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Pub Talk: Solar ecplise as Bei ke han mu’s golden balls block sun in China

This week is, as always, talking balls. However, the balls in question are golden on this occasion – and are suspended beneath a certain David Beckham. The lads offer their precious insights into the globes. The start of the CSL is squinted at, as it basks in the warm yellow hue of the golden balls themselves. Some surprise results in the mix, losers and winners and pointed at, plus some babbling on what kind of start the CSL has gotten off to. Elsewhere, its time to, somewhat reluctantly, preview the next big Chinese national side match, which is tonight. Camacho and co face being booed at once again, as B and S live up to their acronym by revealing their astoundingly encyclopaedic knowledge of tonight’s opponents, Iraq. Some odd things and half-remembered stuff is the subject of much head-scratching, to join in the earlier theme of golden balls being scratched. Speaking of scratching, er,in fact better not. We’ll just have to find something else to do with no CSL on this weekend!

Brandon: So despite the international break, there’s a lot to discuss this week. Would you prefer starting out with last week’s results or the visit of Mr. Posh Spice?

Shanghai Ultra: Mr Posh Spice seems to have gotten the international media excited again about Chinese football. It’s kinda perverse really. That Chinese football is all over the world headlines again, just because of Beckham.

B: I would agree, there’s a lot of crazy talk about what Beckham can do, I just don’t see it. Perhaps it’s because his title isn’t as grassroots ambassador or something connected to Chinese football as a whole, but instead he’s the ambassador to the CSL and his time in China is focused on CSL clubs. The idea of an “ambassador” who has never played in the league is just preposterous to me. It makes the league a joke ot me.

S: Is that what the deal is? I still can’t work out what he’s actually going to be doing. So he comes here and shows up at a few schools, says hello and signs some autographs and poses for pictures. Then what?

B: He’s not even appearing at very many schools, the majority of his time will be spent at CSL clubs and at press conferences. This is also the first of multiple visits. He was coy with the media when asked if he’d be coming here to play, I think that’s the only way this can end. If that’s the case, I was the first to predict it.

S: You were, has its finger on the pulse as always. Well I don’t really know what to say about this whole Beckham thing. Maybe its the first stage of bigger involvement. But right now, we can only take it at face value. Ha. Was that a pun?

B: Haha, I’d agree. For this to matter he has to 1. play in China, or 2. set up a football school here and spend significant time at it. Comparing his “ambassadorial” duties to what he did for the MLS is impossible to do, because with that he was in the US and there for a number of years. This is a guy who has probably never watched a CSL match and I don’t think has ever played against a CSL side.

S: Right, he needs to actually be in China for a significant length of time, otherwise it just looks like they’re all standing around blowing smoke up each others’ asses.

B: Which is what we’ve had the last few days…I’m just glad the Beckham show has departed Beijing.

S: Yeah. There is a lot he could achieve. What is in it for him? He seems to be suggesting he wasn’t paid, at least for his appearance the other day in Beijing.

B: David Beckham is a brand as much as he is a person. By coming to China, he promotes that brand and the brands connected to him, like Adidas and new CSL sponsor Samsung.

S: Of course, but it’s not like people here don’t already know who he is. I’m just really keen to know exactly what is what.

B: I think we all are, but I don’t think anyone can expect real answers from all this.

S: Yeah. He certainly has his work cut out making an actually real difference. I watched the press conference live yesterday, it was a typically dull affair, although the BBC did manage to get a question in about corruption.

B: Which was all but ignored by Beckham, and later attacked in the Chinese media.

S: What a stupid reaction. Do they expect everyone to pretend it didn’t happen?

B: That’s a good question, another one that is hard to answer…how about we move on to answerable questions, like how did the Shanghai derby go?

S: Yeah that’s a more interesting subject. The derby was a very amusing day for all in blue. Well, except for those who changed from yellow and white.

B: Do tell…

S: Well, there was a lot of chicken jokes, some people were making rooster noises. Plus even Zhu Jun got in on the action, slagging off Shenxin via weibo

B: Of course most importantly, Shenhua got closer to zero.

S: Right and we shuold have won by more. Shenxin were really bad.

