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Jia A old timer’s match shows that old habits die hard

Chinese football once again allowed itself to be the punchline to a joke today when Sichuan players walked off the pitch to protest a referee’s call during a Jia A old timer’s match against Guangzhou.

This year a Jia A old timer’s league was set up to play matches over a few weeks at the end of November and early December involving some of the teams and players from the first few years of professional football in China, back in the mid-90s. The teams that are taking part are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Qingdao, Sichuan, and Shaanxi. The league would allow the “old men” a chance to get back on the pitch, let the fans from the old days recall their youth, and give the football commentators something to talk about in the off-season, a win-win situation all around.

The matches began last weekend, with all of the games to be played in Guangzhou. Things were going well through the first couple matches, but things all went a little pear shaped today during a match between Sichuan and Guangzhou. With a spot in the finals on the line, the old guys were taking things seriously.

Sichuan was already angry about a perceived Guangzhou foul at midfield that went uncalled when moments later Guangzhou attacker Hu Zhijun (winner of Jia A’s first golden boot award in 1994) found space to go in against Sichuan keeper He Daqi. He was called for bringing down Hu and was shown a red card, leading to angry protests from the Sichuan players. After arguing with the referee for a protracted amount of time, the Sichuan players simply walked off the pitch. An emmissary had to be sent to their locker room and after many negotiations, they finally came back out to play the rest of the match, which they lost 2-0.

To many, this old timer’s league was already very pointless, with teams from Qingdao (who didn’t have a Jia A side until 1995, a team that got relegated and then returned in ’97) and Shaanxi (who didn’t have their own Jia A side until 2001). Further, this isn’t any significant anniversary of professional football in China as Jia A started in 1994.

With all that in mind, today’s incident, recalling the worst of the Jia A era, just shows that even with age, these players haven’t learned a thing and are as immature and corrupt as they were almost twenty years ago.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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