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Shanghai, The Devils Of The Orient

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


Shanghai Shenhua is one of the biggest clubs in China. Wang Qihao, President of the Blue Devils' Fans Association tells us what it means to follow them.
"I'm 26 years old now. I grew up in Shanghai and I've supported the Shenhua since I was 10. I started following them as they are the only Shanghai team in the top division. We play at the Hong Kou Stadium, which holds 30,000. It used to be an athletics stadium but was rebuilt in 1997 to be used for the Shenhua only. The atmosphere is really exciting when we play, the fans sing songs and we all do the 'Mexican Wave', it's a lot like games in England and Spain."
The distances in China are huge. What's it like being a travelling fan? 
"When we travel away, we have to go huge distances, as our rivals are all over the country. I started the Fans' Association so that those who wanted to travel to the games can. We normally take about 100 fans, but we have to go on trains and coaches. One of our rivals, San Dung, are from Ji Nan in the north of China, about 2,500 kilometres away. We played them in September 2000 and we had to get a train and then take a 20-hour coach ride!
We have to go even further to play the current Champions Da Lian and Si Chaun the Cup holders who are in the west of China. Both these clubs have strong teams and a lot of financial support."
Do the Blue Devils have any contact with clubs from around the world?
"Shanghai Shenhua have links with many clubs in Europe, including Manchester United, Bayern Munich and PSV Eindhoven. We have played them when they have toured China and we have friendly relationships with them."
Who is your favourite player and why?
"My favourite players is Fan Zhi-Yi, the current captain of China, who now plays at Crystal Palace in England. For me he is irreplaceable, a real spiritual leader, he has all the qualities of a great player. I also like Gabriel Batistuta who plays for Roma and Argentina. I also admire Nakata of Venezia and Japan. They are all fantastic players."
How do you see the future for the Blue Devils?
"I hope for the future that the Blue Devils become stronger and are recognised as a great club, both here in China and around the world. I also hope that China will rise out of Asian Football and become a world force by qualifying for the next World Cup in 2002."



May 2001

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