The Shanghai Derby: Your guide to the biggest game in town for a decade
This Saturday night sees a real blockbuster – a mouth-watering derby between Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) v Shanghai Shenhua. If you are looking to grab a piece of the action, here’s how.
The game kicks off at 19.45 this Saturday, May 9 and is taking place at Shanghai Stadium in Xujiahui. This is by far the easiest sports venue in town to get to using the metro as no fewer than four stations are located within walking distance. Shanghai Indoor Stadium (line 1/4), Shanghai Stadium (line 4), Shanghai Swimming Centre (line 11) and Cao Xibei Lu (line 3) to be exact. One you exit any of these stations, you can’t miss the huge stadium which dominates the neighbourhood.
Background – why is this such a massive game?
There has been plenty written about the Shanghai Derby on here before – a history of the fixture, and it’s development into a heated rivalry. Those three pieces offer a good understanding for those eager to enjoy the fixture to the maximum. But to summarize, this fixture is the biggest yet because an awful lot of face is at stake – the whole city is talking about the game. Weibo and Weixin are on fire with various memes from both sets of fans mocking each other, and offers of big money for anyone who has a ticket.
SIPG have spent big money and are top of the league – they want to take over Shenhua as the city’s top team. At the same time, Shenhua are on the rise again after many years in the doldrums, their supporters are already hurting at having finished behind SIPG in the league last year, and are envious of their league-leading position. They’re out to jealously guard their reputation as the city’s club with the longest history and biggest following. Both teams are attracting very big crowds in the region of 22,000 a game at the moment. This is an all time high for SIPG and Shenhua’s best for over a decade – so , “Shanghai’s hottest derby in ten years” scream the local headlines this week.
As mentioned in the derby history link above, there’s a general thirst in the city for the crazy derbies of the early 2000s between Inter Shanghai and Shenhua, a new generation is eager to get a piece of this, led by an older generation who know exactly how much excitement a proper Shanghai derby provokes.
If you have a ticket already – congratulations. You’re in luck, because this game is sold out. However, this is China, so “sold out” really means “no tickets at face value left”. There will be a lot of tickets for sale on the street from huangniu (scalpers). How much to pay is really up to you – this fixture is a sellers market though so don’t expect them to be as cheap as your average fixture. At a very rough guess would estimate tickets going for around 300.
If you are really keen to see this game and don’t mind paying an inflated price, then get down there now – scalpers are hanging around all the metro station exits near the stadium all this week – they will find you and offer you tickets. And to be honest, if there was a game worth paying a lot for, this one looks a good bet.
If you do decide to buy from huangniu, there are various tactics you can try. Buying in bulk can get you a better deal, and of course allow groups of friends to sit together. However this approach benefits from getting tickets earlier – the longer you wait, the less chance you have of getting a group of tickets for the same area.
The riskier approach is to wait until after kick-off. Prices inevitably go down. However, as this is such a big match, tickets may all have been already sold well before kick-off. It is a very difficult thing to predict of course.
WARNING: learned that several foreign fans were sold fake tickets for last weekend’s Shenhua v Guangzhou Evergrande match. So be aware. If possible, get the scalper to take you to the gate so you don’t pay until the tickets are scanned. For what it’s worth, right is a picture of a genuine ticket – click for high res version.
News reached us view the Shanghai Shenhua Facebook group of a rather ingenious way of catching the game. Shanghai Stadium contains the Regal Shanghai East Asia Hotel – some of the rooms, plus the dining room overlook the pitch (see below). You can book online – think of it as a very fancy executive box. Price looks to be around 500-600 rmb
In practical terms though, it’s probably better to go and book there in person so you can make sure you get a room overlooking the pitch.
The Stadium is situated in Xujiahui, a large, densley-populated commercial and residential district towards the south western side of the city proper. There are limitless eating and drinking options around the stadium, particularly on the northside. Foxtown mall has western food options like Pizza, Tianyaoqiao Lu more local eats. Chinese fans don’t really have a tradition of going to pubs before games. But Harleys Bar on Nandan Lu is worth a look for SIPG’s foreign fans. The Stadium itself contains numerous restaurants including a Tibetan eatery on the south side, which one can enjoy a very entertaining song and dance performance during one’s meal. But the closer you get to the Stadium, the busier it will be. Either way, options are plentiful.
At the match
Shanghai Stadium is colloquially known as the “80 thousand people” stadium. However it only really holds a little under 60,000. Unfortunately for this game, 20% of seats are being kept empty for “safety” reasons, whatever those are. So for this game, there will be around 45,000 people. Still, that’s a lot of fans and a lot of noise. Below is a diagram showing where the various sections are. Gates 5-29 contain the home support, the lower teirs SIPG’s various fan groups, the Bat Riders, Sirius, and others. The Shenhua fans will be around gate 9. Throughout the rest of the stadium, expect a mixture of random fans, mostly supporting Shenhua. But in their midst there will also be SIPG supporters, neutrals, people supporting both sides, and those not normally at football games but they came along because of the hype.
Although it’s a hot derby, trouble is not expected and Chinese football games are on the whole remarkably safe. There’s no problem taking along kids or family or such like. For an overview of the general fan experience in Shanghai, it’s worth reading this post on going to a Shenhua game. Although the ground in question is Hongkou not Shanghai Stadium, the basics are similar.
That said, understands that Xuhui district police department has cancelled leave, and Shenhua fan representatives have been in high level meetings with both the Shanghai sports brueau and city government today. This is very unusual and reflects official concern about the fixture. There was of course plenty of tension and even some fisticuffs at the last derby, it would be naive to rule out such a rumpus again this time, especially considering this fixture is just getting bigger and bigger.
But hopefully on Saturday we will see Chinese football at its best – huge passionate crowds, everyone letting their hair down, lots of goals, some random oddness, and sportsmanship and mutual respect after the final whistle goes. Or something like that. Enjoy the match everyone.
Title picture: An unlucky fan finds “sold out” signs at the Shanghai Stadium box office.
Author: Cameron Wilson
UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade…