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Roots of a rivalry: Wuhan fans want blood against Beijing Guoan on Saturday

When Wuhan Zall and Beijing Guoan take the field on Saturday, it will be in front of over 30,000 rabid supporters in Hubei’s capital city. This is despite the players have nothing against each other and one set of fans not caring, however the other will out for blood.

Why the difference of opinion? It dates back six years to a match between Wuhan Guanggu and Beijing Guoan. The match was tied at 1-1 in the 93rd minute, just about to close. Wuhan defender (and well known hot head), Li Weifeng went to play a ball when Guoan’s Lu Jiang came in with a dive and blocked the pass. For whatever reason, Lu stuck his arm up and hit Li in the shins. Li, taking offense (no surprise there), gave Lu a few kicks with his cleat and Lu got up and put his hand on Li’s neck. Ever the actor, Li went down like a ton of bricks and Lu was shown a red card. Watch the whole (brief) incident for yourself here.

That should have been it. A bit of handbags and not much more, but a few days after the match, the CFA reviewed the incident and handed out penalties, an RMB8,000 fine and an eight match ban for both Li and Lu. A day after the decision was reached, Wuhan made the fateful decision to pull out of the league. The episode was also the straw which broke the camels back for CCTV5 who suspended transmission of CSL games because of the unruly scenes.

There is plenty of reasons for fans in Wuhan to be angry at the CFA about the decision to suspend Li for as long asathey did. It would also make sense to be angry at Lu, who would be with Guoan until 2011, despite seeing rare action with the club. Many would even say that the fans should have blamed their own club, while it was obvious the suspension was too harsh, it was also not worth throwing your toys out the pram and quitting. However, none of these seemed appropriate outlets for their fury. For whatever reason, few blamed their own club and while they dislike the CFA, they wanted a target they could take out their anger on.

Enter Beijing Guoan. Wuhan fans would travel to Changsha and other nearby CSL cities to join forces with the local fans in cheering against Guoan. The day that the capital’s Men in Green would one day set foot in Wuhan again is a day many locals have been waiting for. It is also a day that many Guoan fans, who want to attend the first away match of the year, are nervous about. Away crowds can get nasty and there is always the possibility of violence on the road, will the Wuhan police be prepared for this first match?

If you look at the names on the Wuhan side in that match, it’s impressive. There are a number of youngster like Liu Bofei, Deng Zhuoxiang, Zeng Cheng, and Rong Hao who would go on to much more in the CSL. One can only imagine what would have happend if they were given the chance to grow in Wuhan, instead of all being sold off when the club disbanded. On the Guoan side, only two players who were in the starting lineup then still remain there, Yang Zhi and Xu Yunlong. Interestingly enough, Wuhan’s starting left back on that day, Zhang Xinxin, will be starting in that same position for Guoan on Saturday.

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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