Bcheng and Shanghai Ultra are back in the pub once again. This week some weighty matters are discussed – wrongdoings and shenanigans up in Harbin, and Shenhua’s goalkeeper. Mr Ultra is on a bit of a downer this week – his sense of discretion is with Shanghai Shenhua’s defense, all at sea. Bcheng meanwhile rues Beijing Guoan’s inability to keep pace with Evergrande, and the lack of competition at the top sends the pair’s gaze downwards to the relegation battle, and matters in China league one. Golf makes an appearance this week where it shouldn’t, and things get kinda heavy. Obviously this pair of dymanic commentators have not been in the pub often enough recently. Scold them in the comments section below.
B: We’re back in the pub this week, pints in front of us, it’s unfortunate we haven’t made it in here enough lately, after that crushing blow at Hongkou, was it embarrassment, that kept you away?
S: I certainly felt embarrassed, but my absence was more to do with matters outside the Pub preventing me from entering. Although being absolutely honest I have to confess there was an element of relief at not being able to drink with you last week.
B: Haha, absolutely, well in any case Guoan certainly didn’t follow up that historic win in impressive fashion, while Shenhua continues to stumble…
S: I think I made my thoughts clear on the China derby result in the opinion piece I penned the other week. In a nutshell that result had been coming for a very long time, now the bubble has burst, no hiding place for Shenhua and all the shocking amateurism that exists inside the club. And Guoan deserved the win. Things since then haven’t gone well for either of our clubs as you say.
B: I think Guoan getting knocked out of the CFA Cup had to do with coming off the high of the win in Shanghai and, well, penalties are painful, but the loss at R&F, well….That’s starting to be its own bugaboo for Guoan. Ever since R&F came up, Guoan has lost this fixture at Yuexiushan every year, and I think every year it’s 3-1.
S: A bogey ground. For Shenhua fans like myself, one tiny crumb of comfort of the China derby debacle was Evergrande slipped up the other week leaving Guoan in the position to at least push Evergrande all the way. Unfortunately last weekend’s results wiped that prospect out.
B: Pace yourself, mate, I still haven’t finished my first. You’re referring to the result two nights ago, Guoan’s result over the weekend was the only bright spot of late.
S: I’ve lost track to be quite frank, the mount of games in the past month has been truly dizzying. That makes it all the more unfortunate we haven’t made it to the pub each week.
B: Indeed…I think the loss was at R&F was a big one for Guoan, especially because Evergrande was able to find a late winner, it’s only 7 points and the sides do have to go head-to-head, but I guarantee Guoan’s going to drop some points on the road in at least one or two of the remaining matches. Evergrande will as well, but I don’t see how the gap is going to be reduced.
S: I’d love to disagree, even though that would mean wanting Guoan to win. But it’s not going to happen, I don’t see the point in hiding my lack of enthusiasm about a league title race. I’m bored of Evergrande winning all the time.
B: Football is full of surprises, that’s why we love it, but anyone who looks at the schedule and takes an educated guess regarding points can figure out Evergrande’s going to take the title. Guoan has a game in hand, but that match is away at Shandong, not an easy one. Then again….Evergrande’s last three matches are at Guizhou, vs. Guoan, and at Shandong. If it’s close at that point and Guoan can win at Tianhe, 2 massive ifs of course, it could go down to the final day.
S: If, maybe, perhaps. Sorry man but I don’t have much to say on all those permutations. But I do think you are confident that you’ll beat Shandong in Jinan for some reason?
B: I wouldn’t say I’m confident, though there is plenty of speculation that Xu Yunlong’s penalty miss was a part of a “tacit agreement” between the sides.
S: It wouldn’t be the first time would it? Of course, there will be no investigation on the part of the authorities.
B: It’s impossible to prove, so yeah, I doubt there will be an investigation even if Guoan wins it convincingly.
S: I think it would be difficult but not impossible. And having no investigation just tells unprofessional fucks that they can cheat the fans like this whenever they like.
B: I think you’re going into a bit of your own deep seated frustration about Shenhua. We can discuss this more if Guoan comes away with an easy win at Jinan, right now it’s too early to be indignant.
S: Yeah there is a bit of that, but I’m also referring to the Tianjin Liaoning “event” last year.
B: I wish the league was slightly more proactive in all of this, of course, but it just seems like they’ve been through so much, they don’t want to keep highlighting the negatives.And again, unfortunately it’s a problem in pretty much every football league in the world.
S: It does happen elsewhere, but China has a particular problem. The difference is other jurisdictions would take allegations much more seriously and have a more transparent process so there was no hiding place for cheats and gamblers. But they prefer to keep everything hidden, where it festers like a pile of shit.
B: I don’t think that’s necessarily the case that in other countries this stuff is treated a lot harsher. I think that you need some level of suspicion to actually go ahead and take action.
S: I think there’s endless amounts of suspicion in China and not having open and clear investigations fuels the situation. I think we both know of a certain incident we talked about recently for which there is a lot of evidence, but it was ignored by the CFA despite being flagged up in international media. Oh well.
