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Pub Talk: Laughable refereeing

In this week’s pub talk, your two heroic footballing overlords crawl in from the heat to banter it up. This week, incredible things which happened in a penalty shoot-out are discussed, bad men from down under, the CFA cup, plus other odd things. Ever wondered what makes a good cup competition? bang the CFA to rights over that. The strange phenomenon which is Liaoning FC is peered at – what is going on up there? The lights are on, enter. Elsewhere, ultra again takes aim at the CFA for inconsistent punishments, and gets bored at Evergrande. That is the hot air coming out of the pub this week.

Shanghai Ultra: Good to see you again B, the weather is absolutely sweltering in Shanghai these days, so what better place to seek refuge than the pub.

Bcheng: Yeah, not much better up north, so I’m equally glad to be here.

S: Yeah. Thank the lord for chilled beer. So let’s strike whilst the iron is hot, some interesting CFA Cup action the other night, you were in attendance at Gongti?

B: Most definitely, it was an odd, but fun night, Guoan continued the weirdness that started against Jiangsu on Sunday.

S: How was it in general?

B: Great atmosphere as always, good to “welcome” back that Aussie scum, and a big comeback win for the home side.

S: Hhaha. You are referring to a certain Mr Griffiths. That’s a rather uncharitable remark B. Tut tut.

B: He certainly doesn’t have a lot of fans in the capital these days. Anyways, Guoan quickly went down 2-0, then managed to wake up and ended up scoring 5 on the night, great performances Utaka, who looks worth every penny, and Joffre Guerron among others.

S: That sounds like an exciting game for those in green, are Guoan re-establishing their reputation as a strong cup team?

B: Well, it’s not going to be easy, the semifinals sees them face off against Guangzhou Evergrande, who “defeated” Hangzhou Greentown on penalties last night.

S: Something tells me your anti-Evergrande stance is about to surface again… indulge me, please.

B: Well, we had a great argument for why goal line technology is important in football. The match was tied 2-2 after 90 minutes and as such went to penalties, the first penalty taker for Hangzhou was captain Wang Song, his shot hit the cross bar, clearly came down over the goal line, but wasn’t called a goal. (watch for yourself here)

S: Yes, I saw that too. Frankly I think its ridiculous on three counts: 1. The referee missed it 2. The goal line referee missed it 3. It was a penalty and not in open play, which makes both 1 and 2 very difficult to understand.

B: Haha, some, not me, but some more attuned to conspiracy theories, could offer their reasons why that happened, but I have to agree, it’s pretty laughable refereeing.

S: I’d have to pour cold water on any conspiracies, if there was to be anything untoward happening, it wouldn’t be left to a penalty shoot-out, Hangzhou could have easily buried all five penalties without any going in off the bar or what not and not a thing could have been done about it.

B: I’m obviously only joking about that, but I’ll come back to my initial point, it shows why goal line technology is needed, you have multiple people standing around and they failed to see it on a penalty. The referee needed to see something that happened in a split second and then make a decision about it a few seconds later, mistakes are bound to happen, technology should help with that.

S: Yeah I think most people would agree with that. I am not a massive fan of goal line technology, we have managed over a 100 years without it in football. But, I can certainly understand the calls for it especially after seeing such a ridiculous miss call. I ‘d like to know if there have been any other such howlers during a penalty shoot out. This one we saw reeks of incompetence.

B: I think in leagues like the CSL, where referees aren’t the best to begin with, it can help. Plus, it doesn’t change the game that much. Anyways, it’s really too bad, but does set up a very tasty semifinal, not sure if Guoan will be licking their chops at this chance for revenge or still licking their wounds after the pounding they took at Evergrande.

S: I read that the home venue for each tie is yet to be decided, is that so, do we know how it will be settled?

B: Not sure where you read that…It’s a two leg affair, with the first leg taking place in Guangzhou on September 25 and the second in Beijing on October 23.

S: I hate two-leg cup games, much prefer it’s just a knock out, plus with a month between both ties, it makes it seem like the fixtures are very low priority and are being fitted in around everything else, which is the case since it’s in the closing stages of the season.

B: It gets worse. The final is over two legs as well, a very odd decision, but I have the feeling it was made because it is the “easy” one.

S: It’s also odd to have some rounds one leg and some rounds two. I think home and away advantage is part of the appeal of a cup competition, it adds a random element which can bring up surprises. The way the Chinese cup is set up runs contrary to what I think makes a good cup contest.

B: The CFA said they wanted to do it this way because in the later stages of the competition it gives both sets of fans the chance to see a home match. Me thinks it’s because playing a final in one team’s home stadium would be unfair and they were worried about how to manage two sets of fans at a neutral site. I agree with you on every point, but that said, the Asian Champions League is done over two legs (including the finals).

S: I can understand the final being over two legs, even if that is not ideal. Especially somewhere like China which doesn’t have a designated national stadium. The ACL final, I think it’s about sheer practicality, the distances involved means having one final in one city risks no-one being there depending on the teams involved.

