By Andrew Crawford, writing from Shanghai
If only to make a sweltering Chinese summer that little bit more overwhelming, the ongoing saga at Shanghai Shenhua continues to roll on and the soap opera that is the city’s biggest football club found a new plotline to explore, namely a recent game with local rivals, Jiangsu Sainty.
In the build-up to the game on Sunday night, Shenhua slipped further towards the bottom of the Chinese Super League as a result of having played one game less than the other teams around them. Whether by coincidence or design, fans of the other team in the city, Shanghai East Asia, who are top of the second division in China, then reportedly laid siege to the Shenhua message boards, taunting their cousins about the latter’s form in the CSL. Indeed, when East Asia rose to the top of the Chinese second tier (China League One), it was thought that there might be a Shanghai derby for the first time in several years in 2013. Now it is possible that East Asia and Shenhua could simply swap places.
The East Asia angle is also interesting because of how Shenhua’s little brother has helped them out in their hour of need. The globally reported signing of Didier Drogba largely overlooked one important detail- the Ivorian’s new employers already have their maximum quota of foreign players. East Asia, who are owned by Xu Genbao, a former league-winning Shenhua manager and the effective godfather of Shanghainese football stepped in to send defender, Bai Jiajun, to the Hongkou on loan whilst receiving the Bosnian midfielder, Mario Bozic, in exchange. The move benefits Shenhua immensely- not only can they clear a roster spot for Drogba but they also get the services of a talented young full-back to assist an ailing defence. Xu’s blood, according to the Shanghainese media, is still blue but Shenhua fans will be far from delighted that they had to rely on a second division club to help them get out of a fix.