Wilson x Silva: Musical Football Hero

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Spanish footballer David Silva is a part of Manchester. Tony Wilson is ‘Mr Manchester’. What an ace city to be part of?! It’s got Shameless, it’s got Coronation Street and it’s got football and music by the bucketload. Some are born here. Some arrive here and fit right in.

I remember hearing the local tones of Anthony Wilson on Granada Reports news as a kid. In contrast to the home counties accents of England, used by the BBC, here was ITV’s regional voice with a proper twang. Known for his nightclub (Hacienda) and Factory Record, Anthony H. Wilson was deeply rooted in Manc culture. He still is, even after his early death, aged 57, in 2007.

Born in 1986, in Gran Canaria’s Arguineguín, a small fishing village, David Josué Jiménez Silva’s rise in football has been dramatic. His 5’ 7” (1.7m) stature has been iconic in the Premier League since his arrival at Manchester City in 2010. He leaves the club having won 4 league titles, 2 F.A. Cups, and 5 E.F.L. League Cups. There were also 3 Community Shields. During his time at City he has represented Spain and gained two UEFA European Championship trophies. All on the back of 2010’s FIFA World Cup crown. Bizarrely there has only been one Premier League Player of The Month award (September 2011). Many other individual awards have been picked up. David “El Mago” Silva is and has been Mr Manchester City.

“The best signing we [Manchester City] have made.” – Carlos Tevez, former Manchester City footballer, October 2011.

After finishing the delayed Champions League campaign, David Silva will leave the sky-blue base of Manchester for a new challenge. Seen as one of the best and exquisite midfielders around, he will leave buckets of memories for his adoring fans. His possession-retaining ball play, his rarity in losing the ball, his deft passes and his nimble runs along the Etihad Stadium turf will be missed.

Born in Pendleton (Salford), the man dubbed ‘Mr Manchester’ slotted into journalism, concert arrangement, and radio. His record label, Factory Records hugged Britpop and Mancunian music. His love of the city of Manchester can be seen throughout his colourful career. As an entrepreneur his Factory Records gave us Happy Mondays, A Certain Ratio, Joy Division and New Order. Madchester was born here in the late 1980s. Amongst the gloom yellow smiley faces and exciting vivid colour schemes gave pride back to the people of Manchester. He threw money at music and was a little careless in terms of making a profit. By the end of the 20th century both Factory Record and the Haçienda went bump. No money. No glory. His voice carried on and even down the road in Liverpool he was identified with. He didn’t like centralisation and clearly wanted more regionalism.

Xavi and Andrés Iniesta played alongside David Silva, and it can easily be argued that such dynamic playing styles will have influenced each another. Between the trio, how many future stars, current players and fans will have been inspired or motivated by them. The drool spilled from each twist and turn would probably fill Victoria Baths (Manchester) many times over.

“He pulls the strings on the pitch. A brilliant footballer with great movement, he can score, assist, a player who decides a game. He’s got so much to his game, that I would consider him one of the best ever.” – Andres Iniesta, footballer, Manchester Evening News, January 2020

Steve Coogan didn’t do too much of a bad impression in 24 Hour Party People. In fact, if anything, he elevated a charisma known to few of the younger generation and brought real warmth for Manc culture and the main man, Anthony Wilson. I’ve seen him star on World in Action and After Dark amongst other shows. What always truck me was his voice and his belief in what he said or did. When he started on Channel M it was exciting but never lasted beyond one episode due to his illness.

“I used to say ‘some people make money and some make history’, which is very funny until you find you can’t afford to keep yourself alive. I’ve never paid for private healthcare because I’m a socialist. Now I find you can get tummy tucks and cosmetic surgery on the NHS but not the drugs I need to stay alive. It is a scandal.” – Anthony H. Wilson, BBC News, 11/7/2007

In Spanish and Mancunian footballing history David Silva ranks at the highest orders. The boy from UD San Fernando (Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain) will leave Manchester as a man – a man who has touched the hearts and minds of many City fans. His son Mateo will be able to look back on his father’s time at City with pride. Not bad for a boy born into City’s culture without knowing it. At the end of the day David Silva has been an exemplary custodian of Manchester City. To think that he started his playing days as a goalkeeper before switching to a winger and then midfield dynamo or trequartista. It’s been a journey with City and it all started under Roberto Mancini. The rest they say is history. Tomorrow night’s game against Real Madrid could be his final, or it could be close to the last game. The UEFA Champions League final would be a fitting farewell, but not all fairy tale has a happy ending.

Manchester Town Hall’s flag flew at half-mast in August 2007 following Tony Wilson’s death. FAC 501 was the number on his catalogued coffin. Peter Saville, famed designer and artist, alongside Ben Kelly (an interior designer) designed the gravestone. The headstone is marked as Anthony H. Wilson, ‘Cultural Catalyst’. Since then Factory Records has been reborn in some shapes and forms, and HOME/First Street in Manchester has a new square, Tony Wilson Place. A fitting tribute for a true champion of Manchester.

“Mutability is the epitaph of worlds/ Change alone is changeless/ People drop out of the history of a life as of a land though their work or their influence remains.” – Mrs G Linneaus Banks’s 1876 novel The Manchester Man

Retirement.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Dear Birmingham City,

When you withdraw a number from squad use, it is probably a good idea to have a good reason. Usually that player should retire after great service, or perhaps it honours a great player for their achievements on and off the football pitch.

NBA, NFL and other franchises may like to retire numbers for other reasons. Their game, their gaff, their rules. Football in Britain may cling to tradition and hug sponsors in ways that contradict one another, but mostly, on the whole, the home nations of Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the other bits do a pretty good job of honouring their own.

