3:32 — I just set up the laptop and will post throughout the game, Sports Guy style. Hope to get the rest of the crew watching and writing as well. Two minutes in and Guo’An already scored–Emil Martinez took a nice pass, shot it right at the keeper from about 15 yards out, then followed up the deflection and bumped it in with his body.
3:44 — It’s great to see a full stadium for once. I always wondered what the players, especially the foreign ones, thought about playing in a city with close to 20 million inhabitants but only getting 20,000 or so fans at each home game.
3:55 — Starting to get a little feisty, with bodies starting to fly. Guoan just got two free kicks in a row from about 30 yards out. On the second one, Martinez ran in for the follow up and almost poked another one in.
3:58 — I think Hangzhou is starting to sense the game slipping away, as Beijing attacks relentlessly. The fouls are getting more and more desperate. This is getting the crowd fired up as well. The early goal probably help keep them in a good mood, but the shabi chants are likely to break out anytime.
4:08 — League update: Henan Jianye, currently tied with Guoan at 48 points, is losing 0-1 at Shenzhen. But the bigger threat is from Changchun Yatai (one point back but playing a weaker opponent at home), currently up 2-0 against Chongqing Lifan.
4:16 — First half is over. Hangzhou was putting a lot of pressure on Beijing in the last five minutes. A free kick just before the whistle bounced inside the 18-yard box and Guoan’s goalkeeper had to kick it away–but he ended up kicking it straight up in the air. Fortunately he was able to recover and grab it as it fell.
4:22 — BTV goes to an impressive split screen with live sideline reporters at all three key match sites: Beijing, Shenzhen, and Changchun. I never saw anything this nice before the Olympics. The other two cities have swaths of empty seats, though the Shenzhen reporter just claimed there were over 40,000 in attendance, even though the sections behind her were barely half full.
4:27 — She also said, if I heard correctly, that the Shenzhen fans were cheering in support of Beijing. I wonder if many Beijingers living in Shenzhen or Changchun are attending their local matches in order to cheer on Guoan.
4:33 — Second half started, then the ref made them start over. Not clear why.
4:35 — Now we’re starting for real.
4:39 — Goal! Martinez again. Got the ball on the left side and looked ready to cross it, but instead blasted it into the perfect spot. Amazing.
4:42 — Beijing’s Tao Wei just got shoved hard in the chest and went down. Looked to be real. Now he’s up. Let’s hope Guoan doesn’t pussy out and start feigning multiple injuries to try and run out the clock. Win it honorably.
4:45 — The crowd is going bonkers right now, chanting shabi over and over, as the announcers pretend not to notice and the stadium speakers blast Ricky Martin’s “Copa la Vida” to try and drown them out. Classic Guoan Football.
4：52 — Horrible defensive error by Guoan’s right back gave Hangzhou a 2-on-1. The Hangzhou player managed to cut down his angle and then shoot it right into the keeper’s hands. Close call.
4:59 — Twenty minutes left. Guoan has backed off and is content to play defense and make the occasional counterattack. They’re looking very comfortable and confident right now.
5:01 — Tao Wei goes down again. Looks like a defender stepped on his right foot. He’s my favorite Guoan player, partly because he always seems to be involved in the big plays, and partly because he’s the only player I can recognize from year to year.
5:05 — And Tao Wei gets a big cheer as he is subbed off in the 75th minute.
5:06 — A Guoan player and his defender both go for a ball about ten yards away from the Hangzhou goal. The Beijing player goes down, and though it looks clean to me, the ref immediately whistles a penalty. The replay shows the Guoan player jumping into his defender. Bad call. Zhou Ting scores on the penalty; 3-0 Guoan.
5:10 — And as I was typing the last sentence, Martinez gets the hat trick! 4-0. He takes off his shirt in celebration, and the ref gives him a yellow card, though he’s smiling and even a bit apologetic as he does so.
