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WEF Exclusive: Darko Matic on Guoan’s form, support in China and the teams to beat in 2013

Beijing Guoan have stuttered following a great start to 2013, as a squad with some great quality has struggled with a hefty fixture pile up so early in the season. As ever, talismanic Bosnian defensive midfielder Darko Matic has been an integral part of Guoan’s successes in this difficult stage of the Chinese Super League season.

Matic is one of China’s most successful foreign players and is nearing 200 appearances in the Middle Kingdom, including a couple of seasons with Tianjin Teda before current spell at Guoan—where he won the title in 2009.

Having already featured in all of the Beijing side’s Asian Champions League matches, Matic is confident of improvement domestically now and, speaking to Wild East Football, he makes it clear that anything but the top three would be a failure.

Darko, thanks for taking the time out to talk with . Beijing Guoan started really well in 2013 but recently don’t seem to be able to put a run of wins together, do you think you can get out of this dip in form?

We had a really good start in the season and played well, but we were playing every three days and we are not used to that. I still believe we will get out of this, we are playing well, but lost some important players and missed out on some new signings. We need to make some signings in the summer and that will definitely help us a lot.

You are quite the legend with the Guoan fans and are probably one of the best placed in China to comment on the importance of the fans here. Do you think support has improved?

I have been in China for a few years and the influence of football is growing from year to year. Chinese football went through a crisis from 2002 through 2008 because there were a few corruption issues, but there is a bright future in my opinion.

More and more fans are coming to the football stadiums—basketball is a very popular sport too—but I still think football is more popular in comparison, and I hope the fans continue to come to the stadiums to support us. In Beijing, we are lucky to play in front of big crowds all the time.

Who are the main title contenders and relegation candidates in your opinion?

Guangzhou Evergrande are a very, very good team not only in China anymore, but in Asia.Then there is a group of three or four teams—Beijing Guoan, Shandong Luneng, Guizhou look pretty good again and Liaoning Whowin too—and they will be fighting for the second and third spots. The CSL is a pretty equal league, between sixth to 16th there is not much difference. There are five teams that could be relegated, but I think it would be unfair to name them right now.

Beijing Guoan have to get through this difficult situation with a lot of games and some injuries, and when we get back to games on a weekly basis we can fight for second. We have to be top three, anywhere else would be a failure.

Pete is from Sheffield, England and came to China in 2008 initially living in Shenyang where he witnessed his first CSL game, Liaoning Whowin v Chengdu Blades. Pete is a fanatic Sheffield Wednesday fan but has picked up football allegiances from various trips, Galatasary in Turkey, Piacenza in Italy and Muangthong United in Thailand. In early 2009 he moved to Beijing and after a brief time started attending Guoan games regularly. Pete graduated in Journalism in the UK and has written for several educational publications on Chinese education for his day job as well as Chinese football for WEF which he wishes was more developed but avidly follows the Imperial Guards on their quest for CSL supremacy regardless.

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