Beijing Guoan FC to play their ‘home’ games in Shandong

Society & Culture

The Chinese Super League has been turned upside-down this season, with traditional powerhouses struggling while a newcomer from Wuhan remains unbeaten.

It hasn't been a good year for Beijing Guo'an. On Friday it lost 5-1 to Wuhan — which continues its surprising run at the top of the league table.

Beijing Guoan will play the rest of the Chinese Super League (CSL) season in Rizhao, Shandong province, despite the other 19 teams in the league returning to their home stadiums.

The league, which started behind closed doors in a COVID bubble, has finally resumed the classic home-and-away format on August 5 after three seasons of disruption. But due to the sensitivity of Beijing and zero-COVID rules in the city, Guoan will be unable to play their home games at home.

Guoan has been expected to play out the rest of the season at Beijing Fengtai Stadium, a smaller ground in the city’s southwest, while their traditional home of Workers Stadium undergoes renovations. Guoan will instead take to their new “home” field in Shandong for the first time against Guangzhou City on August 22.

On the field, Guoan have struggled this season, finding themselves in 12th. On Saturday, the club announced that they had parted ways with head coach Xiè Fēng 谢峰 after the dismal start. A 5-1 loss to Wuhan Three Towns spelled the end for the 56-year-old. Xie replaced Slaven Bilic at the start of the season, who guided the team to a disappointing 5th last year.

Despite a squad of national-team-caliber players, the club has struggled to find consistency both going forward and at the back. New forward signing Samuel Adegbenro has struggled to adapt to the CSL after moving from the Swedish Allsvenskan. The Nigerian is yet to score for his new club.

The story of the year has been the success of Wuhan, which finds itself atop the standings in its very first year in the CSL. Wuhan is currently unbeaten, with 34 points in 13 matches. Last Friday’s win over Guoan was the first time it’s played at home.

“We have a saying that the fans are like our 12th man, and I think our fans embodied that perfectly tonight,” said Pedro Pineda, head coach of Wuhan Three Towns, adding that he expects to see more fans in the future.

Hope for Chinese soccer? How Shandong built a winner

Meanwhile, the league this year has seen the upheaval of traditional powerhouses.

Guangzhou FC has been rocked by the struggles of its parent Evergrande, which has led to the club being unable to pay its players, many of them national team stars. In addition, the club that kickstarted the naturalized player trend has seen the exodus of those players. Only Jiǎng Guāngtài 蒋光太 (Ty Browning) remains at the club. So far this season, Guangzhou has yet to sign a foreign player, the only club along with Dalian Pro with that distinction.

Guangzhou are on its way to pulling off a Leeds, with the club currently languishing in the relegation places, having just appointed former Asian player of the year Zhèng Zhì 郑智 as manager.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Port has also seen its star power decline. The loss of Oscar last week signaled the end of the high-spending CSL era of the past decade. Port, who are fumbling around in ninth, look a shadow of their former selves.

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China men secure Asian Volleyball Cup

The China men’s national volleyball team won the Asian Volleyball Cup for the first time in a decade after a 25-20, 25-23, 25-22 straight-set victory over Japan.

The win comes on the heels of a bottom-half finish at the Volleyball Nations League, in which China finished 13th out of 16 — but avoided relegation, which had always been the goal of head coach Wú Shèng 吴胜. China saw itself promoted to the men’s VNL after Russia was disqualified after its invasion of Ukraine.

In the pool stages of the Asian tournament, China only dropped two sets, putting away the weaker opponents of Bahrain, Pakistan, and Taiwan, while also dispatching an Iranian side that was ranked 8th in the world, 3-1.

China showed in the semifinals and came from behind twice against South Korea before showing that same resilience to hold off Japan, a team that finished fifth in the VNL a few months earlier.

This was the men’s team’s Asian Volleyball Cup title since it beat Iran in 2012.

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The China Sports Column runs every week.