B: Does that mean Shenhua are also still struggling? I believe Cao Yunding was given a start while Wang Changqing stayed on the bench, a move that paid off. Were there other changes?

S: Yes, Zhan Yilin started on the elft instead of Song Boxuan and he made a big difference. So did Firkas up front, in place of Dady who was crap the week before. Shenhua played like a team who looked good enough to stay up.

B: Good news for Shenhua fans. I also think Jiangsu fans will be relieved to hear your take on Shenxin, considering they will want to make up for being crushed by Evergrande last weekend.

S: Yeah. I think Shenhua have started as well as could be expected. It’s still going to be a long hard season, and the teams played so far are also relegation fodder. However, it’s all psychological, they needed a good start, but until they get a couple of wins under their belt and get well over zero, it’s still a bad situation.

B: *Banging my head against the wall* I thought you’d get the hint that we should talk about Elkeson’s amazing hat trick as nobody really cares about Shenhua right now.

S: Ha ha, I did it totally on purpose!

B: I don’t want to read too much into it, Guangzhou crushed Jiangsu at Tianhe last year, so it wasn’t really a surprise, especially after the wakeup call of the Super Cup, but Elkeson really was impressive.

S: Yeah he’s made a big impact. With players like him in the side, I don’t see who is going to stop Evergrande getting a third title in a row. Especially as Aerbin don’t look too clever losing their first two games quite badly.

B: Aerbin have certainly struggled early on, though that can happen with all the changes they made in the offseason. I still have hope in my title choice, but they really have to get things on track soon. It’s also interesting to note their two previous managers have both won their first two matches.

S: Is that so? Who?

B: Qingdao’s Chang Woe-Ryong and Guoan’s Stanojevic.

S: Ah, the managerial merry-go round spins quickly in China.

B: Yes, Xu Ming is Aerbin’s fourth manager in two seasons, and they’ll probably end up with a fifth pretty quickly.

S: I’m very much against firing managers all the time. The CSL has enough chaos already.

B: It does make things amusing, though. On the subject of firing managers, it seems as if Sergio Farias’ days may be numbered on in the blue side of Guangzhou.

S: Yeah, shock horror, they didn’t win their first two games 10-0, so out he must go!

B: I honestly can’t really grasp what the uproar is about, R&F were never going to be title contenders, I didn’t even see them as seriously being near an ACL spot. Though giving up seven goals in two games is a little surprising.

S: Absolutely. It’s just two games, I think everyone should chill out and just let things settle first.

B: Right, though things aren’t getting any easier for R&F. Then again, this just shows the strength of the CSL, every week a solid club comes to town. Guoan has gotten off to a good start against the two relegated sides, though now their season will start in earnest. Last week’s match at Wuhan was full of controversy.

S: Yeah a red card in the mix, tell us more.

B: Well, Joffre Guerron was given a yellow card for diving, his second of the match, leading to a red. Considering the conditions (it had been raining all day) and the obvious contact, the card was very harsh, but perhaps Guerron is gaining a reputation for diving, because, well, he really really likes to dive. Anyways, the next day (shocking!!!) the CFA met and decided that the yellow card was improper and that Guerron didn’t dive (this time). They decided to suspend the referee, though Guerron’s red card won’t be overturned.
I think the suspension has a lot to do with the red card call, but also only giving Wuhan’s Ke Zhao a yellow for trying to break Darko Matic’s leg (twice!).

S: Suspending the referee? Seems extreme for an honest mistake.

B: I don’t think so, if the referee makes the mistakes that this one did, it’s actually good to see the league taking measures and paying attention to the quality of refereeing.

S: Only if it was for a bad performance. If it was just for booking someone who he thought had dived, the that’s wrong if it’s a one-off. What’s more important is the CSL needs to cut out the ridiculous amount diving that takes place, it’s a much bigger problem.

B: Well, again, there were at the very least, two ridiculous calls, one on the dive where there was obvious contact, the other on Ke’s on-field assault.

S: Was this all related to Wuhan fans’ irrational desire to blame Guoan for the old Wuhan team deciding to resign from the league?

