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Xujiahui News: SIPG on course with Shanghai derby victory

As the dust – and torrential rain – settles following the latest instalment in the increasingly rancorous Shanghai derby; both SIPG and Shenhua fans step bleary-eyed into the cold light of day, hangovers all but dissipated into the humid late-Summer’s air of China’s most-populous city.

While both camps will have differing reasons for their self-imposed headaches; a glance at the current CSL standings will no doubt leave one half of the city feeling the Berocca-infused upswing of positivity, while the other may well be at that point of pulling the blinds back down, rolling over, and promising to never indulge themselves again.

Yes, Sunday evening brought us the heavily anticipated third Shanghai derby of the season, and despite recording the lowest goal tally of the previous two meetings between these two sides in 2015, the action and drama was far from being in short supply. The two sides had met previously in the midweek FA Cup quarter final tie – a high-octane, end to end affair in which defending seemed almost trivial, and Wu Lei and Demba Ba’s excellently taken goals were overshadowed by a Gio Moreno wonder goal of exquisite technique and vision – which after going blow for blow for 90 minutes was settled in Shenhua’s favour via a penalty shootout.

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Sun Xiang set the tone for a fiercely contested derby with a rather agricultural challenge on Wang Yun after just 15 minutes

The disappointment on SIPG’s end, coupled with the newfound belief in a side which had also held champions Guangzhou Evergrande to a 2-2 draw at Tianhe prior to their cup victory, certainly showed in the opening exchanges at Hongkou Stadium. The home side controlled possession, and threatened to break the deadlock from a number of set pieces which were poorly defended by SIPG. While Gio Moreno was allowed to pull strings going forward, SIPG created little themselves and looked increasingly abject as the first half progressed.

Thus when Cai Huikang was penalised for thrusting an arm towards the ball inside his own penalty area, and up stepped Tim Cahill to dispatch the resulting spot kick, the red section of the capacity crowd inside Hongkou began to fear their winless run at the home of their hosts would continue. While the visitors’ performance did little by way of improving throughout the remainder of the first half; slapstick individual defensive errors limiting any meaningful opportunity to get back into the game, SIPG’s one clear cut chance was spurned by the unusually error-prone Davi.

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Tim Cahill celebrates his spot kick conversion with his trademark celebration

Nonetheless, whatever was said by manager Sven-Göran Eriksson at half time must have resounded inside the dressing room, as the reds seized control of matters and clawed their way back into contention. For starters, centre back, Yang Boyu somehow appeared to have gained an extra yard of pace, as well as a newfound resolve to keep Gio Moreno firmly inside his pocket, as he turned out his most impressive 45 minutes in an SIPG shirt to date, cutting off supply lines from the talismanic Columbian.

At the other end, meanwhile, Tobias Hysén’s introduction in place of Davi – switching with Lv Wenjun to take up the right wing position – immediately brought a more incisive and direct edge to his side’s play. Nevertheless, it was SIPG’s other star striker, Asamoah Gyan, who finally put his side level in the 65th minute, after latching on to Darío Conca’s cross and finding half a yard of space between 3 stumbling Shenhua defenders, before slotting home past the outstretched Geng Xiaofeng.

With SIPG now back in the game and firmly on top of proceedings, it did not take long for the reds to find the net yet again. Conca’s low-flying free kick was met on the turn by the outside of SIPG defender, Shi Ke’s boot, before taking a decisive deflection off the forearm of Shenhua’s Mohammed Sissoko and once more past the outstretched Geng.

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SIPG players celebrate their narrow win over their city rivals

Gyan should have added to his haul with 10 minutes remaining, as Shenhua this time took on the role of comedy defenders. The Ghanaian captain received the ball right on the edge of the Shenhua box, and with Bai Jiajun and Li Jianbin both equally desperate to block the striker’s attempt on goal, the two conspired only to wipe each other out, and allow Gyan to fire a shot into the foot of the Shenhua goalkeeper. Though SIPG hearts were in mouths during an injury time burst down the wing once more from Moreno, fortunately, his cross could not be met by Gao Di, and the visitors ended the game with their first win at the home of their city rivals.

Whereas the game itself should always be the talking point of any footballing occasion, in reality that is rarely the case; particularly so in a city derby, and especially so in the CSL. Eagle eyed cameramen picked out a number of visibly disgruntled Shenhua fans waving money throughout the game – understood to be in relation to the circumstances of key player Demba Ba’s suspension. While there are undoubtedly questions over the timing of the ban, the fact of the matter is that it was justified, and had the referee made the correct decision in the game against Guangzhou, in which Ba’s best efforts to rearrange Feng Xioeting’s face received only a yellow card, Ba would have seen red and be forced to watch from the sidelines regardless.

In any case, it seems that the increasing levels of bitterness felt by Shenhua fans towards their cross town neighbours has no signs of ceasing. Indeed, local social media prior to the game was filled with examples of idiotic fans burning or defecating on SIPG shirts. If such behaviour and the level of vitriol towards SIPG fans suggests anything, it’s that there is perhaps a reluctant acknowledgement that Shenhua have been firmly overtaken as the region’s powerhouse.

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The SIPG team bus faced a tough time making its way to Hongkou; first being hit by a kamikaze-inspired driver, then being pelted by eggs as it entered the stadium

While accusations of jumping ship will inevitably be flung in the direction of a number of SIPG fans, the truth is, this is a situation unlike any contemporary European club rivalry, whereby a century of mutual enmity fuels the turf warfare that exists there. Admittedly, Shenhua have as proud history of challenging for titles and being one of the leading lights in Chinese football.

However, when you take into consideration the Chinese football league’s chequered recent history, which caused fans to turn away from the sport in their droves, Shenhua’s own recent history of being run into the ground by one man intent on alienating the entire fanbase, and the club’s own identity having been altered and devalued (see last year’s rebranding as case in point), there comes a point when fans have a right to say enough is enough. Whatever the reason those fans turned away from Shenhua, does that necessarily mean they have given up their right to follow a Shanghainese club (and it is most certainly Shanghainese), not to mention one which has a realistic shot at competing for championships?

With the heart of this SIPG team comprised of locally nurtured players, the majority of which having been reared in Chongming Island at the Genbao Football Base, the DNA of this current squad is certainly more representative of its birthplace than its Hongkou-based counterpart. In fact, a just looking at the two club’s current first team squads attests to this, with SIPG’s current first team containing no less than 7 first team members all born in Shanghai (while Wu Lei made the short trip from Nanjing to Shanghai to join Xu Genbao’s academy). On the other hand, even Shenhua’s Shanghainese heroes, Bai Jiajun and Cao Yunding, are themselves products of the Genbao Football Base.

Admittedly the accusations that the SIPG group have bought their way to the title are hard to ignore, with the multi-million pound signings of Darío Conca and Asamoah Gyan exemplifying the club’s new found financial clout. It is difficult to argue that the side would still be sitting atop the CSL with just 6 games remaining had the change at the top not come to be. However, many Shenhua fans seemingly gloss over the fact that this is still a team which narrowly missed out on an ACL spot last year, playing positive, attacking football, at a time when €1.25million man Tobias Hysén was their record signing. This is before mentioning the equally eye watering sums of money spent on the likes of Demba Ba, Mohammed Sissoko and Tim Cahill in the northern side of the city this year.

So essentially my point is this; don’t begrudge your neighbours success just because your own affairs are not in order. While it would be difficult to admit, would an SIPG title win really be worse than a situation whereby traditional rivals Beijing Guoan took first place? More than just a footballing rivalry – the China derby draws on historical, geographical and cultural influences to produce a truly scintillating affair. And would any genuine fans of the game freely admit to backing Guangzhou Evergrande to a fifth consecutive title? My suspicion would be no. Then again, there really is nothing like mindless tribalism to prevent the free flow of logic.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Shinpath

    26/08/2015 at 18:44

    September 12 at home to Evergrande could now decide the title!

