Still putting things together here. In the meantime, a couple images from Workers' Stadium in Beijing, where I went to see Beijing Guo'an take on Dalian Shide in a Chinese Super League match.
A statue dedicated to the workers of China, situated just outside the stadium.
The inside of Beijing Workers' Stadium, shot from the upper tier. Not much to recommend it, really. More after the jump.
The level of play was OK -- on par, if not a bit better, than what I see in Indonesia. Attendance was spotty, though those who did brave the cold were certainly expressive and the two supporters' groups were decent, if not spectacular. The stadium is nothing to write home about -- fairly accessible, but it looks a shambles in places and the running track between the stands and the field sucks up any atmosphere. If I learned one thing that evening, it's that "sha bi" is the preferred insult of Chinese soccer fans. If you must know, "sha bi" is an unflattering reference to female genitalia.
By far the most stunning part of the evening was the level of security at the stadium. There were a few hundred staffers between the first two security checks, and it only got more absurd inside the stadium. Each section had three people seated in front of it to watch the crowd, one of whom had a camera trained on the fans the whole match. The first row of every section had about a dozen stadium personnel who never actually did anything. Every section also had at least six security guards milling about, some of whom were taking photos of people in the stands (paying particular attention to any foreigners). That's all in addition to at least a hundred military personnel marching about outside the stadium.
All this for a match that was apparently "low risk!" I was told there was three times the level of security for the previous week's regional derby between Beijing and Tianjin Teda.
I'm glad I took the time to experience some local Chinese soccer, even if the evening ended up a bit expensive (100 kuai for a team scarf? Really?). I wonder if it's the shenanigans off the field and all the perceived, if as yet unproven, corruption in Chinese soccer that leads people to disparage it so much. Europoseurdom has its fangs firmly embedded into China, unfortunately, and even the fast-improving national team will struggle to make headway against the tide. As much as I dislike the Chinese government and the way the country is run, I do hope the national team does well in next month's Asian Cup and gives its fans reason to hope.