John Yan: Politicians in club shirts 异乡与故乡

Chinese leaders

When a whole nation just has one club to support, there must be something wrong. Even though the club might become the most successful one ever in China’s football history.

Guangzhou Evergrande, yes, the club from Guangzhou again. After winning convincingly in the Asian Champions League (ACL) semi-final, they took their third successive domestic league title with 4 rounds to spare. This time they won the league at their nearest rival’s pitch, defeating Shandong Luneng FC 4:2 on October 6. In contrary to those eight goals in the semi-final of the ACL which were all scored by three foreign players, in the match against Shandong, who were lagging behind Guangzhou by 11 points, all four goals were scored by Chinese internationals.

Guangzhou Never Wins Enough! This is the Cantonese saying about of the club – something which is extremely different from Mandarin. Guangzhou never wins enough, and now the focus is on the final Asian Champions League, at the end of October, home and away against South Korean Seoul FC.

Maybe the slogan is exactly what an ambitious Guangzhou Evergrande feels about themselves, they never win enough, not even with the ACL title to wrap up their season. If they could defeat the Korean club in two rounds, they would qualify for this calendar year’s FIFA World Club Championship in Japan. Then they could test their muscles against the real top club sides like Bayern Munich and the Ronaldinho leading Atlético Mineiro. These are the targets for Guangzhou.

You can imagine how pumped up the whole city is their club, with no-one really caring about the national team at the moment. For this international break week, Team China will play Indonesia in the Asian Cup qualification match – 8 players from Guangzhou Evergrande were selected, but they report to training one day after the rest of the team, and the visit of Marcelo Lippi to the national team’s training base, which is only an hour’s drive from Guangzhou, looks to be more like a tutor’s visit to an elementary school camp.

There is no doubt that Team China is making way for Guangzhou, as the nation is counting on Guangzhou to restore its dignity and confidence in football. Saying the whole nation is baying for Guangzhou might be exaggerating, but the National Sport Administration is rooting for Guangzhou Evergrande whole-heatedly.

During the quarter-final of the ACL in late August, when Guangzhou was playing at home, something weird happened in the half time. When the match restarted, the political leaders came out of their luxurious boxes, all wearing Guangzhou Evergrande’s team shirts!

Among the leaders, there was Mr. Cai Zhenhua, the deputy minister of the National Sport Administration, who used to be a table tennis world champion. He is the high ranking official that the China Football Association reports to. I can’t recall Party politicians ever having worn Team China’s outfits, and yet here comes the Guangzhou Evergrande shirt show!

Mr. Xu Jiayin was walking behind Mr. Cai, with self-effacing smiles on his face. He made it big time.

Just imagine Hugh Robertson or Helen Grant dressing themselves in a Man Utd shirt or Chelsea shirt for a UEFA Champions League matches, if they are not supporters of those two clubs.

Guangzhou and Mr. Xu are sailing on, the football audience are amazed by this club’s four year climb from the second division to the top of Asia. Team China is suddenly not that sexy and might not be for a long while.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com. Contact him at moc.l1635405872iamg@16354058728002g1635405872naiqn1635405872ay1635405872, or on weibo at: http://weibo.com/1646270104/profile?topnav=1&wvr=5

异乡与故乡

广州是一个很奇妙的城市,几百年来西风东渐,于斯为盛,不停顿的变迁,却从来没有改变过这座城市的性格。忙碌而低调,包容而固守,广州似乎永远都是广州。

很小的时候到广州探亲访友,我就会能感觉到一些广州人的地理意识差异性。在那个年代,很多广州人的”北方”概念是无比庞大的——广州以北的地方,都叫”北方”。这两百年左右的近现代史上,各种新潮异动,广州都有得风气之先的地缘优势,但当一切沉淀下来之后,广州仍然是广州。

就像天河球场,据说场上局面不利时,全场可能都会高唱《海阔天空》,这首歌的确有宏大之中略藏悲壮的气势,天风海雨逼人,壮士一去兮。但看台上传来的呐喊声,仍然是”广州队!广州队!”

哪怕”广州队”的代表们,由古广明、赵达裕、吴群立、胡志军、彭伟国以降,一度断绝,如今是孔卡、穆里奇和埃尔克森们领衔。

广州队里没有广州人,已经不再是多大的缺憾。这是一个全球化时代,皇家马德里的主力十一人里,可能没有一个马德里人。1967年夺取欧冠的凯尔特人主力,全由凯尔特人球场方圆二十英里内格拉斯哥人组成,这样的传奇,早就已是绝响。乡土意识,似乎已经被清风翻过,此心安处,他乡异乡,都可能是我乡。

所以广州恒大半决赛横扫柏太阳神,八球全由三个顶级外援包办,这样一个有可能成为”恒黑”话题的话题,我并不觉得是这个俱乐部多么严重的问题。最重要的是广州恒大完成了不论甲A还是中超其他俱乐部二十年来都难以达到的高度——以摧枯拉朽之势雄视亚洲。这当然不能代表中国足球的伟大复兴、或者中国足球梦的成功,可是中国足球太需要这样一种信心的输入,太需要在黑暗中找到一些能温暖足球孩子的亮光。

孔卡、穆里奇和埃里克森,他们是这座城市性格的一面体现。广州的包容能力,务实低调中寻找自己出路的风格,可以让各乡各土的人,都能在这座城市里找到希望。许家印也不是广州人。然而将各种力量和资源优势,组合在一起,广州恒大的攀升,是亚洲足球的奇迹。

只是这样的攀升,只是一个开始,而绝不应该成为一个顶点。哪怕登顶亚冠,在世俱杯上还能带来更多惊喜,都只应该是一个开始。广州恒大攀升的最大意义,应该是让广州乃至更广”北方”的孩子们和家长们,在享受着广州恒大奇幻攀升过程中,体会到足球的美和力量,认识到体验和参与足球这项运动的价值。以此观之,乡土意识,又是何其的重要。

每个广州人都应该为广州恒大的成绩而骄傲,这样的骄傲,应该得到极大的保护和更多养育,春风化雨,润入人心。孔卡、穆里奇和埃尔克森,他们应该成为这座城市里所有孩子的偶像,成为他们接触足球并且热爱足球的引导者。大连足球也有过辉煌的过去,大连更培养出了众多本土才俊,可惜我乡我土,无惜无护,我乡我人,最终流转为他乡他人。一座城市的体育,具备足够竞技成绩和公众感染力时,青岛人郝海东能变成大连人、美国人马布里能变成北京人,然而当局者的责任,是顺势而为、因势利导,让激荡的风云,转换成滋养土壤的春雨。

孔卡那一脚小小摆动却直奔死角的远射,正是此刻多少足球少年梦寐以求的向往。