“Well, I only ever cried over two people, Billy Bremner and Bob… [long pause] He was a lovely man.” – Sir John Charlton OBE DL (8th May 1935 – 10th July 2020), footballer (England/Leeds Utd.) & manager (Ireland)

Norwegian club Fredrikstad retired Dagfinn Enerly’s number 8. He had been paralysed in a game against I.K. Start. West Ham Utd. dropped the number 6 shirt several years after club legend Bobby Moore OBE passed away from cancer. This created great dialogue and gave attention to bowel and cancer charities. It opened up conversation for quiet men. It did positive and wonderful things. Chesterfield F.C. retired the number 14 to mark Jack Lester’s retirement from the game in 2013. Six years of football weren’t ideal for his spell as manager at ‘The Spireites’. His 24.3% may have made the club reconsider retiring his club squad number…

Dropping a shirt number is a big thing. That number will never ever be used again. Never. Even adding someone else’s name is insulting. We’re talking memorials and recognition of players’ loyal service mostly. Squad numbers, that replaced a more traditional model (of 1 through to 11 plus subs of higher numbers) came into fruition in the 1990s and soon after North American (it came from Mexico in the ‘80s) sports influenced squad numbers. With it the notion of retiring numbers came about. New York Cosmos in the ill-fortuned NASL retired number 10. A certain Pelé had worn that shirt for around 56 games through three years upt0 1977. At first glance, he barely featured for them, but had years of wonderful football for Santos (18 years) and Brazil. What he did off the field for N.Y. Cosmos was remarkable, with exhibition games in Lebanon and the Dominican Republic. He used his pull to make a statement. Edson Arantes do Nascimento played at full houses in the Estádio do Maracanã and lifted the FIFA World Cup three times, amongst stacks of domestic awards. Off the field he remains a fantastic humanitarian. That’s why baby club (founded 1970) deserved to retire that number.

On one hand, if you drop any number 1-31, it is risky. They may represent somebody’s date of birth. Likewise if you drop numbers 1-12, as they are symbolic to months. The time-honoured 1-11 should be avoided for the sake of always having these numbers and conventional related positions available for aspiring youth players. What would the supporters or families of Jason Mayélé, Vittorio Mero, Marc-Vivien Foé, Miklós Fehér, Ray Jones, Dylan Tombides, François Sterchele, David di Tommaso, Antonio Puerta, Besian Idrizaj, Piermario Morosini and Davide Astori feel about Birmingham City’s seemingly soft approach to retiring the number 22? Who exactly is Jude Bellingham?

Jude Victor William Bellingham is now subject to mockery. That’s who. He’s a 17-year-old lad thrust into the public eye and has in the last week signed for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Jude Victor William Bellingham has buckets of potential and had been at Birmingham City from the age of 8. Like many youth players before him, and a plethora of clubs, he dreamt of playing for his almost-hometown club (the glass-making town of Stourbridge is 16km/10 miles from Birmingham).  Born after Maine Road closed, and the City of Manchester (now Etihad) Stadium prepared to open, Bellingham has bagged 4 goals from 44 games, and a few assists during his only season of professional football. His England Under-16 and U-17 record isn’t bad too. FourFourTwo magazine amongst others describe him as “50 most exciting teenagers in English football”.

Bellingham leaves, to his rear, a Birmingham City team that narrowly avoided relegation. Like sex-symbol Fiona Butler (she was a tennis player caught scratching her bare behind) he has gone far since Stourbridge. Her posters are eveywhere. Well, not her posters, but here bottom in poster form. Good luck to Jude Bellingham at ‘The Black & Yellows’, who won’t be far behind. Pun intended.

Does Jude Bellingham deserve to join other shirt numbers that have been retired? Maybe, maybe not. Future Birmingham City players will no longer be able to wear the number 22. Still, you could be at other clubs with less choice. Good luck at C.F. Pachuca (a club founded by Cornish miners in 1901) in Mexico as they have retired shirt numbers 110, 17, 20 and 1.

#99 Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls): played 2013-2019.

#61 Gökdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan): played 2008-2018.

#55 Five-year old Joshua McCormack passed away from cancer, and his club Rochdale Rovers took note.

#50 Filbert Fox @ Leicester City F.C.

#61 Gökdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan): played 2008-2018.

#24 Hadi Norouzi (Persepolis): played 2008-2015 (died in his sleep)

#17 Former Chairman Massimo Cellino retired the number 17 at Leeds Utd due to superstitions. New chairman Andrea Radrizzani reinstated the number. Leeds have since been promoted. Wolverhampton Wanderers loan-star Hélder Costa wore 17.

#12 many clubs use this number as dedication to fans. Such as Borussia Mönchengladbach, Lech Poznan, Kerala Blasters, Beijing Guoan, Plymouth Argyle, Guadalajara and AC Omonia. The twelfth man indeed (or woman, or boy, or girl, or other)

#10 Diego Maradona (Napoli): played 1984-1991.

#8 Avi Nimni (Maccabi Tel Aviv): played in three stints, totalling around 15 years.

#7 Stanislav Vlček (Slavia Prague): played over 7 years at the club. Shirt number on pause. 7 conditions must be met to wear the shirt. Score three goals against Sparta Prague to start the list of 7…

#4 Franco Baresi (AC Milan): played 1977-1997

#3 Paolo Maldini (AC Milan): played 1984-2009 [although his offspring may wear it if they turn professional]

#3 Naoki Matsuda (Yokohama F. Marinos): played 1995-2010

For more retired numbers, have a gander here.

In memory of #23

The late great Marc-Vivien Foé (Manchester City, played 2002-2003)

Exam stress: COVID-19 style.

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

This has been the most testing semester of my time teaching within China. When we look back on the spread of the pandemic from China outwards, we can count the tragic loss of lives, the social effects and far more damage to community. Many will look back at the economic impact with aversion. There will be hatred by some, about how governments and leaders globally have failed some and their nations. Loathing and abhorrence towards such matters as travel. There may be limited opportunity to flourish in this COVID-19 era. Trouble is already rife. How many people have lost out? How many people plan right now? Is there a disinclination to trust bug business? Has repugnance crawled around the globe like a thick mist? Do many feel a new kind of animosity?

My personal antipathy is towards the setbacks slung upon education. For many students and parents, they were locked in. Properly shut away. No outreaches and limits held over their head like a noose. Some students have been apart from one of their parents for so long. A mother in China here. A father over in Singapore, or Japan, or Korea, or France there. This isn’t a way for a kid to grow up. How many families are split up by the control of disease? Some will find their father or mother as close as Hong Kong to Shenzhen is, but to their tiny innocent minds, the distance may as well be as far as Kathmandu is from Sao Paulo. These are testing times as we approach the examination periods. Students are being drilled in test papers, exams, and assessments at a rate like bullets spraying from a machine gun in battle.

These poor little minds need protecting with less demands so early in their primary life. In China, students are tested mid-term, end of semester, mid-term and end of year. On top of this there are other tests, so many tests, and very little time to stop thinking about tests. Outside of the primary classroom, they may be assessed at extra learning and training centres, or even via online teaching assessments. I don’t recall seeing a test until I was in year 6 of Chapel Street Primary School. And then, year 9 of secondary school was key for testing. After that every secondary year, college and university year had tests. Yet, outside of England, and the U.K., testing can be little (like Finland) or frequently often (like China).

