Beijing match night shows some decent soccer can be found in CSL

By Hilton Yip Source:Global Times Published: 2015-5-4 22:58:01

While the likes of the Premier League, the Bundesliga and the La Liga always grab the soccer spotlight, sometimes it is easy to forget that China also has a flourishing domestic league.

Thus, Extra Time ventured out on a rainy Friday evening in Beijing to watch the hometown team take on a side from neighboring Hebei Province in Gongti, or the Workers' Stadium.

On paper, a match between Beijing Guoan, the hometown heavyweight with widespread support and heavy expectations every season, and newly promoted Shijiazhuang Yongchang may not have been one to set pulses racing. Though the teams are relatively close geographically, just one and a half hours apart by high-speed train, the visitors are too new for there to be any sense of rivalry, yet.

When Guoan scored within five minutes, there was a feeling it would be a long, dreary night for Shijiazhuang. Yet the visitors showed resilience and skill to equalize to make it even by halftime. Eventually, Guoan's superior talent and experience came through for them to win 3-1.

The soccer was of a decent quality, enough to impress an English soccer fan and writer who found the level of play to be far better than several years ago.

Green and yellow-clad supporters covered most of the stadium, though it was far from full capacity, with lots of empty rows scattered throughout, possibly a result of the rain keeping away some fans. Yet this did not stop Shijiazhuang from bringing over 1,000 fans, many who sang almost nonstop throughout the game and whose enthusiasm did not seem to be dulled by their team's eventual loss.

Of course, local characteristics were not all so positive. For instance, no announcement was made when the away team scored or made a substitution, apparently in order to prevent local fans from chanting a certain infamous word.

The fans represent one of the best aspects of local soccer. As embarrassing as the national team has been for much of the past decade, not to mention administrative ineptness and corrupt dealings, at the club level, there is significant and genuine popular support and passion for soccer.

Despite issues like clubs constantly renaming themselves and shenanigans like Shanghai Shenhua bringing in ­Ivorian star striker Didier Drogba a few years ago but then refusing to pay him, fans have been steadfast in their support which bodes well for the sport.

There is still a lot of soccer to be played in the Chinese Super League (CSL), which finishes at the end of ­October.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.

Posted in: Extra Time

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