5:13 — Beijing is just pouring it on now, pushing forward and shooting as hard as they have all match. I’d advise them to tone it down a bit; this is the kind of thing that can lead to a vicious foul from the other side.
5:16 — In the 85th minute Guoan makes its final substitution and slows down the pace. Hangzhou isn’t even trying anymore and is just waiting for the final few minutes to tick away.
5:25 — And that wraps it up! The crowd cheers the players on a victory lap as Tao Wei gets the first interview. No translator available for Martinez?
5:42 — For once the TV announcers don’t shut down the broadcast right after the final whistle. We’ve had twenty commercial-free minutes to enjoy the celebrations and hear interviews with close to a dozen players and coaches. The BTV sideline report is not afraid to show who she’s rooting for–she’s wearing a Guo’an scarf. Still no interviews with any foreign players yet.
5:44 — Funny shot from Guoan’s locker room, where players are celebrating their victory by dousing each other with…bottled water.
5:52 — The locker room camera catches a Chinese man who has to be at least fifty years old with a Yankees cap on. Now I understand why American teams always have those goofy caps ready for any championship.
6:08 — BTV 6 is outdoing itself–I just watched a fantastic ten-minute montage of the season. No no commentary, but great music. Now we’re back to the studio seen in the pregame, where they’re serving red wine to the audience for a giant toast. The announcers are hugging, high-fiving each other, and welling up with emotion.
ODB and I walked by Workers’ Gymnasium at about 4:30pm yesterday and saw a couple hundred Hangzhou fans cheering and carrying a dragon made of yellow balloons. Later in the evening, as JZ and I tried to hail a taxi in a cold rain, it was easy to spot an inordinate amount of Hangzhou blue on sweatshirts, umbrellas, and glowing devil horns.
Currently The Beijing-Hangzhou match is less than an hour away. I’ve got the TV on but both CCTV and Beijing TV sports channels are showing boring studio talk shows for the pregame. No College Football Gameday in China yet, unfortunately. A Reuters article quoting the Beijing Youth Daily confirms my prediction of a heavy police presence, though even I didn’t expect it to be so high:
Up to 6,000 police will be on duty for Beijing Guoan’s Chinese Super League (CSL) match on Saturday, where they could seal their first title, after fans rioted on Thursday after failing to get tickets for the game….
About 10,000 fans had gathered outside the stadium on Thursday in the hope to buy tickets, but only 13,000 of the 60,000 seats in the stadium were put on sale, leaving thousands frustrated, the paper said.
I didn’t even think a riot would be possible with all the police assigned to the ticket lines. And honestly, I don’t really trust that 6,000 cops will be able to control a stadium full of fans, who will surely walk out either ecstatic or enraged.
Kickoff is now about 25 minutes away. BTV gave a minute or two to the sideline reporter and is back to the studio chat with the sappy background music; CCTV is now showing figure skating.
UPDATE: Added a pic of the riot police lined up outside Workers’ Stadium.
Beijing’s soccer team, Beijing Guoan F.C., is playing this weekend for the Chinese Super League title, and tickets went on sale this morning. Thousands of people are currently in line outside the Workers’ Stadium and Workers’ Gymnasium. I thought about sending an employee to stand in line and buy me some tickets, but it looks like he’d have to wait for hours.
The typical Beijing Guo’an game fills about a quarter of the seats in Workers’ Stadium, though those who do show up are very vocal in their support. I would not be surprised if this match brings in a full house. Here’s a photo of the crowd from a match I attended back in 2005, when the team was known as Beijing Xiandai (the Chinese name for carmaker Hyundai):
In contrast, here’s a picture of the same stadium during China’s victory over Qatar in the 2004 Asian Cup:
Beijing currently is tied with Henan Siwu at the top of the table but is ahead due to a five point lead in goal difference; the title is thus Beijing’s to lose. Changchun Yatai (47 points) also has a reasonable chance to win, and Shandong Luneng (45 points) is mathematically still in the running.
