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Going to Gongti: A view from the away end

Your correspondent travelled to Beijing to watch Guoan host Guangzhou R&F and here relates what fans in the away end at Gongti can expect as well as some experiences more unique to following R&F.

Guizhou Renhe fans have the worst time when it comes to planning a relatively easy and cheap away trip (ie no planes) but those of Guangzhou Evergrande and Guangzhou R&F follow close behind. Because of this and Yuexiushan’s low average attendances, I wasn’t surprised when no-one I knew wanted to go to Beijing, especially given last year’s 6-0 mauling, but I was still taken aback to realise that I was 50% of the travelling fans.

The new fans line up before entering Gongti

The new fans line up before entering Gongti

Those of you who saw the game on TV will be wondering why, if that is the case, the away end looked so well populated and the simple answer is that, taking a tip from Shanghai Greenland Shenhua, the R&F company office in Beijing had been cleared to allow around 250 employees to attend the game. Why did they look like fans I hear you ask? Because each had been issued with a real replica shirt and a blue cap for which club crested stickers were later passed around to go on the front.

From what I have seen and experienced following R&F, this is the first time that the R&F company have invited their employees to attend away games as the away support usually tends to be very small and composed of travelling fans and Guangdongers who now live elsewhere; there is now a Shanghai based R&F supporters group for example. The club came clean in the match programme last Sunday by admitting that they’d invited 500 employees to attend but for anyone watching on TV it would look as if R&F had a huge away following.

Because these new fans resulted in the upper tier of the away end being full, we had to arrive a full 3.5 hours before kick-off and were then told by security that no food was allowed to be taken inside the ground. Some of the office workers quickly ate the food packages they’d just been given by the club but many threw them away. Your correspondent wasn’t planning on going hungry though so ate his takeaway noodles and dumplings outside the ground while the security staff watched and laughed. Not only had this crazy foreigner come all the way from Guangzhou to watch a football match, he was also eating Chinese food!

"ole, ole, ole, ole"

“Guangzhou Fuli, Fuli Guangzhou”

With the home fans not allowed in until two hours before kick-off, we had Gongti to ourselves so the affectionately nicknamed ‘fatty’, the other travelling fan, got out the megaphone and explained some things about the team and then produced two cans of Yanjing beer which he’d somehow got past security, and we each downed one of them whilst the new fans cheered and blew their mini airhorns for all they were worth! We managed to teach the new fans some simple chants (all of them involving a combination of the words Guangzhou, Fuli, jiayou, la and ole) to try and get them involved in the game and this seemed to be moderately successful.

The scale of the task became clear though when the Beijing goalkeepers ran out to warm up and the away end exploded into noise as the ‘fans’ revealed either their ignorance and inability to tell the difference between blue and green or their completely unsurprising real allegiance to the team that plays in the city where they live.

Just before kick-off plastic cups of tea appeared from somewhere, courtesy of the R&F company, and these were accompanied by some sandwiches on bread so disgustingly sweet I was glad I’d eaten the noodles.

Dinner time

Dinner time in the away end

This was nothing on the noise produced by the 40,000 odd home fans, particularly in their traditional chants and songs as the game began. The atmosphere at the Worker’s Stadium was very impressive, although the ease with which the sb chants rained down from the stands was something of a surprise.

The blue and whites were beaten convincingly 2-0 by Beijing Guoan but, as so often with away trips, the evening didn’t end with the final whistle. One of the perks of there being so few real fans was that the pair of us got to join the trip out for a very late dinner and beers with two club employees, a photographer, camera crew and print journalists who’d all travelled up with the team from Guangzhou. When the rice wine appeared one of the club officials looked in real danger of missing his 1pm flight back to Guangzhou the next day!

Your correspondent took things easy at this point though because of a very early start the next day and as I took my seat on the plane, despite the loss, I was full of happy memories of such a great experience at the atmospheric Gongti and could still hear the chants of the home fans ringing in my ears.

Donald began following Guangzhou R&F having moved to China in the same year that R&F moved to Guangzhou. The club's first foreign season ticket holder, Donald was able to watch three seasons at Yuexiushan before returning to the UK.

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