For all my passion for football and Manchester United in particular, its quite embarrassing that I have only been to three professional football games ever. The first was Pune FC versus Mumbai FC in 2007 and the second was the Manchester derby in 2011 made famous by “that Rooney goal.” This game between Beijing GuoAn and Qingdao Jonoon in June 2012 was the third.
Some snippets of history, courtesy Wikipedia:
- The name “Guo An” (国安) literally translates as “Country-Safe” or national security. Definitely one of the most unique football club names around
- At that time, the coach was Jaime Pacheco who’s claim to fame was taking lowly Boavista F.C to its one and only Portugese Primeira Liga title in 2001 and the UEFA Cup semifinals in 2003.
- Since its founding in 1951, the club has won the national league (in its various forms) 8 times. They finished third in 2012.
- Qingdao Jonoon FC (青岛中能足球俱乐部）has the nickname Hai-Niu (海牛） meaning “Sea-Bulls.”
- Qingdao is a beautiful port city on the Yellow Sea and used to be a German concession till the Japanese occupied it. After World War II, the US Navy had a naval port there till 1949.
- The “Tsingtao” beer brewery was started in 1902 by German settlers in the city of Qingdao. Tsingtao beer is now sold in 66 countries.
- Workers Stadium (工人体育场）or Gong Ti in short is the home of Guoan FC and has a fantastic location in the heart of the bar district of Sanlitun
- The stadium was built in 1959 as a part of the Ten Great Buildings (十大建筑）to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the PRC. Other buildings include the famous Great Hall of the People and National Museum at Tiananmen Square
- In 2008, it hosted the semifinals of the Olympics football tournament. in 2009, it hosted the Barclays Asia trophy that included Guoan, Tottenham, West Ham and Hull City
The walk to the stadium is one you should definitely make if you’re living close by. When we started off, the four of us were wearing casual t-shirts and shorts. By the time we reached the stadium, we were decked out in Guoan jerseys (40 RMB), polo shirts (40 RMB) and scarves (25 RMB). We bought green vuvuzelas and melted into the ocean of green heading to the stadium chanting, “Guoan Guoan Beijing Guoan. Like every stadium, everything inside the stadium is overpriced. So take advantage of the stadium’s location in the bar district of Sanlitun and get your eating and drinking done before hand.
Much better than expected. The stadium was about three-fourths full and it seemed like everyone had taken advantage of the cheap Guoan merchandise. The stands opposite to us was completely decked in green and looked sensational under the lights. When not tooting their vuvuzelas or shouting abuse at the referee, the crowd even got some fun chants going. The fanatical We st Stand group was absolutely fantastic – on their feet the entire time, chanting, waving flags. We had a great time talking to the locals about how bad the referees were and even starting a few chants ourselves
The lesser said the better. A dreary 0-0 with little to none goalmouth action. I’d like to say that I spotted a diamond in the rough, a star for the future, but I really couldn’t. Beijing Guoan seemed well organized as a team, but there was very little skill or pace on show.
-Riding on the Yao Ming revolution, basketball is the clear leader when it comes to sportS in China. Former NY Knick Stephon Marbury even got his own statue in Beijing after taking the Ducks to the CBA championship in 2012.
-Counter to expectations, Chinese football rankings have gone from 53 in 1993 (the league was professionalized in 1992) to 88 today.
-China is pouring money into football. Artificial football pitches are everywhere. I played for an amateur club in Tianjin and the pitches are great to play on and l0w maintenance.
-If it keeps up its current rate of investment in infrastructure, coaching and the Chinese Super League, China can follow the path of Japan and South Korea and play on the world stage.
-This is yet another arena in which China and India could cooperate on. On account of once being a colony, India has a longer history of football than China. Poor management and poorer infrastructure have taken India from 94th in the world in 1994 to a truly amazing 169 today.
-Imagine the interest a joint football league or even a joint bid for the World Cup would generate (A man can dream)