The season just started a few weeks ago and is only four games in. Luckily for us Shanghai has two professional teams offering the chance to enjoy live professional football at its best -- being in a stadium packed with roaring, swearing fans, rather than on TV.
First up though, if you know the drill and are regularly going to games already, don’t turn up at Hongkou Stadium this Saturday night, because the scheduled match has been cancelled. Shenhua’s home ground caught fire at the end of last month, making international news headlines. The climbing wall inside the stadium somehow went up in flames but thankfully no one was hurt and the damage wasn’t as bad as feared.
Hongkou, slightly toasted
However, it’s going to take a while for repairs to be completed. So, Saturday’s match against Changchun Yatai will be played in Changchun instead of Shanghai, and Shenhua will play Changchun at home on August 8, when they were originally supposed to play in Changchun. There’s no word yet if Shenhua’s next scheduled home game against Shandong Luneng on April 30 will go ahead as planned or be switched to Shandong -- watch this space.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Shenhua. Things started well with the blockbuster signing of former Manchester United and Manchester City forward Carlos Tevez. There were insane scenes at Pudong when thousands of fans mobbed him on arrival, but on his debut Shenhua crashed out of the Asian Champions League to Australia’s Brisbane Roar. Things got worse in the second match of the season when Shenhua’s key midfielder Qin Sheng was suspended for an incredible six months for stamping on the foot of Tianjian Quanjian’s Belgian international midfielder Alex Witsel. It was a strangely-harsh punishment said to be because the match was shown on live TV overseas and the Chinese Football authorities were embarrassed by this, so made an example of Qin. Since then Shenhua have lost their last two matches, including one away to dreaded foes, Beijing Guoan. It’s never dull at Shenhua.
The Incredible... Brick Shithouse
Across town, Xujiahui-based Shanghai SIPG are doing much better. They’ve got Brazilian striker Hulk on their books (he’s built like a brick shithouse hence the nickname) and former Chelsea midfielder Oscar, also Brazilian. Currently second in the league, they are amongst the favourites for the league title along with perennial-winners Guangzhou Evergrande. And in an effort to get up the noses of their city rivals Shenhua as much as possible, they are also flying high in the Asian Champions League this season and look favourites to make it to the knockout stage.
Not as much drama surrounds SIPG, they tend to concentrate on playing football and winning games. They also tend to be the team of choice for people of international origin to support in Shanghai thanks in part to their more central location. Look out though, they recently announced plans to build a brand new football-specific stadium way out near Jinqiao, due to open in 2019. Brave decision, especially considering the stadium would hold 50,000 - a lot of people would need to travel quite a distance to fill it, travel expenses must be paid.
Anyway that’s what’s going on in Shanghai football around about now. Games coming up very soon that you you can check out:
Friday April 21, at 7.35pm: Shanghai SIPG v Hebei CFFC @ Shanghai Stadium (Chinese Super League)
Wednesday April 26 at 7.30pm: Shanghai SIPG v Seoul FC @ Shanghai Stadium (Asian Champions League)