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CFA continues it’s Shermanesque march through SIPG roster

Shanghai SIPG

Hulk, Wu Lei and AVB journey to Beijing, then get suspended for two CSL matches.

Avert your eyes! Won’t someone please think of the children?

The CSL’s campaign against SIPG kicked into a new gear this week. André Villas-Boas has been suspended for two games for a social media post which read, “355 career games; five years in the English Premier League; 47 appearances for Brazil; 70 goals; ZERO RED CARDS!!! Eight games suspended.” And a thumbs-down emoji.

The CSL said this comment on the Oscar suspension was worthy of a ban because it was, “making improper comments on (a) social media account.”

(To be fair, the CSL declined to punish AVB for egregious over-use of semi-colons.)

Hulk and Wu Lei were suspended for their actions after SIPG’s 4-1 demolition on Sunday night of Henan at Shanghai Stadium. Both greeted SIPG fans after the match wearing t-shirts supporting Oscar, Hulk’s saying, in English, “Nothing to Do, Nothing to Say,” an echo of a shirt Oscar wore for a widely distributed photo after his eight-game suspension came down.

The Hulk and Wu suspensions, of, respectively, the best player and best Chinese player in the league, were, the CFA said, for showing “bad manners” to fans by wearing the shirts.

Oscar, who wore the shirt in a widely publicized photo, did not get an addition to his suspension.

(In related news, the CFA has also announced suspensions for bad manners to eight million Shanghai subway riders.)

The CFA also either forced or intimidated SIPG management into releasing a statement this week in which the club described their fans as “irrational” for protesting Oscar’s suspension. That’s some fan outreach gold right there.Image result for hulk, wu lei t-shirt

No end in sight for CFA buffoonery

This is, first, the story of the CFA’s  management personel. They’ve likely ended up in sports administration in what the Party hoped was a harmless sinecure after failing in areas the Party takes more seriously. That looks like a miscalculation.

The CFA’s interference with roster make-up has been notably sudden, ill-considered, hapless and thrown the whole league into turmoil a couple of times this year, but that turns out to be nothing compared to the Dali-esque nature of their disciplinary decisions. The CFA has destroyed the integrity of the 2017 season and are in danger of igniting a scandal that compares with match-fixing in terms of it’s potential to damage the league.

Why? The league is poised on a knife’s edge right now: if Oscar, Hulk or AVB decide to depart China in the immediate future, they’ll do it with guns blazing and they will destroy the fledging reputation of the league. Especially if it’s AVB. Wu Lei is now a potential Li Na of Chinese football: the star who’s big enough to tell the FA to choose either to back off or face Wu going public with his dissatisfaction.

(Whether Wu has the courage to do this and is willing to make what would likely be a considerable financial sacrifice is unknown. We can only hope.)

In any case, if Guangzhou Evergrande wins the league again, it will be hollow; they’ll know that they won it in not on the field but in an administrators office in Beijing. Three teams, SIPG, Guangzhou R&F and Shanghai Shenhua, have now had their seasons trashed by CSL administrators, and we’re not even halfway through the season. There’s damage waiting to be done: more erratic discipline, or a team losing a star foreigner and then getting hobbled during the summer transfer window by the new transfer tax.

Tests for roster depth upcoming

On the immediate, practical front, SIPG now faces fixtures with Jiangsu Suning and Changchun Yatai on the road (watch this game live online on the official CSL feed) without four starters — Oscar, Hulk, Wu and Fu Huan — and their coach.

SIPG has taken all nine points in three matches with those two teams so far, and granted, Jiangsu and Changchun have been awful — Changchun’s official team motto has been changed to, “Thank god for Yanbian” — but they will both be smelling blood in the water.

Elkeson, Ahmedov and Carvalho, the three remaining foreigners on the SIPG roster eligible to play, will likely be in the line-up for both matches. If AVB sticks with his preferred 4-3-3 formation, Wei Shihao and Lu Wenjun will join Elkeson up front.

Or, AVB may choose to adopt a more defensive configuration with Elkeson or Elkeson and Wei as the forwards, but changing formations without being there to oversee it on the fly would be a risky move.

It’s a bit of a break for SIPG; there are no mid-week Cup and ACL matches to tax the remaining players and Guangzhou Evergrande will spend their next two matches up north, at Tianjin Quanjian and Beijing Guo’an, where there exists at least the potential that their ten-match CSL winning streak will get interrupted.

American expat rooting for Shanghai SIPG, because they're the Oakland A's to Shenhua's San Francisco Giants.

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