Hongkou Football stadium, home of Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua, is being used as a golf driving range during the week , Wild East Football can exclusively reveal.
The 35,000 capacity ground, which became China’s first football-specific stadium after a major rennovation in 1999, is now used specifically for golf, on non-match days.
understands that golf enthusiasts, starved of somewhere in the urban jungle of Shanghai to practice their swing, have been busy destroying the turf at the football stadium since last year, when the driving range opened for business.
Indeed a story last season in the Shanghai media even highlighted the detrimental impact on Shenhua’s squad of the stadium for laughably incompatible dual purposes.
“Gao Di out for two months after catching his studs in divot caused by golf ball” read one headline on the Shenhua striker.
Generally speaking, CSL playing surfaces are not known for their pristine condition. However, Hongkou’s pitch is amongst the best in China – which ironically may have made it attractive to golfers in the first place.
The Chinese communist party is currently in the midst of anti-corruption drive, which includes the promotion of frugal and modest lifestyles, and the forbidding of government officials from attending lavish dinners.
Partly as a consequence, a large number of golf courses around the country have closed in recent times, including one in Nanhui in southern rural Shanghai – seemingly sending those addicted to such bourgeoisie pursuits scurrying into professional football stadiums to get their fix.
“Hongkou Golf Driving Range” is even featured on Dianping.com – a very popular Chinese website which focuses on restaurants, clubs, bars and other leisure facilities, in which users exchange comments and reviews on individual listings.
A selection of the comments:
“I never expected I could practise my swing at Hongkou stadium. There’s no instructor. The experience left me a little disappointed.”
“I bought a session as part of a group purchase for 58rmb an hour – sure enough, the pitch is not wasted on non-match days, I played until my wrist hurt.”
“There was a dance class going on elsewhere in the stadium when I was there so I was bombarded with noise – no quiet atmosphere to enjoy golf in.”
“This is Shenhua’s ground. Get the fuck out! The instructor is a sex offender, he gropes womens’ bottoms.”
Hongkou Football Stadium, like every CSL ground, is owned by the government so Shenhua have no direct control over what happens when the club is not using the stadium – Hongkou is sometimes used for pop concerts, for example.
However one Shenhua fan pointedly remarked, “I think it’s such a ridiculous situation. A stadium specifically designed to be used for football, and home to one of China’s leading professional football clubs, is used by golfers for 58 rmb an hour when there are no games on!
“With all the money flowing around in the Chinese game, does the local government really need to sacrifice a high-quality professional football playing surface to recoup such meagre extra revenue?
“Right now, at the behest of Xi Jinping himself, the Chinese government is investing millions in improving it’s football, yet it’s letting golfers wreck the pitches of its top league clubs – can you imagine Old Trafford being used as a driving range?”
“It’s truly absurd, you’d think it was an April fool or something.”
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