  2. Luor

    26/08/2015 at 20:17

    So, so much to say about such an awesome – in the true sense of the word – week of Shanghainese football!

    – Probably about as mutually satisfactory an outcome as could be hoped for. That cup victory and those sumptuous goals will become an integral part of the legend if Greenland Shenhua go on to win it, and by swatting the ‘big brother’ aside with contemptuous ease yet again in the league – as well as remaining undefeated over ninety minutes in 5 games – there’s no doubt that SIPG are the resident ‘laoda’ right now. A reasonable ‘face’ trade-off I’d say, however bitter those of a blue persuasion seem to feel about it.

    – Had a good chortle at Tim Cahill’s claim on twitter that it was a ‘Tough loss tonight after dominating the game’. There’s looking at things through blue-tinted lenses, and there’s total delusion…SIPG created double the amount of chances in purely statistical terms, Gyan could and should have had a hattrick, and Greenland Shenhua’s lack of threat was such that the score wouldn’t have been affected if Sven had been playing in goal. If the opposition had been Liaoning or Tianjin it would have been described as a routine win.

    – The two derbies were ample demonstration that SIPG have the best fighting spirit in the CSL – fact. The locally-bred core of the team, in this respect, is just as important as the fancy foreign imports. As disappointing as it was to crash out of the cup, if it had been a league game it would have counted as a hard-earned point to be proud of, given the ban on away fans, Ba’s form and the hefty win bonus, erm cough cough I mean, local pride at stake for Greenland Shenhua. The Guizhou defeat was the sole occasion this season that SIPG have not looked up for it – even the footballing lesson Shandong dealt out was mitigated by a stirring fightback when all was clearly lost.

    – The players and staff of Greenland Shenhua almost – *almost!* – got through the two games without embarrassing themselves in any way shape or form, after that cringe-worthy debacle earlier in the season….until Papadopolous had to go and spoil it for everyone in a downright stupid act of petulance (see for yourself: http://n.sinaimg.cn/transform/20150824/bUWd-fxhehqr6230350.gif ). It just wouldn’t be Greenland Shenhua without heaping shame and disgrace on our fair city would it! :p

    – As much as I thoroughly enjoyed it, could Gyan get a wrist-slap or worse for his naughty goal celebration? In a game which seemingly calls for half the PLA to be stationed inside the ground, I wonder how forgivingly wind-up hand gestures are looked upon by the authorities?

    – The blue half of Shanghai had better hope that Ba stays fit, gets his wages paid on time, avoids drop-kicking opponents in the face and doesn’t fall victim to any more devious plots to get him suspended (hoho), because their attacking threat more or less evaporates, barring insane moments of Moreno genius, without him. When he’s playing, every aimless hoofball in his general direction has the opposition palpably scared stiff. What a player, and perhaps the man to single-handedly inspire a challenge for an ACL place next season?

    • Cameron Wilson

      27/08/2015 at 09:46

      I agree there’s no way anyone can say Shenhua dominated either game, and certainly not the league one. Shenhua are shorn of a goal scoring threat without Ba, but the reluctance to give Gao Di a shot up front is a shame because I think he’s a more natural and effective striker than Cahill. Cahill is hard working and great in the air, but it more suited to an attacking midfield role. Shenhua’s squad still lacks depth, but have done reasonably well this season considering how threadbare it was last year.

      Gyan’s gesture, well he spent long enough playing in England to know exactly what that means, and to know that the number two is expressed with the fingers turned the other way around. It’s interesting to note that neither this gesture nor the single-fingered one are Chinese gestures. I suppose only one of these gestures is commonly understood in China.

      As for win bonuses, I’m sure SIPG are on a nice one also.

  3. Cameron Wilson

    26/08/2015 at 20:39

    I think the points in this post are totally fair and well made, and I am absolutely glad to have an alternative point of view about Shanghai football on WEF.

    So well done Andy Strong for sticking up for what you believe in and I have total respect for this.

