as far as CSL old guard sides go.

B: Right. While Shandong isn’t entirely safe, numbers wise, I don’t think anyone expects they’ll go down the way they’ve been playing lately, while Shanghai is clearly safe and on the cusp of the top half.

S: Yeah that is how it’s looking as things stand.

B: Qingdao also came up with a big win over the weekend, the relegation picture is going to be interesting.

S: Indeed, kinda surprised to see Aerbin getting sucked into it, they’ve spent some cash…

B: They have Keita, so he should be able to keep them up, but outside of their foreigners and Yu Dabao, that’s a team seriously lacking in talent. And despite all that, the fans have come out.

S: Right. Dalian is such a weird town, Shide always seems to receive such inconsistent backing, despite being the most successful team in China ever, by a long way. I suppose it doesn’t help though that they haven’t won anything for I think, 7 years now.

B: Yeah, they have the strongest supporters section in the country, but the past few years nobody else has really bothered coming. We’ve talked a lot about this past weekend, but what didn’t get mentioned is quite possibly the goal of the year.

S: Right, that was a storming goal by your man. Just think, had someone in the EPL scored it, we would be hearing about it for decades and how great the EPL is.

B: A perfect bit of skill from Xu Liang, we’re unlikely to see another like it anytime soon, and a goal that Guoan really needed.

S: It was a goal fit to win a match for sure. How did it feel from the terraces? Did everyone go more nuts than usual?

B: I don’t know about more nuts, but for us at the north end (the goal was scored on the south end goal), it really took a second to hit, like what the fuck did he just do, and then a massive release.

S: Hahah. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a goal scored from within a teams own half before, at least, not at a game I personally attended.

B: I admit to watching the replay a number of times after the match, still amazed that he actually did it.

S: It’s worthy of a good few watches. Kanoute also should have scored with a header earlier on, I bet he was relieved.

B: Yeah, I think the whole team was, Xu’s goal put a stop to a recent skid and probably stopped a post-match riot if the team would have failed to win yet again.

S: Looks like there will be a very cut-throat fight for third place.

B: It certainly is going to be tight, but at the same time, I’m not sure anybody wants to finish there.

S: Yeah because it only gets the winner into the ACL qualifying around… and the ignominy of the Asian Cup if they fail to win that game.

B: Exactly. So, who do Shenhua have this weekend?

S: Away to your favourite other team, Tianjin. Bet you can’t decide which side you want to lose.

B: I’m sure there will be lots of negative chants against Guoan in the stands, with the Tianjiner’s love of only chanting “sabi”

S: Ha ha. Beijing don’t chant SB much, right?

B: In Beijing, it’s rare, only when “required”, not the constant drone that it is in Tianjin.

S: According to the excellent “An “Uncultured” Chant That’s Part of Chinese Culture” article you wrote, SB is, I quote, “regularly heard at football matches in Beijing”….

B: Haha, when I used “regularly heard”, I meant that it’s heard at every match in Beijing, but not that it is the only thing heard, or even that it’s heard all that much during the game.

S: Hahah. Ok then.

B: Then again, it’s stupid to be even talking about this. By far Beijing is one of the least offending teams when it comes to this chant and the reality is that there isn’t a club in the country who doesn’t chant SB, or the local equivalent of it, during games. It’s just that reporters tend to be in Beijing and not, say, Tianjin or Guiyang or Shenyang.

S: “Beijing chants SB less than everyone else” that’s a good one!

B: Having been to 10 out of 16 stadiums, I would put Guoan fans toward the bottom when it comes to the chant (or its local equivalent). Well, 11 of 16, I can’t not include Gongti.

S: I dunno why you give a shit…..whats wrong with shouting SB? I think it’s funny and those who are offended should worry about more important things.

B: There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s a difference between being pissed off at a referee or diving player and so chanting shabi while having a supporter’s culture and songs beyond that. Or being like the Tianjin or Liaoning fans (though big ups to Liaoning, they’ve improved drastically the past two seasons) who immaturely ONLY shout “sabi” and cnm for 90 minutes, without anything else.

S: People shout all kinds of things at football grounds all over the world. except in the EPL, where they are too busy munching prawn sandwiches. Perhaps they should give away free food at CSL games to shut everyone up?

B: Well, you can give free tickets like in Guangzhou and watch as the local punters just sit on their hands for 90 minutes. I couldn’t not take that shot. Anyways, back to the weekend’s slate of matches…

S: Haha. Ok, that was an amusing diversion. So Guoan are where?

B: The team doesn’t have to go far as they face off against reinvigorated Shandong Luneng, should be a heck of a match.

S: Right, that is possibly clash of the round.