The pandemic claimed weeks of teaching, then came online teaching which many believed to be near-ineffective. The excitement and rush to the classroom was filled with joy, but soon the happy faces fell away as the weight of condensed programmes filled their tiny blossoming minds. A nine-year-old girl shouldn’t tell you she feels pressure. A ten-year-old boy shouldn’t break down in tears and worry about missing his drumming class. They should be playing in sand, building towers of Lego or shoving their fingers up their nose with not a worry in the world.

Last night’s defeat in the football game between City and Liverpool F.C.’s feeder team Southampton is thrown away. The perspective I have today is clear. These exams should be lighter and easier on the young minds of primary school kids. This is not a way to learn. My first foray into contact rugby on Saturday with Dongguan Bulldogs was tough physically but mentally it was far easier than what these students are facing in China. The gloomy feel of a pandemic lurking in shadows, worries about family and life are entering the world of children too early. Let’s be sensible and try to help them out. Less exams please.

Ronald Lindsay Johnson (24 September 1889 – 29 May 1917)

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Ronald Lindsay Johnson (24 September 1889 – 29 May 1917)

I knew of the Ronald Johnson Playing Fields long before FC United of Manchester went slicing into the earth around it. Located on Broadhurst Park, in Manchester’s Moston, I always recall the red brick cycling track within a fenced compound adjacent to the passing St. Mary’s Road. Discovering the Western Front Association website, I recently read about Ronald Johnson. Together with a profile on the Friends of Broadhurst Park, I started clicking left, right and centre.

Like many that saw battle in the horrors of The Great War, Captain Ronald Lindsay Johnson (picture courtesy of the Altrincham Guardian) died in action. He was just 28-years old. His shares at Johnson, Clapham & Morris engineers were put to use in creating a sports ground. Initially for employees it became a public ground in the 1930s following Johnson, Clapham & Morris’s move to Trafford Park. It has since seen cricket, football (notably Moston Juniors F.C.), school sports days, car boot sales, fun fairs and life.

I can still recall the damp earthly smells of the ground that measured around 8-acres, sandwiched between a primary school and number 335 St. Mary’s Road. The recreation area was in memorial to Captain Ronald Lindsay Johnson and opened on the 17th June 1922 (or 1925), with Ronald Johnson’s mother present. The cycle speedway track was unique to the area – and existed long before the Manchester Velodrome was created in anticipation of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. I wonder if any cyclist transitioned from there to the often named ‘medal factory’ in Clayton.

By 2011, F.C. United of Manchester were offered the land and their 4,400-seater stadium (for £6.5 million) followed. The name Broadhurst Park was naturally fitting, following a brief period as the Moston Community Stadium. The all-weather pitch has seen a Benfica B team all in a stone’s throw from what was once Moston Hall, and residence to local industrialist Sir Edward Tootal Broadhurst. The park itself a World War One donation to recognise victory.

The New East Manchester and Manchester City Council development, once the home of a metal working and fabrication business team, had been resisted by local residents. The loss of public open space coupled with inadequate parking provision seemed to be the main problems. 2,226 letters of objection (mostly locally sent) were beaten back by 5,635 letters (many outside of Manchester) of support. Manchester Council plodded on with a success at the Court of Appeal in March 2013. The covenant on the land has always been recreation – and for the people of Moston. The one thing I find upsetting is that there isn’t a plaque or statue to honour that for almost 90 years these fields held a different name – but perhaps it hasn’t been made yet, or notified well.

Significant contribution was made by the Football Foundation Community Facilities Fund, Sport England, F.C. United Community Shares scheme, fundraising, Manchester City Council loan and the Football Foundation Football Stadia Improvement Fund amongst others. F.C. Ted (see the link for reasoning about the name) moved in eventually. At an Annual General Meeting of FC United, 10 April 2014, the Ronald Johnson Ground was one of seven names proposed for the new ground. Sadly, the historic Ronald Johnson Playing Fields seemingly vanished. F.C. United played Benfica B to mark the date of Man United’s 1968 European Cup Final, the day Ronald Johnson ceased to live.

Ronald_Lindsay_Johnson

Ronald Lindsay Johnson (24 September 1889 – 29 May 1917)

Family: His parents were William Henry Johnson, died 1914 and Agnes Morton Johnson née Brown. Brother, William Morton Johnson, educated in Cambridge, died July 1916 (in military action, aged just 34 years old). Mother, opened the playing field in June 1922. Ronald was the youngest of six children.

Raised: Woodleigh on Bradgate Road in Dunham Massay

Studied: Summer Fields School, Eton. BA Classics (posthumous MA awarded), @ King’s College, Cambridge.

Lived: Australia, 1912 until August 1914 (at the Sydney branch of Messrs Johnson, Clapham & Morris)

Partner/Chairman: Johnson, Clapham & Morris’ Wire Works (engineers)

Served: As a junior in the Cadet Corps; then Officer Training Corps at Cambridge. Enlisted (2nd October 1914) in the 23rd Division [103 Brigade RFA], Royal Field Artillery. Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Rank: Acting Captain and Divisional Trench Mortar Officer (DTMO). Entered the theatre of war from 27th August 1915 (landed Boulogne).

Medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal

Responsibilities: co-ordinating the targeting and positioning of mortar batteries

Notable events: Survived a rifle bullet to the ear, 19th September 1916. Evacuated by H S Dieppe (hospital ship) but returned to service by 11th December 1916.

Cause of death: Pre-Battle of Messines (Flanders, Belgium) preparations. Hit by a German shell, near Zillebeke Lake by ‘Hill 60’. He died in transit on the way to the Field Hospital near Brandhoek.

Place of Rest: Brandhoek Military Cemetery, Belgium (Plot II, Row D, Grave 1).

Commemorated: Dunham (St. Mark’s) war memorial and the Kings College, Cambridge War Memorial.

Other than the Ronald Johnson Playing Fields, he was honoured with the naming of the Johnson Chemicals Labs, Adelaide University, Australia. He is also mentioned in the Cambridge University Book of Honour.

Further reading:  Who was Ronald Johnson ? (David O’Mara, Western Front Association (WFA))

The Mancunian Way, Dongguan

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

“I feel so extraordinary; Something’s got a hold on me; I get this feeling I’m in motion; A sudden sense of liberty.” – New Order’s song True Faith.