    There’s one main point to pick up on however. The Shenhua name was restored to the club’s title after an impassioned campaign by the fans. Far from being devalued, the struggle over the name showed how valuable it really was – it was worth fighting over. That the campaign was successful in a country like China where the interests of the rich and powerful are almost impossible to challenge, was nothing short of astounding. Shenhua fans scored not only a major victory for their club, but a massive one for Chinese football and beyond. It’s no coincidence the government reform plan for football announced in March contain specific recommendations to forbid changing names and moving city.

    It’s very regrettable that Shanghai East Asia did not learn the lessons of their neighbours and changed their name to Shanghai International Port Group, which just sounds utterly bizarre. Xu Genbao has done so much for Chinese football, but if he really understood the culture properly he would have insisted on not changing the name instead of just retaining the colours and badge.

    Don’t forget that the hardcore of the Shenhua support have been there since year zero in China and stuck by their team through some very tough times. They’ve faced a level of humiliation and hardship that most fans never have to deal with. In a country where local football is seen as a joke by most of the population, in a city where pretension and keeping up with whatever is fashionable is the prevailing trend, Shenhua’s support is an example to anyone who wants to know what the ethos of being a football fan is. They are not unique in this in China. But they are an excellent example and one of China’s most influential groups of supporters.

    A final point, I don’t respect the changing of allegiance from supporting one team to their city rivals.

    Anyway, we have a properly derby on our hands. Long may it continue.

  4. Steve Crooks

    27/08/2015 at 15:03

    One follow-up, specifically on the tribalism point — this, essentially, is what so much of the cultural and societal relevance of football (and sports fandom in general) is about. Or, in less high-fluted terms, basically the whole point of it.

    If the team you do/don’t want to win a game or title were solely dictated y logic or aesthetics, then everyone in the world would presumably be switching their half-and-half scarves from Barca to Real or Bayern every other year (and enjoying their sanitized, comfort-of-your-own-home satellite TV football “experience”), and all of China should be happily sitting on the fence and waiting to say that whichever of the four teams in the title race walks away with the prize was the “better team”. Screw that. Football matters because regional pride matters, personal ties matter, cultural background matters. Otherwise we may as well all just watch figure-skating or go play Sudoku.

    More on Shenhua later; suffice to say, Francis Gillot may be the only man in the world who has not yet noticed that Timmy Cahill makes for a lousy sole striker option. I’ve seen squash courts where the ball takes longer to come flying back towards you.

  5. Andy Strong

    27/08/2015 at 15:07

    Wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed by Cameron. My point however lies in the fact that the majority of SIPG fans (certainly in my experience with meeting a number of fan groups) fell out of love with the game at a time when Shanghainese, and indeed, Chinese football as a whole, was in the doldrums. When East Asia began climbing through the ranks of the league system, many of them chose to follow this new, local side which had been untarnished by the manifold issues surrounding Shenhua, and certainly had no idea that the club would develop so quickly and soon be pushing for a CSL title. Not that this should matter anyway, but the point I’m trying to make is that rather than simply jumping to a more successful ship when Shenhua were struggling, in actual fact many of the true SIPG fans have been there from the start, following their club all the way from League 2. Looking at England, could you begrudge fans of FC United of Manchester or AFC Wimbledon for their continued success, just because they felt compelled enough by the state of their previous clubs to switch allegiances towards something they believed represented them more. Now I’m not saying the situations are entirely parallel, and there will undoubtedly be cases of fans with a lack of understanding and respect for clubs history identity that simply switch their choice of club based on who is currently on top. However, I would contend that a large proportion – again, especially amongst the SIRIUS fan group of which I am a member – of supporters feel they have a much stronger connection to SIPG now than they could have done continuing to follow a club, or a sport with which they had become so disenchanted.