B: There are a number of good matches this round, clash of the round is hard to call. Greentown are licking their wounds, hosting Evergrande, it will be fun to watch how they come back from the defeat. Guizhou stays at home against Changchun in a real six pointer, a win for the southwestern side would see Changchun effectively knocked out of the race for third.

S: Yeah, they couldn’t get a tougher test after their suffering of derby destruction.

B: Most of all though, there are two six pointers at the bottom of the table. With 10 games left, there’s still plenty of time, but to have Qingdao playing Shenxin and Henan hosting Aerbin, it makes things interesting.

S: Yeah thats a relegation orgy going on right there. I still think Qingdao are going down. Hopefully Shenxin too.

B: If forced to guess, I’d say Henan and Shenxin.

S: It’s sure to be from those teams, as we said last time Luneng are too strong, can’t really see Aerbin slipping either.

B: I don’t know, I’m not so confident when it comes to Aerbin, it depends how well (and how fast) Keita can become a part of the team, but after all, he’s only one player. If Yu Dabao or Utaka were to go down with an injury, I could see them in the picture fast.

S: That’s a good point, yeah.

B: Anyways, I don’t think this weekend’s results are going to create a much clearer picture. I think the relegation race will go down to the wire.

S: That’s for sure, it’s going to be tighter and involve more teams than at the other end of the table it would appear.

B: Let’s just be happy we have a race at the top, even if it is only 2.5 teams involved in it. And to that, we drink?

S: Indeed, we do. Cheers!

B: Cheers!

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade...

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Steve

    10/08/2012 at 13:28

    Very interesting & entertaining stuff, as always guys.

    Going to disagree a bit on the “goal of the season” thing — not for a second denying the top-notch vision & technique from Xu Liang, but super-long range individual goals don’t compare with a quality team goal for me — it’s a team game after all, and there’s something to be said for enjoying the buildup before the, eh, release you speak of…

  2. Tomas

    11/08/2012 at 18:41

    It gets more and more ridiculous on this ‘pub talk’ every week. I love being able to read about Chinese football, you’ve got a great site but your making me and my friends not want to read it with your biased, lazy journalism. Yes, I support Hengda, my local team, I don’t agree with how they are run, but I enjoy watching live football. Berate them when they do wrong, but don’t make up pure lies to fuel this anti-Guangzhou sentiment on here.

    First, the ‘sit on hands fans’ thing. Are you being serious? The fans in Guangzhou are fucking amazing, I haven’t travelled to any away matches, I was back in Ireland during the recent derby, but they’re vociferous and get behind their team. They would put a lot of clubs’ fans all over the world to shame. Have you seen the ‘season ticket holder section’ Theyre absolutely bonkers. If they’re not the best in the league, they’ve got to up there somewhere. Do a poll or something.

    That offside was hilarious, terrible decision, but come on, ‘saved Guangzhou’s arse’, Were you at the game? Guangzhou were the better team, created much more chances and if it wasn’t for that piece of calamatious defending for Shanghai’s second goal, we’d have won comfortably. It was a good game, but ‘saved our arse’ my arse.
    I know you guys don’t like Guangzhou, that’s fine but please be a little more impartial please.

    • Yiddo Huayi

      11/08/2012 at 19:33

      Tomas – it’s a pub talk. Not an investigative journalist report on football.

      How many pub talks aren’t biased? Pour yourself a pint of your favourite beverage and give those arrogant Beijingers and snooty Shanghaines (who no one can really understand anyway) a good old fashioned Cantonese bollocking!!

      (Northern SBs!)

      • GZBiffo

        12/08/2012 at 01:54

        You’re right Yiddo, but there’s biased, and then there is, as Tomas points out, making shit up.

        Bcheng, saying that “the local punters just sit on their hands for 90 minutes” follows on nicely from the free tickets dig, but unfortunately happens to be completely untrue; the atmosphere at Tinahe is always great, and was especially so at the Shenhua match (see the Sina highlights video posted on this very website). While I’m sure free tickets go around, I’ve never heard of anyone getting any except on this website, and I know huge numbers of fans queued for many hours to get tickets for the derby and the Shenhua game.

        And yes, that offside decision was ridiculous, but it was far from a definite goal, unlike say the one that was taken away from Muriqui against Guizhou the week after thanks to another erroneous offside call, which cost us at least a point (and maybe all 3). And nevermind that by pointing at that only, you misrepresent a match where, as Tomas says, it’s obvious to anyone who was there that we were the better team, with the better chances, and it took an uncharacteristic goalkeeping error for us to drop the points.

        Fair enough, there’s plenty about Hengda to dislike. The new extra foreigners for only us rule is indefensible and very embarrassing. Sacking the perfectly acceptable (results-wise) Lee Jang-Soo to spend a huge wad of money hiring a 70 year old who’d never managed outside of his own country was infuriating. And, yes, I know, Gao Lin plays for us. But we have some great players too! And play decent football most of the time, great football some of the time, and have a rocking stadium on matchdays.