I’m patriotic towards the U.K. in a way. I sing praise and fly the flag for great people, wonderful history and fantastic places. I know that the story of the U.K.’s history has often been brutal, cruel and deserves little love. Even within the 21st century the U.K., as it moves away from a colonial and European past, and becomes less connected, yet more dependent on overseas trading and manufacture is and always will be a wonderful country. It’s my home. I was born in Manchester, England. I don’t call myself English. I’m British, when I choose to be. I’m Mancunian always. I have Celtic blood in me from my Irish and Welsh great grandparents. My roots are clear and free. But this tree doesn’t cling to the past and history. This tree wants to expand and be watered by different skies. For me tradition and culture are important but understanding and freedom to choose your own pathway are far more intrinsic to living. This tree is currently sat on its arse in Changping, Dongguan. Today’s and yesterday’s rugby and football have been washed out by Dragon Boat rains. I have some free time.


Today, I want to show a gallery and write a little about the culture of Dongguan and China. I’ve been here for the vast majority of the 2308 days now (11th February 2014). I believe many great days have passed and many more will follow. That’s why I am right here, right now. I arrived and didn’t feel too much way of culture shock. Around me a reasonably established cultured expat community threaded amongst the fabric of the local workforces and people of Guangdong.

“Because we need each other; We believe in one another; And I know we’re going to uncover; What’s sleepin’ in our soul” – Acquiesce by Oasis.

Since, I arrived I have seen Dongguan grow and grow. It is now classed as a Megacity. It seemingly will never stop growing. There are skyscrapers and apartment blocks skimming the sky in every single district of Dongguan. Whereas in 2014, I’d notice dozens of these mammoth constructions and many more sprouting buildings, now I am seeing hundreds and hundreds of established communities and hubs here, there and everywhere. I used to consider Nancheng and Dongcheng as the central axis of Dongguan. Now the townships of Chang’an (home of Oppo), Changping and the ever-growing former fields of Songshan Lake (home of Huawei), and the sprawls of Liaobu town could easily be seen as central areas. The arrival of the Huizhou to now West Dongguan Railway Station (soon to be Guangzhou East) or 莞惠城际轨道交通  /莞惠线 Guanhui intercity railway has added to rapid growth. As it joins the short-named Pearl River Delta Metropolitan Region Intercity Railway System (珠江三角洲地区城际轨道交通). That’s more than 65 railway stations in close proximity to Dongguan. Like all of the Pearl River Delta, this city is growing fast – and going places.

 

When not hopping on 200 km/h (124 mph) railway systems, I have ample opportunity to meet great people. Dongguan‘s community is largely migrant with people coming from all over China and the world beyond. International jet-setters with lives here, include Serbians, Kiwis, and even Scousers. They can be found in some of the office places, factories, bars and restaurants throughout the city. Playing football with Brazilians or Russians, or cycling with Dongbei people is possible or a spot of chess at Murray’s Irish Pub with Ukranian opposition. Anything goes here. Drinking homebrew at Liberty Brewing Company (曼哈顿餐吧) in Dongcheng after playing tag rugby with Tongans, South Africans, Germans and Malaysians makes me realise how lucky I am. This is a city that is tidying up and beautifying itself at an alarming rate.

Throughout the 6.5 years of life in and around Dongguan, I’ve slipped up and down ginnels, seeking out the new and old. There have been trips to pizza joints in obscure areas, Dragon Boat races watched, Cosplay events attended and English competitions observed. Dongguan, like Manchester, has a heartbeat that shows anything is possible and if it isn’t here, you make it. You can make something new, or your bring something to the party. You can sit and complain about people taking your photo or saying, “wàiguórén” (foreigner/外国人) or you can show the people around you, your worth.

This week I was asked by the Dongguan Foreign Bureau to teach them. Sadly, I cannot fit their demands into my day. I’ve bene lucky to narrate advertisements, wear watches for model shoots, test-drive new bicycles and play with new robotics before they reached their target audience or global factory floors. Daily life has been far from mundane here with oddities and pleasures as varied as can be. What’s around the next corner? Well, visas are quicker and easier to get, despite more rules and demands. It seems far quicker than when I first arrived. Sometimes, I doubt that I have done everything right, yet it seems clear and simple. Just a checklist. This week I received my medical report back. Now, I need just a few other items for the 2020/21 visa… That’s progress.

Bridges have been made and links that could prove lifelong. The west and east have collided in bizarre ways often forming a touch of the unique. There has been colour, rainbows and diversity amongst the traditional and the common. There have been flashes of light and inspiration. There have been days when solitude has been sought and there will be more, no doubt, but one thing I find, and have found throughout my time here, people are just that. Just simple down to earth, regular people going about their days, looking for peace and good opportunities to survive or better themselves. There are more cars and less bicycles, which shows that some people’s bank accounts and credit-ratings have improved. Quality of life needs balance, and with that the subway/underground system of Dongguan is projected to change from one line to seven lines.

Words can say how thankful I am for my time here. I am enjoying life in different ways to others, and being who I want to be, when I want to be. I’m selfish or I’m sharing. I’m open or I am closed. I read or I watch. I write or I dictate. There are times to slip unseen, and times to lead an audience. It is good for the mind to be bored or alone. I truly believe that’s where creativity lies. It sits there waiting to be tapped and delivered to paper, computers or other outputs. I can wander from craft beer breweries to model car clubs to fusion and western food restaurants with ease and all of the time remain connected to modern and old China.

There is plenty of ugly in Dongguan, just like the rest of the world. To quote the 18th century French phrase, “ne saurait faire d’omelette sans casser des œufs“:  You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. Humans must learn from the stains and damage we have caused to our planet globally, whether disease or pollution. We can’t give in. Our cultures, our pride and our people need to fight on and find solutions. Just as #BlackLivesMatter, all lives matter – whether human or worm or bug or panda. Life must find a way. Dongguan is radically changing its energy consumptions, factory practices and the way its environment is being respected. This is good for all. Maybe, I should really put my words into action and finish studying towards the HSK (汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) course for the Chinese Proficiency Test.

 

Dongguan has gone from a place with a handful of limited cinemas, to those with the IMAX, vibrating seats, private screens and many of the latest releases from the west. KTV bars make way for baseball batting cages, ten-pin bowling, archery cafes and all the latest crazes. The great thing is that with Wechat (born 2011), Alipay etc, you can leave your wallet behind and pay swiftly with ease using these simple electronic methods. Gone are the days of using equations and haggling to get a taxi a short distance. Piles of services are available via your phone, including electrical bills, water bills and Didi (driver and carshare service) is one such saving grace.

During these COVID-19 pandemic times, your phone provides your health code, advice in travel, guidance on health services and help. Dongguan’s local services for healthcare, private insurance and banking are on your fingertips, rather than a a few hours out of work. Life can be as fast or as slow as you wish. In 2010, Dongguan was named a National Model City for Environmental Protection and greenways, green belts and other greenery followed. There are hundreds of parks now, over 1200… it is easier than ever to stay healthy.

