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Beijing supporters debate the serious issue of…garbage

Worker’s Stadium was awash in green on Friday when over 41,000 fans watched Guoan defeat Shanghai East Asia 4-1. The next day when the reserve sides faced off, the venue was covered in newspapers.

Anyone who has lived in Beijing can tell you that when windows are left open for a few hours, a layer of dust can be found on everything near that window. When the winds pick up, as they often do, things can get even worse.

Gongti, being an outdoor stadium, isn’t immune from the dust and dirt and so fans who sit during the match tend to bring newspapers to cover their seats. Many will also buy drinks in plastic or paper cups and leave them in the stands.

Starting at some point last season, the media made a big issue of praising those fans who would do the the seemingly simple act of taking their own garbage with them, as well as picking up for others. When Chinese fans were seen doing it at an ACL match in Korea, it led to much back patting over how “cultured”Chinese supporters were.

The issue came to a head in Beijing on Saturday, due to a number of factors: the even stronger than usual winds in Beijing, a sand storm, and the decision to hold a reserves match in Gongti (itself an anomaly caused by “Two Meeting” fears), and Worker’s Stadium not properly scheduling their cleaning staff. The result was a pitch that was simply shocking, with almost as much newspaper and debris visible as there was grass.

Beijing’s local sports station struck out at fans, undoubtedly at the urging of Beijing Guoan, starting a campaign for the fans to show more “love” toward Worker’s Stadium and show that they are more sophisticated.

For foreign sports fans, the idea is almost laughable, as a foreign stadium is about the only place where it’s acceptable to leave your garbage behind. It’s made all the more humorous because in almost every setting in China, you rarely if ever see people pick up after themselves.

That this issue has received such attention is par for the course in Chinese football, where small problems are focused on and at the center of the debate while the larger, more important issues often get ignored. Interestingly enough, a supporter found a newspaper article from 1996, Guoan’s first year in Worker’s Stadium, discussing how dirty the stadium was and how steps needed to be taken to clean it up to show that there is respect for the fans. It’s interesting how almost 20 years later, the onus is placed on the fans instead of those in charge of the stadium.

While we can all agree it is best for people to take their garbage with them after a match, doing so doesn’t make one more cultured than anyone else and it certainly doesn’t make them superior.

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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