Beijing’s opponent is Hangzhou Lücheng, currently second to last in the table and facing relegation if they lose, so it won’t be a walkover. Henan’s opponent is mid-table Shenzhen (ninth out of sixteen teams), and Henan will be playing away. The greater threat is probably from Changchun, which faces last-place Chongqing Lifan at home. Chongqing cannot avoid relegation and has little to play for besides pride, so Changchun has a good chance to win. This makes Saturday’s match-up a critical match for Beijing.
Even though Beijing’s team is consistently one of the best in the CSL, it’s rare to see much open support for them. The only hint I saw of this week’s excitement came a couple of months ago, when thousands of (mostly young) paraded down Gongti Bei Lu after a match, presumably toward the Dongsishitiao subway station.
Below is a picture I took before the 2005 home match again Dalian Shide, the strongest team in the CSL over the past 15 years and a major rival. There was no line; I just walked up and bought my tickets. Note the dirt-cheap prices, which ranged from 20 to 80 RMB. The “booth” consisted of a guy sitting behind the (locked) entrance gate–you can see his empty chair in the picture. I handed my money through the gate and he gave me my tickets.
Whether in response to aforementioned post-game march, which appeared to be spontaneous, or simply out of habit after the Olympics and recent National Day celebrations, the police are out in full force today. There are perhaps 500 to 1000 officers and dozens of vehicles surrounding the ticket buyers. To avoid even the chance of anything getting out of hand, the ticket line was not a line at all but rather bunches of a few hundred fans, each completely surrounded by dozens of police officers and at least 30 yards away from the next group.
Back in 2005, police were at the games but not down on the field for most of the match, as you can see from the pictures above. Standard procedure was to have them ringing the pitch until game time, at which point they would march up to their own section and enjoy the game.
Meanwhile, Beijing’s fans tended to get very rowdy, making up dirty cheers, hold up signs attacking the refs and others, and throwing anything available onto the pitch.
The most obvious rabble-rousers would be taken away during the game. From my observation, holding up a sign was far more likely to get you into trouble than thowing things at opposing players. (The authorities are well aware of the political dangers of letter fans holding up signs).
Only in the final minutes of the game would the police march back down to their positions around the pitch. Based on the security presence today, one can only imagine how many police they’ll have out for Saturday afternoon’s match.
UPDATE: Talked to a guy at the Subway sandwich shop across from the stadium at around 5pm today; he said tickets had sold out hours ago, and that many of the fans had been camping out for the last two nights. Probably some good business for Subway.
UPDATE: Titan Sports has some good slideshows, including the strict police control of the crowds, happy faces of fans with their tickets, and of course the pretty girls in line.
The owner of Bed Bar opens a hutong hotel with four rooms, charges US$200 and up per night, and gets a gushing review in the New York Times. Really?
I’m not really bothered by the gentrification of “Old Beijing”, and I don’t know how hotels get chosen for reviews in the NYT Travel section, but this seems like an odd choice.
Here’s a sample picture of the iPod-inspired design:
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As reported in Shanghai Daily, taxi rates are going up this month. Flagfall will be 12 yuan/3km, and each additional km will be 2.40. The additional km charge is a big jump up from 2.10 (prior to May 2006, it was 2.00 yuan/km).
Doubt this will change demand much for taxis in the city.
Saw an interesting interview in Newsweek with the Xiang Bing, the dean of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB). Interesting observations on China, especially this:
You’ve also mentioned that you see China as too entrepreneurial. How can that be?
Entrepreneurialism is in our blood, and that makes us open to new ideas and new people. But it means we can also be impatient, and without focus. In Chinese companies, middle managers are always trying to figure out how they can ultimately take over the company, or start their own company. This may also be because Chinese companies aren’t as good at taking care of their employees. Compare China to Japan in this respect. It’s difficult to imagine a Chinese company creating the next Toyota, let alone the next Google.
Hard to argue, but give it another 5 or 10 years, and I bet it will be much easier to imagine a Huawei, Alibaba, or some other Chinese company being a global leader in both sales and innovation.