A fans eye view of a trip with the Guangzhou R&F faithful to support their Provincial team
There has been a lot of transfer activity in recent weeks but there has been little on-pitch action for Chinese football fans to get excited about since the end of Guangzhou Evergrande’s participation in the Club World Cup. There was a final competition before pre-season training began in earnest though as the Guangdong-Hong Kong Cup, which pits a Guangdong representative team against the Hong Kong national side over two legs, was held over the New Year period.
Guangdong won the first leg 3-2 away in Hong Kong and to help support Guangdong, and Guangzhou R&F players Lu Lin and Feng Zhuoyi, in the return leg R&F had organised three buses to take 150 supporters to Huizhou to watch the game on New Year’s Day.
Everyone turned up bright and early even if they weren’t feeling so bright, your correspondent included, after the New Year celebrations of the night before. Despite this your correspondent was still early and so had to board one of the two chartered coaches rather than the actual R&F team bus which was reserved for latecomers. At least the Cantonese pop music was at a low enough level for many passengers to catch up on lost sleep.
All three buses travelled in convoy and pulled into a service station after a couple of hours when, from the luggage compartment of the team bus, five huge cool boxes appeared all filled with ‘packed lunches.’ With no handy benches, fans stood, squatted on kerbs or even used a flat-bed trailer as an impromptu table to eat their lunch off. What the rest of the people in the service station though of a horde of blue clad people suddenly appearing and spreading out all over the car park to eat their lunch from plastic trays is anyone’s guess.
The part of Huizhou that the bus drove through can best be described as ‘under construction’ but confusingly it boasts three completed modern sports complexes. This possibly explains how the driver of the last coach got lost and ended up arriving at the Huizhou Olympic Stadium 20 minutes later than the first two.
Everyone waited for the latecomers so that we could make a grand entrance together with our flags and drums and when we entered half an hour before kick-off the 40,000 seat Huizhou Olympic stadium was filling up nicely and ended up about 2/3 full. The policy of giving away tickets for free and encouraging large groups of school children worked well; it appeared that students from almost every middle school in Huizhou had come to watch. Giving out free or at least discounted tickets for parties of school children is something that many China League One clubs as well as even a few CSL clubs should consider (hear hear – ed).
With such a big crowd in there was a reasonable atmosphere although the habit that many fans have of listening to chants from other sections of the stadium and applauding when the chant is over rather than joining in with the chant prevented a really good atmosphere.
One chant that your correspondent was unable to join in with was when Feng Zhuoyi’s name was chanted in Cantonese. Most chanting at Guangzhou R&F, at least in my section of the ground, is done in Cantonese so I’m familiar with the pronunciation of most of the player’s names in Cantonese but given that Feng has only made two starts for R&F his is a name I’ve hardly heard said in Cantonese before, much less chanted. Queue confusion the first time a nice piece of skill from him was applauded.
One name that everyone at Yuexiushan is familiar with is Lu Lin or, in Cantonese, Lo Lam. Lu was born in Guangzhou and has never played for a team outside Guangdong (eight seasons at Evergrande, one for Sunray Cave and now starting his third at R&F) which combined with his on-pitch performances make him a legend amongst the fans. He is also respected by the fans for the way he treats them and acknowledges their support.
Many of the players seem just to want to get off the pitch as quickly as they can at the end of a game but Lu and a few others go beyond giving a token half-hearted wave from the centre-circle and come over to the stands to applaud the fans. Lu continued this at Huizhou when he was waiting to take a corner in front of the vocal travelling support who were chanting his name and turned to applaud us in return. He was back celebrating in front of the fans twice in quick succession as his goals won the cup for Guangdong.
With all this Linsanity around, Feng Zhuoyi and the other Guangdong players could be forgiven for feeling a little left out but they didn’t show it; goalkeeper Pan Weiming celebrating enthusiastically with all sections of the ground on the lap of honour. It was that man Lu though who was the first to throw his shirt into the crowd which caused a mad scramble that almost tore it in half before finally one of the leaders of a fans group got to keep it. Feng Zhuoyi had a much longer throw so there was a clear winner of his shirt.
After the flags, drums and megaphones had been stowed safely away on the buses we left the ground although not before the drivers had negotiated their way around several huge columns of students leaving too. There was some talk of R&F signings on the way back, with Jang Hyun-Soo now confirmed, but it wasn’t long before the canto pop started again and sleep caught up with most of the fans after a very enjoyable day out supporting Guangdong.
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