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WEF Exclusive Interview: Daniel Mullen

At Wild East Football, we are often at fault for focusing too much on Beijing and Shanghai and this season Guangzhou has been the focus of many a story. However, there is another uprising in Chinese football, slowly creeping up on us and fully deserving of our attention, that of Dalian Aerbin.

Formed only in 2009, the team have grown into  a force to be reckoned with in Chinese football and dare I say are looking to eclipse their city neighbors Dalian Shide in the long-term. Their ascent into the top flight of Chinese football is almost unbelievable; they won the third division in 2010, second division last season and have been flirting with the Asia Champions League in the current campaign.

Their squad is a nice mix of foreign talent and Chinese speed; prolific striker Peter Utaka has stolen many a headline from the big money capture of Seydou Keita from Barcelona whilst they are supported by ex-Middlesborough man Fábio Rochemback to make an impressive attacking structure among their Chinese team mates. China international Yu Dabao still has youth on his side whilst Chang Lin, Wu Qing and Zhao Hejing add invaluable league experience.

A talented young player backing them all up though is Australian international right back, Daniel Mullen. About to turn 23 and on the back of near 60 appearances for Adelaide United,

Mullen at his former club, Adelaide United

he joined Aerbin as they look to the summit of the CSL. Wild East Football exclusively catches up with Daniel to talk life up north and a very exciting season for the CSL newcomers!

Hi Daniel, thanks for joining ! How are you settling into life with Dalian Aerbin in China?

When I first arrived in Dalian, the club made me feel very welcome. After only a few days of training with the team I played my first game and ever since then the coaches, the players and the supporters have been excellent to me. I have been lucky that the foreigners in the team had experienced living here before I arrived, so they were able to help me in many ways.

Dalian is known to some as the Hong Kong of the North, would you agree with that?
It’s a very big and beautiful city with a lot to do but the main thing is that it’s clean; Dalian has definitely exceeded my expectations which makes me really happy.

Have you been in touch with any of the other Aussies in the CSL prior to making your decision to come here?
Before i decided to sign with Dalian Aerbin I spoke to Milan Susak (Currently at Tianjin Teda, a relative CSL newcomer himself) and Mile Sterjovski (a fellow Australia international who had a short spell this year with Aerbin). Everything they told me about the CSL and Dalian Aerbin in particular was positive so it is fair to say without them I probably wouldn’t be here.

Dalian Aerbin are currently on a great run of results but when you arrived form wasn’t great and in just your second game you had to deal with the Dalian derby, what was that like?
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect at all. Unfortunately we lost that game 3-2 but ever since then we have gotten better and better. We have improved out of sight in the last 15 weeks or so and credit goes to all of the players and coaching staff.

You are just 23 and so kind of break the mould of a foreigner in a Chinese team, what’s it like to be a young foreign player in China?

Daniel Mullen named Australian U20 footballer of the year

Most of the foreign players in China are older than me but I believe I am a young person playing with an experienced head. I have been lucky enough to play in three Asia Champions League campaigns and two were successful so this has obvious advantages for me. As I am young though, I believe I am very fortunate to be playing in China with so many years still ahead of me.

Seydou Keita and Peter Utaka have proved an excellent connection for Dalian Aerbin, how would you describe their connection and what is it like playing with them?
Keita and Utaka playing together is wonderful to watch. I am lucky to have one of the best seats in the house to observe that as my job is to win the ball and let them do their magic. Of course Rochemback in the middle also makes life easy for me as he is so creative on the ball and tough defensively.

There’s a gentleman named Alessandro Del Piero in the A-league league now (joining Sydney F.C. in September), do you feel a little like him?
Del Piero playing in the A-League is massive. I grew up watching and idolizing him as a young boy and to see him in Australia is great. I don’t think there are many players in the world that could make the same impact he has to a country for football.

Dalian Aerbin, 2013 champions of the CSL next season, possible?

Anything is possible but we have the players, the coaching staff and the clubs backing to do some pretty amazing things. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for your time Daniel, be sure to check back with Wild East Football in the future!
I visit it quite a bit and read the write up of the Guoan v Aerbin game, I thought it was spot on. Well done on the website, I think it’s fantastic!

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.

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