When Beijing Guoan and Beijing Enterprises Group FC (let’s just simplify that & use Beijing BG) take the field on Wednesday night in the CFA Cup’s Fourth Round it should under no circumstances be considered a real derby.
With the exception of the oft forgotten Liaoning FC/Beijing Sanyuan period of 2003, Beijing Guoan has been the only top flight capital side since professionalism began in 1994. Over the years, Beijing has had a number of lower division sides, including for the past few years Beijing BG (nee Baxy) and Beijing Institute of Technology in China League One. BG’s management just purchased the club last year in a move that was intended to push the club into the top flight. The side came up just short last year and is in contention again this year, currently sitting four points from promotion.
BG is currently averaging a generous 5,000 or so fans a match, though many of them are also Guoan supporters and some even show up wearing green or with Guoan scarves on. One of the typical ways to differentiate team support in a city is based on location of each club, but during the club’s Baxy days, they moved from the far eastern part of the city (up against the East 5th Ring Road) to the far west (outside of the West 5th Ring Road in Shijingshan) and then back before settling at the Olympic Sports Center (no, that isn’t the Bird’s Nest) where they currently play. Therefore, they don’t have a distinct “home base” to rely on. Further, BG decided to raise the price of season tickets to RMB300 and cut the benefits that ice cream company Baxy previously gave to fans (like ice cream birthday cakes to supporters who show up to more than 10 matches).
When tickets went on sale, an obvious concession was made to Guoan fans with both ends of the stadium opened up and were designated away ends, but expect to see very little of BG’s red and blue in the 36,000 seat venue. That said, this is really a no-win for Guoan. Everyone expects them to win and if they deliver on that, it will be business as usual. However, if BG somehow can upset the Men in Green it will be an embarrassment for the CSL side. On top of that, some fans may realize how easy it is to get to a BG match and maybe attend a few more as the promotion battle heats up
Every derby, every rivalry needs to start somewhere, but for a real one to develop, both sides need to have supporters. Perhaps this will be BG’s first step forward in gaining supporters, but currently calling this a derby match makes a farse of Guoan’s actual rivalries (whether you believe those are derbies or not, a separate topic in itself). It will be a unique experience for all the fans in attendance, but until BG gains promotion to the CSL and starts building a fan base, this one off novelty cannot be considered a rivalry.