Supporters of Shanghai Shenhua intend to protest against the club’s new identity following new owner Greenland real estate’s decision to rename the club to “Shanghai Greenland FC, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua team”.
Hundreds of fans reacted angrily to the announcement, cursing Greenland and accusing the corporation of abandoning 20 years of history as the CSL team alongside Beijing Guoan to have retained its original title in some form.
The new identity of the club, which makes a curious distinction between the name of the club and the name of the team, is ironically a similar arrangement to what Shenhua’s long time rivals Beijing Guoan used during the mid 2000s. Following a new sponsorship arrangement, the team was renamed Beijing Hyundai but the club was still called Guoan and referred to as such by fans and media alike. Guoan reverted back to their original identity when Hyundai ended their sponsorship in 2006.
The club/team distinction appears to be a rare phenomenon which defies common logic, due to the fact practically no-one outside of legal or footballing authority circles would ever have the need, or desire, to refer to these two entities separately.
It is yet unclear how the bizarre nomenclature will affect how the club/team is commonly referred to from now on. However, with “Shenhua” being kept in the team’s name, it seems likely the name Shenhua will continue to be used by media, and certainly fans, when referring to all matters Shanghai Greenland FC, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua team.
Shenhua fans remain largely unimpressed with the new title however, with several pointing to Shandong originally being called Shandong Taishan, and now called Shandong Luneng Taishan officially, but just known to all as Shandong Luneng now.
“If you don’t know anything about football, you’d think ‘Shanghai Greenland Shenhua Team’ was a gardening enthusiasts club,” said one fan, referring to the fact Shenhua means “Flower of Shanghai.” Other remarks were either rude, offensive, hostile to Greenland or a combination of all three and unpublishable.
Some voices online called for calm and a reasoned approach to persuading Greenland to keep Shenhua in the title of the club as well as team, but these appeared to be in the minority.
Reports in the Shanghai media claimed Greenland originally did not intend to keep the Shenhua name as part of the clubs identity at all – further fueling fan anger. Supporters claimed Greenland had kept the Shenhua name in the team to appease the local government only and cared nothing about the fans.
Some even called for the return of Zhu Jun as “at least he kept our name for 7 years.”
Presently, it would appear the majority of existing Shenhua fans plan to continue supporting the club, but anti-Greenland merchandise will be produced and worn by many on the terraces. Similar protests were seen in 2007 when Zhu Jun bought the club and merged it with Shanghai United, but these died down after a few games as Shenhua’s identity was largely unchanged.
Internal strife at the club appears to be a hard habit for Shenhua to shake.
Ground: Hongkou Football Stadium, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Capacity: 35,000 (26,000 for football)
Honours: Chinese top-tier league champions: 1995
Chinese top-tier league runners-up: 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2008
Chinese FA Cup winners: 1998
Chinese FA Cup runners up: 1995, 1997, 2015