There is culture around us, old temples, modern pagodas, relics of time and shells of history. Dongguan’s landmarks are a tad tough to visit now. The Cwa humid subtropical climate here is far above the reported average annual temperature of 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). The rainfall is typical of the land below the Tropic of Cancer now. It is raining cats, dogs and occasionally elephants. Wellingtons and umbrellas are common sights these days, rather than the Dongguan Yulan Theatre, GuanYinShan (Budda mountain), Hǎizhàn bówùguǎn (海战博物馆 Opium War Museum) or Jin’aozhou Pagoda. Even a trip to my local coffee shop, Her Coffee, is like a swim in a river. It is blooming wet lately. As a Mancunian, I feel at home.

I’m here for education – to both teach and to learn. This city has hundreds of educational institutions, even Cumbria’s St. Bees are opening a school here. I’ve heard there are around 550 primary schools, 480 kindergartens and several universities now. To bump into a teacher amongst the 21,000 plus teachers is not unusual. Although it seems every second teacher works for one of the many Eaton House schools here. I’ve heard Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) in Songshan Lake is one school to really watch. Like its neighbouring Huawei school, it is massive with around 1,000,000 square metres of surface area. I’ve seen the modern sports gyms, performance space and technology labs. It uses the latest gadgets and networking. It really is 21st century over there at Songshan Lake. Although Huawei have a German-style train-tram zipping around, piping back to older days. Dongguan University of Technology(DGUT; 东莞理工学院) is one of universities in the area meaning that you can educate beyond your teenage years here. It really is a place to learn. Watch out Oxford and Cambridge! Maybe that’s why Trump is always bad-mouthing China’s growth?

From eating chicken anus, to two weeks of quarantine in XiHu Hotel, Dongguan has given me more time to turn the contents of my head to words. Now that I am ready to publish a novel, I need a publisher, but how to do this during a pandemic? I haven’t a clue, but I know one thing, the challenge will be tough and worth it. Nobody ever climbed a mountain to sit at the top and look down without seeing another mountain, right? At the end of the day, the sun sets only to rise again. Dongguan faced lockdown impeccably and other challenges, just as the world did and does. Chin up, keep going and let’s crack on.

Last night, I ate Korean barbecue with great people to celebrate a treble-birthday, followed by proof that I am terrible at ten-pin bowling and awoke today feeling optimistic. The world is often reported to be going through a pandemic-sized recession. As the world sailed a wave in 2008 and Dongguan grew from that recession, I will everyone to go on. Manufacture a bucket of optimism. Just like the strings of New Dawn Fades by Joy Division, there is darkness but remember these famous lines: It was me, waiting for me; Hoping for something more; Me, seeing me this time; Hoping for something else. In 2008, low-tech industry switched to the high-tech. Boomtime arrived. Chances are that one in five phones around the globe were made in Dongguan. Is your phone Vivo, Oppo, Honor or Huawei? It was probably made down the road from me. So, Dongguan is closer than you think.


Manchester isn’t any place I will visiting in person for some time, so it has to come to me via playbacks of Oasis gigs at Maine Road and the written word. Over the next few months, I plan to read the following Mancunian-connected books:

Hell is a City – Maurice Proctor; The Manchester ManIsabella Varley Banks; Passing Time – Michel Butor; Magnolia Street – Louis Golding; Fame is the Spur – Howard Spring; Lord Horror – David Britton; The Emigrants – WG Sebald; Cold Water – Gwendolyne Riley; The Mighty Walzer Howard Jacobson; Manchester Slingback – Nicolas Blincoe; Vurt – Jeff Noon; A Man’s Game: The Origins of Manchester City Football ClubAndrew Keenan; Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell; Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell; North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell.

“I was thinking about what you said; I was thinking about shame; The funny thing how you said; Cause it’s better not to stay” – The Last Broadcast – Doves

Woolly balls, Alan & Xi’an

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

Is that…? No, it can’t be. But, wait, it bloody well is. I‘ll have a gander to check. I stepped into a stationery store in Dalang, attached to the Dongguan Dalang Football Association (DGDLFA). Football culture and community has always interested me. The crest of one of the DGDLFA clubs resembled Man Utd’s badge. I’m sure any do. It’s a curse in any Asian nation that most fans follow a red team. Their flags are red, their Communist brothers in arms are red, red stars, red scarves, red packets, lucky blooming red. Everywhere.

Instead of worn old leather footballs on the central axis, this club, Dongguan Zhicheng F.C. has in place two woollen balls. Zhī (织)means weave or knit. Chéng (城) means city or wall. So, here we have it a woolly mammoth-aged club wrapped in cotton wool. On the top of the crest there are kind of lucky bells, and golden scrolls. There is a ball in pace of Salford Rugby Club’s stolen red devil. Six people fail to adhere to social distancing beneath the ball. The sixsome is an oddity in itself. Most people I know play 7-a-side in China, and sometimes, every now and then 5-a-side. There is football in the traditional 11-a-side format, which is lesser-spotted. I only know of one 6-a-side field in Dongguan. We use it regular on a rooftop. So, Dongguan Zhicheng F.C., what is this mutant game you are playing?! I was in the stationery shop, a foreigner, a rogue and an unexpected shopper. I had to investigate further.

Inside a larger, and rounder older Cantonese lady kind of sneered at me. She eventually asked what I was looking for. I uttered my crap Mandarin Chinese, “Wǒ zài kàn” (我在看). This in itself was bad, as she was clearly Cantonese. I had overheard her recording a flowing barrage of Canton dialect into her right-hand-clutched-like-a-Lego-man-mobile-phone. Can we say phone now? Most phones are mobile now. Landline phones in China are mostly ornamental, right? I could have said to her, “Wǒ zhǐ shì kàn kàn” (我只是看看。) Zhǐ shì means just/merely/only. I didn’t. We all know by now, that I was on a reconnaissance gathering mission. If anyone is monitoring me, I am buggered. Proper buggered. She said, a simple, “Hǎo de” (好的) because it was okay to look around right. It’s a stationery shop and not Area 51.

After selecting some useful stickers and highlighter pens, of various shades of sky blue, a man emerged from the adjoining office door of the Dongguan Dalang Football Association (DGDLFA). He looked at me with suspicion. There was a smidgeon of something in his eye. It could have been dust, curiosity or any other emotion. Maybe the bright yellow faded to peach coloured football shirt I wore was too loud. We looked eye to eye for far too long. I had to buckle and break the moment. The man’s square face framed in black glasses and a thick head of black hair age no emotion away. His game could have been poker. I crumpled and folded my coolness but calmly let out a dry word, “nĭ hăo” (你好). After all, who doesn’t like hearing a stranger say hello. We can’t all be Villanelle from Killing Eve. Some of us must be polite and less murderous.

