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Pub Talk: Elks, Yaks and other animals…

Welcome back to the pub dear readers. This week we have another guest, as contributor Chris Atkins makes his long-awaited return, stepping in for the wondering Bcheng. He offers his take on several issues, including Shenhua’s most amazing comeback yet, after-match Shenanigans in Wuhan city, the general championship outlook, and of course tonight’s big clash between the leagues two unbeaten teams. Who will win that one? The predictions of your pubsters are perhaps not what you’d expect. Elsewhere, the reek of dung again wafts into the pub, as the Elk and the Yak are reined in down in Guangzhou, although not to be eaten, thankfully. Also down in Guangzhou, century man Gao Lin has gotten himself into trouble again, this time over a possible offensive gesture. Your drinkers carefully pick their way through that particular minefield. Read on to see if they emerge unscathed, in this weeks one and only Pub Talk.

Shanghai Ultra: So welcome back to the pub Chris. It’s been a while eh?

Chris Atkins: Yeah, I don’t even remember the last time I was allowed out. Far too long. You good?

S: Yeah, B is a busy B these days, so much as I love his turtle-shelled take on the world of Chinese football, it’s good to have Mr Christopher Atkins back, and a Chinese speaker too.

C: You’re too kind. But, we should stop this love in before everyone gets a bit sick. Let’s talk important matters—like your visit to Wuhan. Crazy game, huh?

S: Yes it was a crazy game which took place during a rather crazy weekend. I’m actually working on a report of the action that took place with the fans off the pitch (off which there was plenty I might add) but the game itself was a real gem. Did you catch any of it?

C: I caught highlights, but I think I lost out on some of the drama that way. As I saw the goals going in live on the Sina scores page, I couldn’t believe it. That boy Firas again!

S: Yeah. He actually played very badly by his standards in the first 45, but then so did everyone in blue that afternoon. I don’t think anyone thought Shenhua’s unbeaten record would emerge unscathed when Wuhan went 3-0 up. Even just the timing of the goals was pretty mental, it wasn’t any ordinary 3-3, it was only 1-0 at half time and even then that goal was scored just before the break.

C: I’m used to watching Evergrande—no goals in the first-half followed by a flurry late on doesn’t surprise me any more. How was Wuhan to visit? The photos make it look immense.

S: As we all stepped off the buses into the car park outside the stadium, we spontaneously chanted “Guoan SB”, as soon as the Wuhan fans heard that, everything was cool. Even after their team failed to win in such a painful (for them) manner, E-Mo fans group were first class and we drank with them, like this.

C: Now, that looks like a party! Bet the ladies of Wuhan were lapping that up.

S: Well, the after match dinner was something of a male-dominated affair, as the video reveals, although certain individuals attempted to deviate from that as the party moved into the bars and clubs. It was funny in many ways, again football is such a leveller, you put a bunch of lads from anywhere in the world into an exciting match which gets the blood flowing, then afterwards everyone is naked from the waist up and chugging beers. How cultured is!

C: Indeed. We blend in with the locals anywhere. There were some other fairly big results last week, so we should give them a mention. Shenxin gave Shandong Luneng a scare, coming back from 2-0 down only to lose 3-2. They look a decent side this year.

S: Yes, as a matter of fact that very game was on the TV in the restaurant whilst all the alcohol-related shenanigans detailed above was going on. First time I saw Shenhua fans cheer for Shandong! Shenxin scored a cracked of a free kick though. They are such an unpredictable team, they really are.

C: The three Brazilians in the forward line have a bit of quality about them. Kieza, in particular, was a real capture. But, as you say, a couple of the Chinese lads have stepped up, including Wang Yun who scored the free-kick. No real change up top, though, as Guoan and Evergrande both secured comfortable wins.

S: Right, it was a fairly tame looking fixturecard but there were some good games and goals. Guoan got back on the rails after their recent bump – can you see them challenging Evergrande this season? Or any other team?

C: Not really. I think we all know who the champions will be—they’ve got a game in hand already. Guoan, if it goes their way, will be in a race for second with Shandong, I would imagine. What’s your view?

S: I can only agree with that. We are coming up for being a third of the way through the season now, I think a lot of predictions made here at have already been proved to be plain wrong. Qingdao and Shenhua have stunned everyone and look unlikely to get dragged into the relegation zone. Wuhan and Dalian Aerbin have under-performed, Aerbin may yet come good but it’s already too late for them to challenge Evergrande. Wuhan look doomed already.