        Of course we down here understand what this is really all about. We know how difficult it must be for you ‘established powers’ up north to watch us upstarts down south change the landscape of Chinese football to your detriment. As a supporter of disadvantaged teams elsewhere, I understand and appreciate the bitterness and frustration on show in these ‘pub talks’, but I wish you wouldn’t resort to such desperate distortions in expressing it.

        Great site otherwise though, and despite all the griping and goading really appreciate all the effort you and the rest of the contributors put into providing it, cheers!

        • bcheng

          13/08/2012 at 11:49

          The free tickets dig is an absolute fact, just look at the attendance numbers from last year and how much the club took in from ticket sales, the numbers don’t match. Just because they only release so many tickets to the public doesn’t mean they give away tickets to others.

          I will cop to the fact that the shot about sitting on their hands was meant as a joke that I knew I’d get in trouble for. But then again, pub talk isn’t meant as serious, it’s me and a friend “sitting down over beers” talking football, so what’s meant as a joke between us may not be viewed so much when everyone else hears it.

          I openly admit, Guangzhou have a very strong support base and while I don’t think they are the top fans in the league, they’re definitely in the top 5.

          We’d love to have others join us. We’ve had two contributors from Guangzhou who we really wish would write more. If you want to write regularly about Evergrande, get in touch with us. Trust me, we’d love to have more Evergrande content on the site, we’d love to have Evergrande fans involved in pub talk.

        • Damian Jones

          13/08/2012 at 12:46

          I’d say we definitely have the best fans in China, even our side stands get involved … unlike another certain rich club in China, while another club further North – which also has big crowds – is famous for only having 2 or 3 songs.chant (one being ***** SB).
          GZ home crowds are announced at 39,000 even when there’s bloody 45 – 50,000 inside the stadium and we also have a very impressive away support (including averaging 1,300 away supporters over our 3 group games when most Chinese teams would be lucky to take 50 – 100).
          As for the offside call against Shenhua, I remember GZ having 2 good penalty calls turned down which could have “saved our arse” when we were murdering Shenhua in the second half. Actually, referees seem to be under instructions not to give GZ ant freebies, perhaps to make the CSL race more exciting?

          • Damian Jones

            13/08/2012 at 12:46

            1,300 in the ACL away games that is.

          • bcheng

            13/08/2012 at 14:43

            I don’t like these “best” fans debates, but if you’re talking about the most involved and the most participatory, then it has to go to Beijing, with Guangzhou second. If you’re basing it on supporter’s groups, Guangzhou might glimpse the top 5. Away attendance is great, but even someone on this site has admitted the club gave them free tickets, including transportation to away matches. The numbers are big, but it really helps when your club is paying stipends to the fans.

          • shanghai ultra

            13/08/2012 at 17:15

            The turtle’s head re-appears, this time to squwak out some more ridiculous Beijing-isms….big crowds at Gongti have’nt always been the norm…. Guoan’s average attendance was barely 11,000 in 2004 and not much above 20k until you won the league…………. “where were you when they were shite?” – could be sung at a fair few greenshelled amphibians….

          • bcheng

            13/08/2012 at 18:01

            That’s kinda pointless because: 1. 2004 was still in the bad old days and nobody was getting big attendances and , 2. there were some lower attendance years when the club moved to Fengti because of its very inconvenient location. In 2009 when they returned to Gongti, the crowds jumped and that was from the very start.

            At the same time, Guangzhou’s crowds weren’t anywhere near what they are now before the title year last season, so the same thing can be said down there.

          • Damian Jones

            13/08/2012 at 18:24

            ….Until we moved to Tianhe stadium 🙂
            GZ / Guangdong is very much the sporting province of China. Perhaps this is due to it being the only province open to the outside world for a long time (even today it is seen as the most liberal in the PRC) as well as its proximity to HK …. and HK TV broadcasts. Southern China has a lot of knowledgable football/basketball fans.

    • shanghai ultra

      12/08/2012 at 13:43

      gotcha!

  3. shanghai ultra

    12/08/2012 at 14:10

    It’s great to see all this feedback guys, satisfying to see English-speaking fans of other CSL getting into it and supporting their local side and giving a shit. It makes us feel that doing WEF is worth it. But please go easy on old B, the view from inside that turtle shell is a bit dim….

    As I said above, the Pub is always open to other drinkers, it doesn’t matter how much you know about the CSL in general, passion for your local side is the key requirement, and the only hard-hitting research that goes on in the pub is finding out that cute fuwuyuan’s phone number. Get in touch!

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