    With regards to the name change, that was indeed a bitter pill to swallow, and I still die a little bit inside every time I’m forced to write that dreaded acronym; SIPG. What Shenhua fans did in forcing the owners’ hands into changing the name back was incredible and something I never thought possible in the current landscape of Chinese football. From a red perspective, that was truly admirable and certainly many SIPG fans were in awe of their neighbours ability to effect change in that respect, and it’s a damn shame that the same could not be said for ourselves. Unfortunately that such movement never really looked like being emulated in Xujiahui, and despite the list of expectations delivered to SIPG group at the point of the takeover, including badge and colours being maintained, the name was the one thing (albeit the most important part of the indentity) that was sacrificed. Unfortunately, this has become par for the course in Chinese football, whereby a club can uproot themselves to the other side of the country from one season to the next, go through numerous identity changes in the space of a few years, or simply slip into nonexistence. The renaming is an unpleasant consequence, and one I’ll never get behind, but as far as takeovers in the CSL go – it could have been a lot worse. Still, 还我东亚!

  6. Dylan Shi

    27/08/2015 at 15:21

    When Greenland tried to change Shenhua’s name, the fans went apeshit and achieved what is to date not just one of the greatest but one of the only victories ever won by Chinese football culture. When SIPG tried to change East Asia’s name, the fans sang a different name they had sung less than a year previously. What does that say?

    Football fans don’t begrudge their neighbors their success because of their own clubs’ failings; they do so because rivalries are near the heart of football culture.

  7. Andy Strong

    27/08/2015 at 15:56

    Steve, my point regarding tribalism was not meant to be a critique on the nature of football fandom, but more focusing on the propensity for said tribalism to create entirely subjective and irresolvable points of conflict – especially when it is tribalism for the sake of tribalism. As is evident from the fallout from the derby, whether it is the most basic of interpretations of how a game has played out, or with regards to rivalries across the league and the appropriate way of showing your support for a side, there still comes a point where if you do take a moment to look at the bigger picture, it can all seem very silly indeed (my dad being very much a staunch rugby man, I’m constantly reminded of this). Furthermore, the very regional pride that you talk of was the whole crux of my point in questioning why a Shanghainese football fan of any club would prefer Beijing to win the league? From my own point of view, I’d much rather see Shenhua back at the top again (much as workdays would become insufferable) than Beijing, if only for the fact that it would raise the stakes in the derby even more. Hell I’d take a Shenhua CSL win over Guangzhou, Shandong or pretty much any other team in the league (barring maybe Shenxin – but I think we can all agree that’s not an immediate concern). I admit there are more than likely other factors I may have missed, but a lot of the ‘hatred’ seems more like an empty-headed attempt to emulate the Ultras culture of European sides, without really considering the myriad social, racial, religious, historical and geographical factors that permeate the European game and serve as the basis for outright loathing in some cases.

    Much as I tremendously enjoy the rivalry and (though I despise the word) “banter” between the two sides, there also needs to be a line drawn. Antics such as shirt burning/defecation and egging buses are one thing, but when you see things like the 10-on-1 scuffle that broke out after the game at Shanghai Stadium, and the level of antipathy currently being slung back and forth it makes you wonder. Again, I understand that this is an inevitable part of football fandom, but my struggle is with understanding quite how it has reached this level without the years of contempt and frequent conflict that exist in older footballing cultures, to really feed the fire. Instead, you have a young club with firm local roots who, until last year, have made extraordinary progress with a core group of players who have played together since they were kids. For a neutral, or an expat in Shanghai with no pre-existing ties, that’s as good a reason to follow them as any. For a local football fan, who may have followed Shenhua many years ago and decided to walk away in protest at what was happening to their club, there is also now a viable alternative which arguably represents them with an even stronger identity.

    I mentioned the situations in Manchester and Wimbledon, but in actual fact the current dilemma at Blackpool serves up as much of a parallel as any. There you have a diehard group of fans alienated and treated as if they don’t matter, their club turned into a joke, and an owner who clearly thinks he is above any sort of recourse. Sound familiar? Again, who can blame them from turning away? As I’ve already admitted, I can see that many Shenhua fans would be rightly upset if others simply abandoned them for a newer, potentially more successful club, especially now that the club are seemingly heading in the right direction again. And there will be numerous fans that do so. However, the 12,000+ fans who regularly turned out last year to watch an inexperienced CSL side play some excellent attacking (as well as some absolutely shocking defensive) football on their way to a surprisingly good (if ultimately disappointing) 5th placed finish, would contend that they are not in that group.