B: I don’t think it had much to do with that, though speaking of, Wuhan’s fans really need to up their quality, the whole outfit is very much still lower division, though the stadium is a beautiful (fairly) new venue.

S: Stadiums with running tracks suck for watching football.

B: True, but that’s generally what you get in the CSL.

S: Expect wonderful Hongkou of course. So shall we move our gaze towards tonight’s national team action?

B: Yeah, painful as it may be

S: What’s your prognosis?

B: I’m not very optimistic, it’s hard to be with Camacho in charge. I think China may eek out a draw, but I can’t see them winning tonight.

S: It’s hard to get really upbeat about it I have to admit. But I think they were unlucky against the Saudis. Plus it is a home game against a barely-functional country.

B: A barely functional country that beat China twice in World Cup 2014 qualifying…

S: Ha ha right. And won the 2007 AFC cup. I have to say I’m not familiar with the Iraq side at present.

B: I’m with you, I don’t know too much about the team, but I’m confident they are good enough to give China a game. As I said, I think a draw is the most likely result in this one.

S: One thing I think is in China’s favour is that Iraq are also in World Cup qualifying at present alongside the other top asian teams, so perhaps China will have more focus, having only the AFC cup to get into.

B: That is a good point, though Iraq is the odd man out next week, meaning their next World Cup qualifying match won’t be until June, so this is a test they will definitely be up for.

S: Yeah. Well China need to win games at home. Simple as that. Anyone new or interesting in the squad for this game?

B: The new inclusions are a pair from Jiangsu, Sun Ke & Zhou Yun, as well as a first for Chen Zhizhao, the midfielder who is currently at Corinthians.

S: Is that guy actually getting a game in Brazil? I thought he was a jersey-seller? LOL

B: Haha, well, he featured once for Corinthians and got an assist on a nice play, but yeah, he hasn’t been playing and it’s hard to see him being a difference maker.

S: So do you think there will be calls for Camacho’s head if China get beat at home? If they do lose tonight, their campaign is as good as over.

B: I think you’re wrong on both accounts. Well, the calls for his head have already started, albeit only whispers and this only being the second of six games, I wouldn’t say the campaign would be over, but it would definitely be in trouble. That said, I don’t see Camacho being fired, nor do I think China will lose this one, I think a draw is what we should expect, unless China continues to be unlucky.

S: There’s six games to play in this particular group, only teams like Brazil lose their first two qualifiers then go onto make it. Still, I don’t think China will get beat at home either. What I do think is remarkable is that this is the first time China’s participation in the Asian Cup is not a given. That in itself is kinda shocking.

B: Yes, it’s always luck of the draw, but with Saudi Arabia, they got a stronger side than what they’d usually have expected. Like you said, China getting through is always a gimme and yet this year it appears they may limp through it.

S: I think they can do it. If they don’t, it would be a massive blow.

B: Well, in that regard tonight is really a death match for them, getting all three points at home is an absolute must for them.

S: Fingers crossed. One thing I’m surprised about is the lack of time off to prepare for this week’s China international. Usually the CSL breaks for a few weeks. What gives this time?

B: A week is generally all they’d get.

S: But last year I can clearly remember 3-week breaks and guys like Lippi being unhappy about such long preparations.

B: Are you talking about Lippi’s preseason complaints?

S: No, I’m talking about the CSL break which happened last September, can’t you remember us discussing how unnecessarily long it was?
B: I vaguely remember there being an extended break, but I can’t remember why. It wasn’t for the national team though.

S: What was it for then?

B: I don’t know, but I don’t think the CFA would hold an especially long break due to two friendlies (which they only had a week to prepare for). Then again, it’s the CFA, so who knows.

S: Right, I’m just sure we talked about a long CSL break, and we know how stupid the CFA is about this, giving the national team long breaks is the kind of top-down logic they are slaved to

B: Anyways….I don’t want to get us too far off the topic at hand and this has us jumping down a rabbit hole.

S: Funny you should say that, rabbit holes seem to be where most of the CFA’s ideas come out of.

B: And on that note…

S: It’s time for us to disappear in a puff of smoke.

B: Cheers mate!

S: Cheers!

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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