B: Suspicion was the wrong word, I guess what I meant is something going above suspicion, let’s say “probable cause”. I think incidents rarely reach that point because there is a lot of undue suspicion and it becomes a situation like the boy who cries wolf, the seriously sideways results get ignored….Anyways, I absolutely hate talking about this subject, just because I don’t think the CSL or the CFA is really that much worse than say Italy or many of the other leagues, save the EPL and Bundesliga. In talking to Chinese fans, at least, that’s the general attitude I hear, everywhere is bent.
S: Yeah I’m not keen on this subject either. But I’m not going to try to mitigate it anymore as I have done in the past. It has to be stamped out and that can only be done by having an open approach, no matter how contrary that is to Chinese culture norms. You’re right to point out that it’s not only a Chinese problem, it certainly exists elsewhere. The way the Bundesliga and EPL are governed reflects the general legal and regulatory environment in Germany and the UK, therein lies the problem, the Chinese FA is yoked to it’s wider environment in China, so it’s hard to escape that and have a really strong process for dealing with wrongdoings when outside the FAs door god knows what else is going on.
B: So back to football?
S: Yeah. What else caught your attention recently?
B: Actually, that’s a good question, there’s been a lot of games, but not much going on. Once again the relegation fight is going to be the most interesting, there’s been a lot of draws and not much changes. I think time is starting to run out on Harbin, though there are still 10 games left.
B: Of course Shenhua’s loss last night has to be painful, that puts them in the middle of things.
S: It does. Shenhua can’t be complacent at all. It a fact that the squad is historically weak and Batista has little to work with. But unfortunately his decisions are making the situation worse. In recent games we have shipped cheap goals due to players played out of position making errors – Xu Liang last night the latest such example. But Batista insists on playing Moreno, Viatri and Henrique and dropping foreign centreback Paulo to make way for them. But of course he has to play someone out of position in Paulo’s place. It’s not working, we conceeded 8 goals in the last three games. Qiu Shenjiong also should surely be dropped. He’s never a better keeper than Geng Xiaofeng in a million years and he’s simply not good enough.
B: I’ve been wondering a lot about that, we joke a lot about Qiu, but I’ve been shocked at how much he’s playing, is there reasons to be suspicious there? I originally chalked it up to a Geng injury, but that’s not the case?
S: Again going back to my piece the other week, I was shocked to see his weight was 100kg according to the CSL’s official squad listings. He has since lost quite a bit of weight, but he’s still on the chubby side. For a goalkeeper that obviously is a handicap agility wise. He is a good shot stopper and he’s not afraid to put himself in the mix (nor should he be with his baulk). He has shown this season why he’s a professional keeper. But he just isn’t good enough. He got a shot because Geng couldn’t play against Shandong since he’s only on loan. But when Qiu was suspended a few matches ago, Geng got his place back but then lost it again as soon as Qiu was available. That was surprising. What I would say is, what kind of club allows one of their players to become so obviously overweight?
B: I think we know the answer to that, the same kind of club that has no youth system in place. A very unprofessional one. Anyways, looking at this weekend, the two matches to really look at both involve Shanghai teams I think.
S: Yeah like you say the bottom is where it’s at, ironically enough. Harbin host Shenxin, that’s a game they really have to win if they want to claw themselves into contention for avoiding relegation.
B: Most definitely, a win in that one puts them right up there, anything else and they are quickly running out of time. For Shenhua, going to Dalian won’t be easy but it’s a match they should win, if they don’t they are in danger themselves.
S: It may be a match they should win, but they haven’t won an away fixture outside of Shanghaii for almost 3 years now. A draw is likely there.
B: Wow, now that’s a stat!!!
S: I’d need to check it exactly. But it’s well over 2 years now.
B: I think once again we’re looking at a year where there’s plenty to watch at the bottom of the table, more so than the top.
S: Indeed so. Harbin have an edge with their ongoing run of home fixtures, but they only have two left. Speaking of Harbin and home fixtures, some shenanigans took place up there during the week.
B: Yeah, I’m not sure what really went on, the account also left a lot up in the air. All I can say is that Harbin was by far the most lax away end I’ve ever been in.
S: I tihnk for a new CSL club they obviously aren’t well prepared or experienced for this kinda thing. It’s surprising considering they have been getting some very big crowds there.
B: At Harbin, there was very little policing in the away end. There was an aisle right in front of our section and home fans were walking back and forth, it was crazy. I’m actually kind of surprised it took this long for things to kick off there.
S: Yeah, especially considering the amount of baijiu which is typically knocked back up there.
B: Fortunately enough, it looks like it wasn’t all that bad. Hopefully they’ll be a little more prepared from now on.
S: Yeah it looked like just some shouting of rude words and aggressive gestures. I think that’s no big deal as long there is no violence.
B: Yuexiushan has a very similar away end to that at Harbin, but at least there tends to be a decent amount of police there, that wasn’t the case in Harbin, but as I said, hopefully that will change.