After selecting some gold dust items, I went to the check-out and here the Lǎobǎn (老板/boss) chatted to me. “Nǐ xǐhuān mànlián ma?”, he said. 你喜欢曼联吗 translates to something offensive to me, and to many. He had asked, “Do you like Manchester United?” My response was calm, and to the point, “Wǒ bù xǐhuān mànlián” (我不喜欢曼联). I do not like Manchester United. It’s a fact. You can check my social media for diatribe and other denunciation of that club. There are rants, periods of haranguing and tirades that probably go back to 1982. I crossed my right hand over my chest and pointed to the crest upon my left breast. “Wǒ ài mànchéng”, said I. I love Manchester City (我爱曼城). He looked me up and down, smiled, and wearing his red polo top, with the crest that resembled Old Trafford’s footballing giants, he proudly said, “Wǒ zhīchí lìwùpǔ” (我支持利物浦). He supports Liverpool. He eventually told me in a mixture of Chinese and his good English that his team liked the badge of Man Utd. I asked him about his connection to Liverpool. None. He didn’t even watch games before the Champions League win last year.

And, that’s one of the reasons football struggles in China. A lack of clear identity. The balls of wool made me think that this team in 大朗 (Dàlǎng town) had pride on their locally known and nationally famous name of wool. Instead I left wondering why a Liverpool fan, would create a team with an almost Man Utd crest. He told me how they’d started a team from a school field in 2018 and then two teams, other teams followed. They play regular 8-a-side because 8 is lucky. I asked why their badge only has 6 people. He said the goalkeeper is not a player. I said, for 8-a-side, this still leaves his team one player short. He said there are 8 outfield players and a goalkeeper. That’s a lot of players on a FIFA regulation 7-a-side field. And, they use a size four football, not a regulation size five football. Good luck to the China national football team.

As I paid my bill, we talked international and domestic football. The excitement that the Premier League in England is returning at a time, that China will also welcome a restart to football. The Chinese Super League is set to resume soon (2020中国平安中国足球协会超级联赛). On July the 3rd, the league will be split into two groups. As China closed its borders to foreigners, the CSL upped the maximum number of players a team could have, from six to seven (throughout a season). At any one time, only six are allowed within the squad, of which, only five can play in one game. Of those five in one game, only four can be on the field at any one time. Following me? Good. Of those four, no foreign goalkeepers are allowed. Taiwanese, Hong Kong or Macau citizens are Chinese as long as they started their professional career as a player there.

Alan Douglas Borges de Carvalho, born José Bonifácio, Brazil is Chinese now. As is Elkeson de Oliveira Cardoso, but he was born in Coelho Neto, Maranhão, Brazil (which you won’t find on a map of China). The former player, Alan (阿兰), arrived from Red Bull Salzburg on 2015. The latter, Elkeson (艾克森/ Ài Kèsēn) arrived in 2013. Chinese citizenship via naturalisation has given both the chance to play for China’s national team. Ricardo Goulart (高拉特) from São José dos Campos, Brazil awaits FIFA to decide if he could play in the stages of the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification. Aside frome Mousa Dembélé at Guangzhou R&F, Paulinho at Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, Alex Teixeira at Jiangsu Suning, Marouane Fellaini at Shandong Luneng Taishan, Stephan El Shaarawy at Shanghai Greenland Shenhua there aren’t too many players out there that are household names. 27 Brazilians and 3 former Brazilians make up the 80 possible overseas players for 16 teams. Amongst the Brazilians, Hulk, at Shanghai SIPG isn’t the incredible one, but former-Chelsea player Oscar at the same team has a few awards to his name.

So aside from my covert quest into the local world of football, this turned into a great shop too. I found two A4 paper trimmers – also known as guillotines! Nothing says stationer like a machine with a blade named after a French Revolution beheading device. I hope the Chinese parliament and security forces don’t round me up for beheading postcards or cutting corners.

Xi’an: The Original Home of Football? Think Cuju (蹴鞠)

球迷会名称/Club name: 西安曼城球迷会 Xi’an Manchester City fans Association Club

球迷会联系方式/Club contacts: 阿圭罗的小媳妇儿 [Aguero’s Wife]

微博或其他社交媒体链接/Weibo or social media links: 西安曼城球迷会(微博名)
微信账号/Wechat account: 西安曼城球迷会(公众号)

关于我们/About us: 古称长安。长安城作为古代第一个人口破百万的国际化大都市,北濒渭河,南依秦岭,八水润长安。在这座古老的城市里,住着一群有着蓝色信仰的人们,这群人的存在给这座城市注入了新的活力,这就是我们——西安曼城球迷会。

不论你是土生土长的西安人,还是身在西安的异乡人,亦或是远在他乡的西安乡党,只要你信仰蓝月,我们都向你敞开怀抱。

Xi’an, is an ancient town, once known as Chang’an. Xi’an was one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals. Xi’an is the original starting point of the Silk Road. Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army is based here. Bordered to the north by the Weihe River, the southern Qinling Mountains and known for 8 rivers, the city has great diversity and history. The sky blue and white faith of City reached Xi’an in modern times and adds vitality to a City mostly know for its great food and castle walls. Whether you are a native to Xi’an, or a visitor to Xi’an, Xi’an’s OSC opens their arms to meet you and your love for the Blue Moon. No reds allowed. 

Expect to eat: Roujiamo Chinese Hamburger (肉夹馍); Liangpi (凉皮); Paomo Mutton, beef, and Bread Pieces in Soup (羊肉泡馍); Biang Biang Noodles (油泼扯面); Jinggao Steamed rice cake stuffed with honey dates and black beans (甑糕).

Expect to see: Fortifications of Xi’an & Xi’an City Wall (西安城墙); Xi’an Bell Tower (西安钟楼); the Drum Tower of Xi’an (西安鼓楼); Mount Li (骊山); Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (Qin Shi Huang) (秦始皇陵); Terracotta Army (兵马俑); Shaanxi Galaxy (陕西银河); Shaanxi Guoli F.C. (陕西国力)Shaanxi Renhe Commercial Chanba F.C. (陕西人和商业浐灞)Shaanxi Dongsheng (陕西东盛); Xi’an Evening News (西安晚报); Qinqiang opera (乱弹).
Did you know? Arthur Gostick Shorrock [from Blackburn, Lancashire, England] and Moir Duncan founded the Sianfu Mission in 1892.