    One more point I must add is that Shanghai is vastly populated. With the growth of football in this country over the last few years, inevitably new fans of the game are going to be drawn in, whether that is from those who used to follow the sport, or those who had never been exposed to this level of high quality football (supposing your not watching Shenxin). Now while the lure of Shenhua is certainly strong, with its proud history that will likely never be emulated by SIPG, undoubtedly many of those new fans will simply plump for a club based on convenience of location, or much more likely; results. Just as Manchester United grew to be the most hated team in England during their unparalleled years of success, so now that vitriol is saved for Chelsea and Man City as newcomers and bandwagon hoppers alike simply take the easy choice. This is part of the game, but at the same time, unrepresentative of a large proportion of fans.

    • Steve Crooks

      27/08/2015 at 16:19

      OK, potentially got confused since a lot of this problematic behaviour isn’t really directly referenced here itself. Tribalism and rivalries are fantastic — going over the top and acting out of order obviously isn’t, but I’ve always held fairly short shrift for the idea that football or rivalries themselves can be blamed for this. Idiots will always be idiots; the world’s most popular sport just provides many of them with a convenient excuse and meeting-up point for their idiocy. I don’t think that needs to detract from the development of a really meaningful and interesting rivalry both on and off the pitch in Shanghai, and long may that continue.

      I will, however, unashamedly stick to my guns in saying I’d prefer any of the other sides in the title race to win it. Shandong would be the least painful; I don’t personally have the same level of beef with Hengda which may here do (if you’re gonna spend money, at least spend it mostly well, and play positive football with it — even if 2015-era Hengda are a bit behind their previous vintages in these terms). Traditional rivals Guo’an or new-kids-on-the-block city rivals SIPG — that’s a genuine, dictionary-definition dilemma in terms of which is harder to take. But I’d no more welcome an SIPG win as a “Shanghai” title than I would a Hartlepool victory “for the sake of small-town North-East football”. I’m sure fans of London-based teams back home would have similar things to share; for me, “Shanghai titles” are a firm step towards half-and-half scarf territory.

      Ultimately, just looking at how much this is getting people talking is a great thing, though — football here will only be the better for some genuine local rivalries and stronger teams developing.

    • Cameron Wilson

      28/08/2015 at 13:22

      Andy, you admit yourself on this thread that you’d hate to see Villa win the EPL. So why should it be any different here? The relatively short history of pro football in China doesn’t invalidate or cheapen the emotions or attachment felt to the clubs. Besides Shenhua have been representing Shanghai in the CSL for two decades now, that’s a significant amount of time anywhere, and certainly long enough for Shenhua fans to resent any new upstart club coming along to knock them off their pedestal.

      I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking that because Chinese football doesn’t have the long history of European or South American football, the Chinese fans don’t have a right to take the rivalries and identities as seriously as their counterparts do. We saw this with the Shenhua / Greenland name change thing. I was shocked by the lack of sympathy from foreign observers, some of whom write on this site, for Shenhua’s plight. There was a very offensive and downright patronizing attitude of “your team’s name came from a air-con company” or “This is what happens in China, accept it” whilst ignoring the fact that the relatively stable identities of clubs in traditional football countries is the reason for, well, these countries being traditional football countries, and that China had to fight against name-changing as an important step towards developing a football tradition of its own.

      The fundamentals for football culture are the same the world over, that is why it’s the world game. in my view the key to understanding Chinese football culture is recognizing that the parallels it has with football elsewhere are genuine reflections of the universal nature of football, not Chinese copycat emulations.

