On the weekend that the CSL lost one set of well-respected blue fans, Dalian Shide’s Blue Wave , another group, the Blue Dream Army of Guangzhou R&F, were celebrating the end of their club’s first ever CSL ever season.
At the end of R&F’s final game of the season, a 1-1 draw with Jiangsu Sainty, your correspondent was invited by some of the other guys from the Blue Dream supporters club to go for lunch with them the next day. I’d already agreed when I was told that the players would be going too.
Sunday dawned and hopes of meeting Yakubu, scorer of nine CSL goals in 13 matches, were high. However, neither the Brazilian coach Sergio Farias nor any of his foreign charges turned up. Nine Chinese players did though including captain Li Zhe, CSL All-Star right back Tang Miao and the local boy turned good Lu Lin. Marker pens and camera phones appeared from nowhere and the autograph hunting and photo taking began in earnest.
As well as your correspondent, twenty other members of the Blue Dream Army were there and were accompanied by ten from the newly formed student’s supporters group. The club had sent the nine Chinese players and some officials and other employees including the General Manager.
The usual round of speeches before an important Chinese meal were concluded with a couple of supporters chants then the meal and the drinking began. The lunch had been organised by the club as a thank you to the fans so all the beer was paid for and in the spirit of their club owner the Blue Dream members got stuck in. As the only foreigner present until a South African fan turned up an hour late, your correspondent was involved in more than his fair share of ‘ganbei’s but not as many as the Blue Dream leader who was at the forefront of the shenanigans.
The players left after a group photo which involved everyone clambering all over the sofas to fit into the picture, presumably much to the horror of the restaurant staff, and another rousing ‘Guangzhou’ chorus. The bottles of Pearl River kept appearing though and after the marathon three hour lunch was concluded there weren’t many people walking in a straight line back to the metro station.
My first season as a Chinese football fan has been eye-opening for many reasons and given me some great memories, notably the derbyvictory at Evergrande. That a surprise thank you meal should be organised by the club at the end of the season is entirely in-keeping with the crazy nature of Chinese football and shows that, whilst baffling at times, supporting your local Chinese team can bring unexpected benefits. Roll on CSL 2013!