U.K. Twin cities & Towns: Edinburgh, Bury St. Edmunds & Birmingham

爱与和平/Peace and love

IT HAS BEEN A WHILE.

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

 

It has been a while.

 

This Sunday sees Manchester City face a fantastic team followed by a near-insufferable fanbase (and media?). At a ground with where City have suffered an intolerable period without victory, City will see no benefit in VAR, because like Old Trafford, home of The World’s Greatest Football Team TM, there are no video screens. So far, VAR and video refereeing across the Premier League has been a complete sensation and triumph over errors, giving not a single moment of controversy, some grounds without video screens may add to the scepticism that something dark and sinister is afoot…

Is it the fans or the media? They’ve won two Champions Leagues since 204/05. Domestically, the League Cup came thrice since the new millennium – and the FA Cup twice in that time, but many fans make it sound like their trophy cabinet is bursting with shiny stuff. There’s an inane sense of entitlement that even Man Utd’s fans could never have matched at their peak. And if you mention it, suddenly you’re jealous. There’s always an accusation that City fans are scared of Liverpool ‘being back where they belong’. Liverpool dominated the 1980s, fair play. I was born in 1982. By the time I had pubic hairs, Liverpool FC had faded away. If you get chance to get a word in between the accusations of City’s plastic fanbase and the empty seats, it is a minor miracle. But, on the other hand, there are many good, modest and honest fans.

Gerrard slipped, Suarez cried, the Scousers dream has yeah there are chants. That’s football. It doesn’t mean City care too much for Liverpool. Our obsessive rivals are wallowing in midtable and so laughable in their improvement on managers, year on year, that Ole ‘he scored in ’99, don’t you know?’ is going to be offered the keys of freedom to the Etihad Stadium (car park). Maybe, if and when, Liverpool F.C. lift the Premier League trophy, then many clubs will lose their banter material. Many will have to eat a big baked humble pie. Rivalry is good for the game, but sometimes these new rivalries are driven by such a few people, that they make little sense. Unless of course some fans attack a team’s bus. I mean, that’s fair game, for being a bit wary of a team’s fanbase.

Not that you can say there is a conspiracy without being accused of conspiring to consider conspiracies as the norm. There certainly is a bias in the media, dominated often by former Liverpool and Man Utd stars of old. City pundits are out there, but certainly occupied few of the ‘slag City off as often as you can’ rolls, that say Danny Mills continues to enjoy.

The BBC’s football arm of propaganda includes ​Mark Lawrenson. His expertise and commentary are totally weighted towards his former club Liverpool FC. Thankfully Alan Hansen has been sent to a farm somewhere. The so called big 6 clubs of the Premier League always get a bias over the other 14, but many favour Liverpool FC, probably attached to what they grew up on, in a way like me still wanting to drink Vimto and eat Weetabix.

Stats will tell you anything, and if you’re selective enough. The Premier League big six? Well, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton, of course. They’re the six ever-present Premier League clubs. The longest club that has appeared in the top flight? Wolves, Everton, Burnley or Aston Villa featured in 1888/89. Arsenal (last title win 2003–04)  have an unbroken attendance to the top flight of English football stretching back to 1919/20. Aston Villa (last one 1980–81) have more top flight titles than City or Chelsea. Everton (last one 1986–87) have more than Aston Villa. There are 7 Premier League clubs that have never won a topflight title – each with wonderful histories and moments. Sheffield Utd boast their solo topflight title from 1897/98. There are clubs outside the topflight with equally wonderfully and less wonderful histories. Bury F.C. need saving. Football is unforgiving in its evolution and costly to maintain. The media need to balance their act, but populism in sport has always been the way. The likes of Leicester City, Leeds Utd, Portsmouth and Newcastle Utd, all have had ups and downs. They’re seen as lesser fashionable than say Liverpool FC, or Man Utd, whose titles and winners can be seen throughout sporting media, coaching and the wider world. There’s more demand for Dwight Yorke at a speaking event than say Terry Cooke. No disrespect intended. It is just more people would have seen Dwight than Terry at the moments that matter. Proper football fans care about more than numbers and titles.

On TV and in the newspapers (not counting The Sun because it is utter toilet paper), there’s a clear framing effect, based on the way something is presented to the media viewers or readers. On top of that the confirmation bias, shows examples and skips over other bits to favour the favourite. With everyone aware of a few great moments in recent years, played over and over again, then it could be said that Liverpool FC have benefitted from a clear availability heuristic. There are few scapegoats within the Liverpool FC hierarchy as Klopp has eliminated slippers like Gerrard and made the squad his own. Jonathan Pearce said once that Liverpool were Champions-elect – in January 2019. The season was long, and City just managed to edge the title into their favour by May, despite being 8 points adrift at one stage. Had Liverpool finished on 97 any other season, but the 2018/19 and 2017/18 seasons, they’d have won the Premier League. It was a fantastic title race.

I have no problem with Liverpool FC as a spectacle. They’re a great team to watch play. They like attacking and they have more than capable defenders. There is a fair bit of youth to their squad and from time to time a local lad breaks through and you hear the all familiar noise that upsets dogs and cats across Merseyside. Klopp, as manager, is pure entertainment – and he has a charisma to match. He can be modest, direct and funny. He often tells it how it is. I’m sure Klopp recognises some fans see the Premier League as moving from an ABU to an ABL (Anyone but Liverpool) – but he also respects the media enough to give them their soundbites and shiny stories. Perhaps, Pep Guardiola could have avoided saying that Mane is a diver. Let the papers find their own words.

Are Liverpool favoured by every neutral team? Well, Everton and Man Utd won’t be backing the red side of Anfield. Manchester City, neither. That does leave the other 16 Premer League clubs, 72 football league clubs and a whole host of non-league teams (such as City of Liverpool FC, who contended Liverpool FC’s attempts to copyright their city’s name). Of course, there are exceptions. Football fans can be fickle when it comes to backing teams that actually don’t concern them. I remember reading comments, about evacuating the whole of northern England if Liverpool were to win the Premier League. Banter was being fired left, right and centre. The sky blues of Manchester have edged Liverpool FC out of the title race twice in recent seasons. Liverpool FC’s pressure of not winning a top-flight title since Kenny Dalglish’s side lifted it in 1989/90 hasn’t helped. There is weight. There is expectation. Just as City ended 44 years without the top league crown in 2012, there is so much tension.

