There are many oddities involved in Chinese football, one such example is the “special relationship” that exists between Beijing Guoan and Jiangsu Sainty supporters, however after Saturday night’s match, it appears this relationship, thankfully, is on its last legs.
Nobody can really explain the roots of the relationship, but most speculation focuses on Jiangsu’s historic mediocrity and lack of “friends” in the league. Further, a historic inferiority complex and rivalry with Shanghai, also Guoan’s biggest rivals has helped build a deeper relationship, a traditional “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Other reasons include Guoan fans donating money and visiting a sick Sainty fan and some former Guoan players having spent time with Jiangsu (namely Du Wenhui and former assistant coach Yang Chen).
The start of the good feelings likely dates back to the 2012 season, when neither team could catch Evergrande but both were headed to Asia. Jiangsu hosted Guoan for their last home match that season and there was a lot of trading scarves and kit tops among the fans. Things continued on to where they are nowadays, including some fans shouting “Guo Shun Tian An”, mixing the two clubs’ Chinese names, and friendship footie matches before the game.
However, Saturday might have changed that, at least for a portion of the fans. On both sides of the divide, some found this relationship sickening to begin with, it’s one thing to make friends with other supporters, it’s another thing to wear your team’s kit top and their team’s scarf at a match. On Saturday night, a small, young supporters group on Jiangsu’s east stand wanted to make a name for themselves by shouting “Yulinjun, shabi” at the start of the match [ed. note: Yulinjun, or Royal Army, are Guoan’s “ultras” group; shabi is the Chinese equivalent of “fuck you”] kicking things off and leading to angry chants exchanged between the fans throughout the night as well as Guoan fans being blocked from leaving after the match, a rarity in Jiangsu.
A lot has since been said on both sides, with many on both sides trying to fix the relationship. Yet why bother fixing it? A cooling is for the better, it’s understandable to keep up the mutual hatred, but it’s time to return to a bit of a rivalry and get back the proper awayday atmosphere between the clubs.