C: Sadly for your new friends, I would agree. Quickly, while we are on Evergrande (AGAIN), it’s worth noting that Elkeson scored his 13th goal of the season last week. Li Jinyu’s record is double that, at 26. He has an incredible 23 games left to score 14 times. Got to be odds on, even if his form is surely unsustainable.

S: Yeah you have to reckon Elkeson will beat Li’s record, I think only injury can stop him. Danalache wasn’t far off it last year and I don’t think he had scored anywhere near 13 goals this time last year.

C: No, he would only have been on four or five. Liaoning’s Edu is quite unlucky, his eight goals in eight has gone a bit under the radar. That’s impressive, given that Liaoning (for all their quality) are not Evergrande.

S: I saw Edu in person against Shenhua earlier this season – he’s the most impressive striker I have seen so far. Strong and powerful, quite like Elkeson actually.

C: I can only echo that. The Liaoning forward line in general, with Trifunovic and Chamanga looked very good when I saw them in week one. On Brazilian strikers, did you see this week that Romario is joining the CSL?

S: Is that really going to happen or is it just another of the endless transfer rumours which spin around the CSL these days?

C: I think that’s real. Seems Guangzhou Fuli’s Davi is heading to Brazilian side Vasco da Gama, in exchange for young forward Romario. He’s 20 or 21, and has a reasonable reputation. Will be interesting to see how he gets on. He’s a good age, which is encouraging. Not the usual 34 year olds (or Schiavi).

S: You know a lot about South American football, what can you tell us about Romario?

C: Well, he’s no relation to THAT Romario for a start. He’s played a handful of first team games, with reasonable returns. He’s tall, also, at 6 foot 2. A Yakubu replacement, maybe, for when the Yak is feeling a bit…bloated.

S: The Yak is looking a bit like a real Yak these days.

C: Something like that. He was dropped, or rested, last week as R&F lost to Jiangsu. Bad times at the Yuexiushan at present, and they have a tough game versus Guoan this weekend.

S: They do, but before we move on, I think we should discuss Gao Lin’s gesture towards his own fans last week.

C: Right. The subject nobody wants to discuss—at least in Guangzhou. So, it was Gao Lin’s 100th game for Evergrande last week and he got himself on the scoresheet. In celebration, he then ran over to a group of supporters who were holding banners of him, and appeared to give a form of straight-arm salute. I don’t know the meaning, but it would be a massive issue elsewhere.

S: Do you think it was a Nazi salute?

C: I don’t think Gao is politically aware enough. I think he just was greeting the crowd, but made a mistake. What about you? Others think different, and it’s been said Lippi didn’t look impressed.

S: It was interesting to see the it talked about in the China Daily  in a surprisingly balanced article. Personally, I think it was his 100th game, the fans were waving “100” placards and portraits of him and such like, I think he simply made a gesture to the crowd to acknowledge their efforts, in the excitement of just having scored a rather good goal. Why make a Nazi salute to the GZ fans? There is no obvious connection, there is no fascist element in their support I’m aware of, I just think there is nothing in it. Having said that, I can completely understand the concern about it… Nazism is bad, etc etc.

C: Right, it looked like a fairly average area of the crowd rather than any form of neo-Nazi ultras. It’s certainly captured the imagination. It’s last orders, we getting another or heading off?

S: It is last orders, but you’d be remiss not to make a prediction about tonight’s big match before he toddle off – can Shenhua stop Evergrande?

C: I don’t see why not. Evergrande have the Champions League next week, but I’ll say a 2-2 draw

S: Wow, you surprise me with that. I think most Shenhua fans, including myself and Mr Crooks, are predicting our side’s long unbeaten run to come to a sticky end this evening.

C: You are a pessimistic bunch. Let’s see if Schiavi can shackle the “Elk God”

S: That will be a real test of whether Schiavi still has it or not. I’m predicting a 2-0 defeat for Shenhua tonight, our defence was diabolical against Wuhan, Evergrande just have too much quality. Shenhua will need luck on their side to take anything from the game.

C: If you play like last week, as you say, it could be carnage. Anyway, I had better be off. A pleasure to join you in the pub once more.

S: It’s been a great session Chris. Thanks for joining us, see you again next time. Cheers!

C: See you!

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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