This Sunday Qingdao’s first division Super League football club, Qingdao Jonoon (青岛中能) will kick the season off at home against Tianjin Taida. Meanwhile, Qingdao’s second division soccer team, Hailifeng, will not be taking to the pitch this year as their coach and a couple players sit behind bars following one of the most scandalous match-fixing attempts to ever rock the tainted Chinese football world.
Qingdao Jonoon hopes to improve upon a 13th place finish in the Super League last year, as many local fans grieve over the loss of star player Qu Bo to Shaanxi Chanba. One player to watch from Jonoon this year is Zheng Long, who often makes the roster of the national team. After serving one year as head coach, Slobodan Santrač of Yugoslavia was replaced last month by previous Jonoon coach, Guo Kanfeng. Just last week Jonoon was handed a 0-3 spanking in a pre-season friendly against 2006 and 2008 Super League Champions, Shandong Luneng Taishan, playing out of Jinan. Shandong Luneng is Jonoon’s fiercest rivalry and their annual meetings on the pitch are one of the most anticipated matches of the Super League season. They are scheduled to meet for the first time in regular season play this year on July 13th.
The rivalry between the neighboring teams stems from the early days of Luneng Football when most of their brightest players were natives of Qingdao (i.e. Li Xiaopeng and Su Maozhen). The heated rivalry has earned the title of The Qilu Derby 齐鲁德比, with roots in the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481BC) and Warring States Period (475-221BC), when Shandong was split almost down the middle by two separate kingdoms, the state of Qi/齐 and the state of Lu/鲁 – while 德比 is simply a phonetic translation of derby. During the early years of the Super League, Qingdao reigned supreme in the rivalry, but since 2004 Luneng held the Qilu Derby title up until just last year, when Qingdao regained supremacy with a 3-1 win at home.
Just last September, Qingdao’s second division Hailifeng Football Club had a decent 3-0 lead over their Sichuan opponents going into the final twenty minutes of the game. The coach of Hailifeng then received word that he could increase his earnings on a bet he had placed on the game if another goal was scored, in either net. Astonishingly, he proceeded to ring up his captain on the pitch (who had illegally brought a mobile phone on to the pitch) and ordered him to see to it that the ball hit the inside of a net. What happened next has became the latest and greatest controversy in Chinese athletics. As the minutes ticked away, a few of Qingdao’s Haifeng players shamelessly attempted three own-goals to help increase their bosses winnings. The final shot from near the center of the field was a chip over his own goalie’s head, earning the scandal the title, Chip-Shot Gate (吊射门). The final attempt was followed by shouts from the audience of 假球!/Jiaqiu!/Fixed-match! For more info check out this diagram or watch this clip.
On a higher note, although greatly overshadowed by the above scandal, China recently won the East Asian championship when they upset South Korea 3-0 in Tokyo (highlights here). One last more dreary note, China won’t be making it to the World Cup in South Africa this summer as they lost their determining qualifying match to Iraq back in 2008.