B: On an interesting point, Guoan fans have to be thinking they’ll have a decent shot as the first leg of the ACL takes place on September 25, just two days after the CFA Cup match, so I expect Guangzhou to rest a lot of players. Plus, if Guangzhou makes it to the ACL finals, the 2nd leg of the CFA Cup will be played days before the ACL final 1st leg. On the point of a national stadium, there is one but……..that’s a subject entirely independent of this discussion.

S: I think we may see some rearranged games if Evergrande progress further in the ACL.

B: There is, of course, another semifinal, which will see Dalian Aerbin (who beat Jiangsu), take on Guizhou (who creamed Liaoning). Not much to say about last night’s results but for the weirdness that surrounds Liaoning as of late.

S: Yes Liaoning seems to be a one-team twilight zone at the moment. Also, to tie up a discussion we had in the pub last week, Zhang Jingyang, the guy who almost broke Dai Lin’s leg during the Liaoning match with Shenhua last week, was given a 3 match suspension. So, looking at Wang Shouting’s recent 5-match suspension, what is the message we can take from this? That dragging a cheat one metre off the pitch is much worse than a potentially career-ending tackle!

B: The CSL is a byzantine system with a lot of unusual rules, perhaps Shenhua, pissed off about the penalty kick and all that, failed to include it in their post-match report, meaning the CFA couldn’t review it. Just a thought. Back to the subject, after the oddity that happened in the last round of the cup, it seems strange Liaoning put out a reserve side last night, basically giving up in the competition.

S: Shenhua did complain about it, perhaps there is some bureaucratic technicality to blame, but at the end of the day, are we really surprised about this glaring inconsistency? I don’t think anyone is. It’s a fucking joke, especially when you consider that in 2008, a Shenhua player was dragged off the pitch by a Shandong player, but he wasn’t even booked. Ok that was five years ago. But still. Sorry to dwell on that, but the evidence was very very clear, for anyone to see, well beyond interpretation or personal bias. Anyway, yes Liaoning continue to attraction attention to themselves for the wrong reasons. Perhaps this was an unspoken atonement for what happened in the previous round? As usual, who the fuck knows.

B: I’m actually very surprised by the “glaring inconsistency”. The CSL has pretty much not missed a single chance to come down hard on a player who was involved in dangerous (or even not so dangerous) conduct all season, so the only thing I can chalk it up to is a paperwork mistake on Shenhua’s part.

S: Who knows, either way its an absolutely absurd outcome which is plain wrong. Watch Wang Shouting’s 5 match ban-inducing incident here, and the tackle which led to Zhang Jingyang getting a 3 match ban here.

B: Enough of that, anything on your mind about the results from last weekend?

S: Well, not quite weekend, Shenhua played on Monday, thanks to a pop concert. Pitch was a mess, there’s 52 weekends in the year, Shenhua only use Hongkou on a maximum of 16, usually less since other games are midweek, frustrating that things couldn’t be scheduled better. The less said about that game the better. The one result which stuck out was Tianjin’s win over Shandong, that outcome would have been normal a couple of season back or even against last year’s Shandong annus horibblus, but it was a solid surprise to see Tianjin win 2-1.

B: Yes, Tianjin is very quickly making themselves safe these days, seems like things are even separating a bit at the bottom of the table.
For me, the Evergrande-Guizhou match was an exciting one, almost equal to the shoot out at Gongti between Beijing and Jiangsu. Guizhou came oh so close late in the match to becoming the first team to beat Guangzhou.

S: They did but unfortunately fell short. This looks to be the nearest thing we have seen from Evergrande to a slump, drawing two games in a row.

B: It doesn’t get easier this week, as they host Dalian Aerbin this weekend.

S: Yeah, to be honest Evergrande are just a big dollop of dullness for me, in a league of their own, I’d like to see them get beat, but they can’t hold my attention for long enough to get too excited about it.

B: Well, Aerbin may be one of the last legit shots at taking them down, so we’ll see. Anything else capture your fancy this weekend?

S: Yeah lets hope so. I think you already highlighted the pick of the games. Will be interested to see if Tianjin can keep their new momentum against Qingdao, plus there is of course a big game at the bottom, Wuhan v Changchun, a must win for Wuhan surely.

B: Yes, I think Wuhan is actually having a historically bad season this year, on only 10 ponts after 19 matches, whereas Evergrande look like they’ll be record setters at the top.

S: Yeah it would be ironic, in previous years the CSL has been pretty tight from top to bottom usually. But at least with the relegation battle there is the second bottom to add to the mix also, keeping it more fluid.

B: Well, I think that’s it for another week here in the pub…

S: I think so, I’m feeling refreshed, but dreading going out into the heat again.

B: Same here…Too bad we can’t just live in the pub, though some might say I already do…

S: You and I both. Well until next time mate.

B: Cheers!

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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