  8. Andy Strong

    27/08/2015 at 16:37

    Haha fair enough mate I can’t really argue with that. I am perhaps being incredibly naive in expecting Shenhua fans to even modestly embrace an SIPG title (god knows I’d give up on the sport if Villa ever won a PL title in my lifetime) but I guess I’m just surprised at how rapidly this supposed deep-rooted hatred/rivalry (call it what you will) has developed in the absence of many of the aforementioned factors involved in more established leagues. However, to use just one cross-city rivalry as a counter example, I would also argue that there are swathes of Liverpool fans who would rather see Everton win a league than United. Anyway, I suppose hypothetical “who would you rather” scenarios really are an exercise in futility as individuals will always have their own reasons for supporting/hating one club over another. And half-and-half scarves really are the work of the devil.

    • bcheng

      01/09/2015 at 18:23

      There has been so much of interest said in this discussion, Steve’s wit (regarding Cahill) came out as it so often does and its been great reading all the posts. I’m going to jump in looking in from the outside and without any real knowledge and say that I think the “cross-city rivalry” turned into a hatred so quickly because Chinese feel that’s what its supposed to be and not because of any true emotions on either side. Too often that is the case here, as the supposed “ultras” spend so much time watching videos and reading the European websites and trying to emulate that. Despite the extremely close relationship between Shenhua Greentown and SIPG down the years, the fans on both sides wanted it to be the street fighting Euro-style hooligans variety and that’s what it becomes. As for the 10 on 1 situation, I’ve heard a Shanghainese talk about his embarassment in his fellow Shanghainese men and that is far too commonly the case, I myself remember fights like that with Shenhua fans ganging up on Inter fans back in the day…

      • Dylan Shi

        03/09/2015 at 17:30

        I was thinking of Inter as I read your post; seeing them mentioned at the end, I was surprised you didn’t make the connection. That name has been curiously absent from this conversation. Is Inter—and other Shanghainese clubs in the past—along with the memory of the classic derbies not part of the reason this one has grown so fast? It’s almost like Shanghai was waiting for the derby to return, and so a lot of what we’re seeing is sentiment built up over the intervening years, not just the past three. Add in the fact that a number of East Asia fans are former Inter fans, and who could be surprised by a little acrimony? You would expect that a derby in another major Chinese city would grow less quickly because the denizens wouldn’t have the memory of a classic rivalry in their town. Of course there are other factors—including just the fact that proximity breeds rivalry in football, and Europeans really have no right to be surprised by that. I think (and hope) a rivalry in another town would grow as well, but this is what it seems like to me.

        And there’s no point in pretending the animosity is only, or even mostly, on one side. Does anyone seriously think the bulk of East Asia fans would applaud a Shenhua title? Would anyone have been surprised by the chants of “Shenhua shabi” (with which I have no problem, by the way) raining down from the away section during the last derby?

        Rivalries happen. Derbies are interesting. Let’s watch them spice up the culture of the game. Obviously we want things kept within reason—the aforementioned 10-on-1 fights are some seriously cowardly stuff—but it’s really missing the point to be proscriptive about football culture in countries with less well-developed traditions than others.

      • Cameron Wilson

        04/09/2015 at 10:43

        I think the influence of European football culture is worldwide, and when it comes to hooliganism, UK football culture undoubtedly has a big influence. This influence can be seen in China (and also the USA going by recent stories about NYC and NY Red Bulls fights ).

        However, football-related disorder would take place anyway in China even if they’d never watched a hooligan movie. Football is a tribal game and emotions are driven by that. It’s in men’s nature to be trial, to band together, wave their weapons about, seek grievances and indulge in posturing. You can see this at all levels of society – just looking out your window in Beijing yesterday would reveal a good example.

        If it looks contrived, that’s mainly because Chinese football history in general is quite short – if the league and Shanghai Derby had been around 50 years, people wouldn’t question the emotions involved.

        • Yiddo Huayi

          04/09/2015 at 17:18

          If you end up in Wellington NZ, come and see a Phoenix A-League game. The most we get is slightly passive aggressive towards the few hardy opposition fans that venture over the ditch (maybe a pursed lips stare of disapproval as they cheer when their team scores a goal).

          More often then not they will be drinking before and after the game with the Phoenix hard core supporters.

          Yeah, we’re well hard.

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Shanghai SIPG

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