S: Right. Another thing that needs to change is pitches in China. In addition to the awful surface we’ve seen Henan play on recently, did you know Hongkou is being used as a golf driving range during the week?
B: That is absolutely outrageous
S: It is. I know its a municipally-owned facility, but it is officially called a football stadium. We hear so much soul-searching within Chinese football about how they are desperately looking for ways to improve the game. Then preventable things like this happen.
B: Yes, and to a team in such a major city with so much money. It’s actually interesting because the facilities are run by i-Rena, who are in charge of a number of stadiums, including Worker’s Stadium, that get treated much better.
S: Whoever runs them should not allow them to be used for purposes which affect their main use. Clearly someone doesn’t give a shit, assuming they have the intelligence to realise that golf and football don’t mix when it comes to grass.
B: Are they actually allowing people to hit balls off the regular pitch?!?
S: I am not sure, I’ve only seen pictures showing people driving from off the playing surface onto the grass. But even that can damage the grass. It’s plain stupid. Is there really not anywhere else people can practise their swing? So unnecessary.
B: Shocking…Why is it that Shanghai always knows how to bring the funny?
S: I don’t know. It’s just yet another frustation this year. I remember the very first year I ever came to China in 2000. I taught at a school in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province. It was really modern and had good facilities, even a big football pitch in the middle. But then they did some work on the running track, and piled up rubble and stones all over the middle of the pitch. I found it quite shocking to defile a football pitch in this way – even if they weren’t used to football pitches or didn’t understand why putting stones on grass where people play sports is not a good idea, I was absolutely baffled as to why they didn’t use the vast amount of open space on the other side of the track. Some people around here just don’t seem to use their brains at all when it comes to considering the impact of their acitons on their immediate environment.
B: Haha, I’m detecting an overall negativity towards life in China from you today….Is this a “bad China day” for the ultra from Shanghai?
S: Ha, it’s not intentional, just frustration at many stupid and preventable things. So, apologies to everyone for that.
B: I was going to talk about how exciting the China League is right now. 12 matches to go and 5 teams within 7 points of each other at the top of the table, but I think we need to drink our beers quickly and get out of here to avoid attention.
S: Yeah, it is looking good. My money is on Chongqing, they’ve been away a while and I’m looking for somewhere interesting to travel to next year for an away fixture. I think you could make a witty joke in there somewhere about relegation.
B: Chongqing and Shijiazhuang are tied at the top, I’d be happy to see them both go up.
S: And not your local ice cream makers?
B: We’ve talked about this a lot I think, I’m conflicted about them. It would be interesting, but they have zero fan base.
S: I heard of one English chap who has a season ticket for them, aparently Guoan is not his scene. Hats off to him (for supporting lower league football of course). Speaking of which, I see Qingdao have been punished for forging Liu Jian’s contract, the transfer to Evergrande which dragged on for months.
B: Yes, we’ll have a story up on that soon, they’ve been docked 7 points, but it has little impact on them, they weren’t going up and even losing those points, they aren’t going down.
S: Right, so in other words it’s a totally useless punishment. Carry on forging contracts please!
B: I’m not sure how much of this we’ve come across before, 7 points just seems an odd number, but whatever, I don’t have much to say about it. It was obviously a desperate attempt on their part to hold onto a player they developed for many years.
S: I’d say its lucky 7 for Qingdao – contract forgery is an extremely serious matter and they got off lightly. But that some punishment was finally doled out which is a step in the right direction it is good to see basic things like contracts finally being respected. Our man Chris wrote a very good piece recently centered Zhan Lingpeng which explained how unfavourable contracts prevent them from moving abroad and furthering their careers, something which Chinese football needs as much as anything at the moment. Liu Jian obviously decided he had enough.
B: Is 7 all that light when Shenhua only got 9 for match fixing?!
S: That’s a fair point, but Qingdao’s wrong doing happened a few months ago, not 10 years ago. Also everyone at the club responsible for forging the contract is still there. Much as I agree Shenhua were right to be deprived of the title, deducting points from a club for something that happened a decade previous is very bizarre.
B: I guess I opened up a major can of worms with that…
S: Hah, no I think its a really fair point. But I’d be right in there to say Shenhua should be much more severely dealt with if the crime was current. Match-fixing and contract forgery seriously affects the game, much as I’m a Shenhua fan, I’m not so short-sighted.
B: To me, the biggest point that’s missing is that it took Liu off the pitch for a number of months unnecessarily. The CFA also punished Qingdao RMB400,000 or something like that, all well and good, but I think Liu deserves a portion of that for what he went through.
S: Yeah that is what FIFA’s over-riding attitude is to manage disputes so the player can keep playing.
B: Anyways, he’s at Evergrande, he’s already earning enough…
S: Yeah he got his way in the end and I’m sure he’s handsomely compensated. Well, it’s been an interesting session. Anything else to add?
B: I think that’s it, I’m ready to stumble out into the light…
S: It is, if it still light outside!
B: We shall find out…Cheers mate!
S: Cheers B!
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