Monday, February 22, 2010

Champions Leauge Matchday 1 : Let's Get it Started

It's been a long time without a match and during that time there were a lot of events I failed to report on in the sports world. We've had the whole corruption scandal, Guoan's major signings, Marbury coming to China, the Winter Olympics, the new kits (coming soon), and the biggest, China's national team beating Korea, but you haven't read about any of those things on here. Anyways, now you have what you come to hear for, game information, and we have an interesting one tonight.

It seems like almost no time has passed since Halloween 2009, when on the day of gouls and goblins, Guoan broke a long standing curse to win their first ever domestic league title. That victory guarantees them a spot in the Asian Champions League, though hopefully this year's campaign will go better than last year's weak showing.

Guoan has certainly prepared well for this one, lots of preseason matches against domestic teams as well as a trip to Japan for a few against Japanese and Korean sides (including a brawl incident). They've also made a number of new signings which should do a lot to shape this year's side, bringing in former Scottish international Maurice Ross, CSL scoring stud Otto, and "China's Beckham" Xu Liang.

Just like last year, Guoan is opening its Asian campaign at home against an Australian team, though this time around its the Melbourne Victory. Last year, it was the new signings of the Griffiths brothers that combined against their old team (and older brother) to secure a victory. It appears that Ryan won't be on the ACL roster this time around, though Joel is still around, will he shine when given the chance to impress the large Australian audience? Will one of this year's new signings step up to win over the fans early?

Melbourne's in a tough position, having finished 2nd in their domestic league they are currently in the midst of the playoffs, having won the first leg of their semifinal match last week. They now have to contend with the massive jet lag that comes with a flight to Beijing, as well as winter conditions in Beijing. Despite all this, the manager has declared they won't sit back and play defense, instead they will play an attacking squad and go for the win, though how they turn out on the field will show how true he is to his word.

So there you have it, we'll probably see part 1 of the Tao/Xu experiment in midfield and how it works. Considering Guoan has yet to play a league match, expect team work to be a little spotty, but with a month to go before the start of the season, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to go all out and seeing how hot Yang Zhi was in the recent East Asian Championship, Guoan will always have him to hold things up. The only team news is that Lang Zheng will be out, serving a two match ban, making it all the more likely we'll see Ross for the first time in the green and white tonight.

With no Chinese team advancing out of the group stage last year, Guoan (and the others) should be pumped up for a better showing to help China save face, it starts tonight, let's go Guoan!

all posts cross posted at Beijing Football.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is It All Worth It?

There is a lot to talk about these days regarding Beijing Guoan: the squad's new players, including one of the league's top scorers last year, Otto, and the exciting young player, Wang Xiaolong, as well as the potential addition of "China's Beckham", Xu Liang, and the Griffiths trifecta now that Joel has officially signed for the squad and brother Adam, a defender, is on trial with the side. That's not what I'm talking about today, and honestly, I'm wondering what the point is even in continuing this blog.

A few weeks back, I taunted those who want to talk about corruption, at the time, the arrests and questioning seemed fairly limited and didn't appear significant, however today the appearance is far different. With the removal of Nan Yong and Yang Yimin and the two being called in for questioning (as well as former Shanghai manager Jia Xiuquan), and with the likes of even China Daily discussing their possible execution, one wonders what to make of Chinese soccer these days. Less than 10 years since the black whistle scandal that rocked Chinese soccer, this current one seems to go even deeper and be even more problematic. It appeared that Chinese soccer had cleaned up its image in recent years and was past that scandal, but now those reforms seem only face deep, and the internal problems that led to that scandal have only continued to fester.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for the fans), the extent of the police investigation and what exactly they are investigating or charging has been largely kept under wraps. How deep this scandal goes is completely unknown and with little more than a month before a new domestic season begins, the police investigation must be wrapped up before the 2010 CSL season kicks off. How can fans be expected to commit themselves to watching another season, to "live and die" over matches that could very well be fixed. It is hard watching nightly news coverage of Beijing Guoan while knowing a police investigation into the very highest level of the CFA is going on. Perhaps this corruption and match fixing can be used to explain why China's national team is so bad. Perhaps the change at the top of the CFA, combined with the current investigation, will revolutionize soccer in China.

Is there reason for optimism? Realistically, no. Until we know the extent of the corruption, its easy to imagine it as all encompassing and it truly casts a pall on the upcoming season.