Fans jubilant as domestic soccer games return amid anti-graft storm
Published: Apr 09, 2023 09:58 PM
Players of Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda take part in a training session on Tuesday in Tianjin. Photo: VCG

Players of Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda take part in a training session on Tuesday in Tianjin. Photo: VCG

Domestic soccer games have returned to China, heralded by Wuhan Three Towns winning the Chinese FA Super Cup by defeating Shandong Taishan 2-0 on Saturday, with the Chinese Super League setting to kick off on the weekend.

Played at a neutral venue in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, the Super Cup game attracted a crowd of 26,998 people at the 52,000-seat stadium.

Though no home team played in the game, local fans at the scene were happy to see the sport's return, as they cheered and bemoaned players' performances on the pitch. 

The two teams did not arrive in Hangzhou alone as thousands of their supporters also appeared in the stadium wearing their team's distinctive colors: blue for Wuhan and orange for Shandong. They chanted slogans and songs to voice their support. 

Gao Hongbo, former head coach of China's men's national team and vice present of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), attended the award ceremony of the Super Cup with Sun Wen, FIFA Women's Player of the Century award winner and  CFA vice president. 

The duo are the highest-ranking officials to remain at their posts after the start of an anti-corruption campaign that has seen seven senior officials from the sport's governing body subject to a disciplinary probe. 

China's sports authority, the General Administration of Sport, has sent a working group to oversee the operation of the CFA. This is the working group that has ensured the resumption of domestic games. 

The Super Cup had been canceled for three consecutive seasons due to the pandemic, while the Chinese Super League (CSL) was held in a "bubble" during the pandemic, a tournament-like competition rather than playing the traditional home and away league matches so soccer fans could come and watch.

The CSL matches will return to normality next week as the CFA unveiled the domestic fixture list on Friday. 

The newly rebuilt Workers' Stadium in Beijing will host the opening ceremony of the Chinese Super League as Beijing Guoan hosts Meizhou Hakka on April 15. 

The stadium, a capacity of 68,000 seats, is expected to be fully filled as it hosts a professional soccer game for the first time since its renovation in 2020. 

Though the total number of CSL teams have decreased from 18 to 16 this season after some teams failed to pass financial assessments, this should mark a return to a more sustainable league instead of one dominated by high rollers.