City’s record at Anfield is abysmal. To some extent it is the new Highbury or Old Trafford of the age. A place where City have failed to win for so many years. Over a decade, in fact. In 2003, City’s charges featured Nicolas Anelka and Distin, alongside Robbie Fowler for Kevin Keegan’s laser blue City. El-Hadji Diouf and Milan Baros featured for the home team. The soon to depart super Kevin Horlock shored up midfield alongside Ali Benarbia. Peter Schmeichel finished the game in goal, his penultimate game for the travelling Maine Road outfit. Anelka bagged both goals, winning the game against his former employers in the final added minute. The home support of 44,220 were treated to a gritty game that City just about edged.

Are Ederson and Davild Silva out? Maybe. That won’t be an excuse though. Whatever the outcome, I hope that the real fans, the real diehards and those who avoid the bitterness and pettiness come out on top, win, draw, or lose. For me Liverpool FC aren’t a true rival, they’re just someone we need to compete with. Even if Manchester and Liverpool are still pissing in the Manchester Ship Canal or sending kayaks up the Mersey for a laugh, the two cities aren’t that far apart, musically, socially and historically. It all beats going to London.

I appreciate Liverpool FC as a footballing team. We now live in an age where any good football team is branded as buying success or not achieving anything despite being a terrific squad. Appreciation of football doesn’t need to come with a discrediting comment. Jürgen Klopp’s brand of heavy metal football is solid and entertaining. There’s a hunger and desire to win at Anfield. City, as Champions of England, travel as underdogs but very much capable of springing a result. This Sunday’s game will be either one hell of a game for one team – or a dull 0-0 draw.

C’MON CITY!

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Walking on eggshells

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

“I don’t pretend to be a gentleman, but I am entitled to paint what I see.” – Interview tapes with G B Cotton & Frank Mullineux (undated) L. S. Lowry – A Biography by Shelley Rhode

Free Pussy Riots was the best banner that I ever witnessed at a Man City game. The cardboard boos shown to UEFA were a close second. Is protesting and politics at home in sport?

“Hey John, how can you be so ignorant to China and H.K.?” – someone asked me this today, in China. And like anything else political here, I replied with, “This is not the place to have this discussion and I am not prepared to carry on.” I also wanted to say that I refuse to influence people in China – and I do. It is not my job to meddle in politics and the policy of China. Of course, I have an opinion. I have beliefs but I also have the wisdom to know that you cannot tickle a tiger’s balls and expect to get away with it.

So, NBA has gone down a bit in China due to comments on social media. Politics and sports cannot be mixed these days – and certainly not on mediums such as Twitter. At a Philadelphia Sixers game versus Guangzhou Loong Lions, a fan and his wife were ejected for shouting their views on Hong Kong. The Wells Fargo Center court is located in as Francis Scott Key said, “the land of the free”. The American national anthem features something similar, right? Well, sport, has a long-winded and painful view of politics and freedom. To cut a story short, great moments of history such as the 1968 black power movement stand out in history – because they signify defiance and stand for belief. It wasn’t part of the running material and matchday programme. Tommie Smith and John Carlos have statues on the San Jose State University campus grounds. They joined in the 2008 Global Human Rights Torch Relay which ran in parallel to the Beijing Olympics torch.

Protests affect more people than you often know. They send little and big ripples, visible and invisible, left, right and centre. One NBA tweet, by Houston Rockets’ coach Daryl Morey, who retracted it, has been slammed by President Trump.

In China, Chinese sponsors have suspended their ties with NBA clubs. The TV channels have removed tonight’s games and other games from the schedules. Since then NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to tweet as he wishes. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich backed him up, “He came out strongly for freedom of speech.” NBA fans in China are backing their country over their love for the game of basketball. Most fans here demand an apology before they carry on their love affair with America’s basketball. A huge repletion of one quote can be found seemingly everywhere, “China-U.S. relations began with ping-pong, and they’ve ended with basketball.” What President Nixon did in 1971 is being undone by a closed-shop sports league that usually puts capital over principals.

What’s the story, Mr Morey? Well, he later added a post to the affects of a desperate boyfriend who has shunned the love of his life. Basketball is huge in China. China is huge. Almost every garden, park or recreation area has a court, or two, or more. The Chinese Basketball Association believes 300 million people play the sport. I feel that is an understatement. From school bus drivers to security guards to uncles minding their grand kids, and the other more expected hoop-throwing youths, it is everywhere. It dominates ball sports here. Rugby Union played its part in Apartheid; the Munich massacre happened; LGBT rights protests surrounded the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia; 8 nations (including China) boycotted the 1956 Olympics in Australia after Russia were suspended for invading Hungary; China boycotted two other Olympic games (’64 as China had entered the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO);’80 due to USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan); the massacre at Tlatelolco happened; but overall sport is essential to world relations. Now, NBA is thrust into the limelight (unlike South Park, removed from search histories).

As NBA has been met with displeasure, some hot heads have used stronger language and hate as their reply. That’s not on. It can’t be that way. How can we all find a common path to the future if we don’t talk? For some fashion and perfume brands, China is not a good place to trade now. Keeping quiet has more of a benefit than losing potential custom. Sport is the same. Discrimination is bad. The vulnerable, the needy and those subject to abuse because of prejudices need a voice. Colour, race, ethnicity, religion are always topics which will need sensitivity. But, on the other hand, how far do you believe in your freedom of speech? And right now, many brave souls are stepping up.

Whether with Extinction Rebellion at London City Airport, or forming a rather large Tibet flag at a French football game… even a 91-year-old called John has been arrested, complete with a walking stick. Of course, Liverpool FC faced opposition to their attempt to trademark the name of Liverpool, and also when they drove local property values down in a bid to buy the properties for cheaper later – because commercial development is where it is at. But, we must look at the other side of the conversations too. China may be huge but its 5000 years of civilisation as been invaded in many places, colonised and used as a factory. Now it gathers strength enough to speak out loud. China sings from the same hymn sheet – and mostly through pride in identity. Other countries are often divided – split and messy, yet they all like to shout about how it is done.

Sport is a great friendship tool. It bridges division and cultures. Iraq play football and could face Nepal, equally they could host Australia or Qatar. England can travel to Scotland, Sweden or Slovenia. The game of football, like basketball and other such sports can influence and deepen relations. Claimed sovereignty, national interests and cultures can be better understood. When two differences are clear, then dialogue can be heard – or silenced. Boycotts and closure won’t help every battle. Tolerance is not even enough. We must be careful in this day and age, as people, not to shout abuse and close our minds.

For me, I’d like to view Tibet first hand, and see the region. I will remain neutral. I’d like to speak about Hong Kong, but I won’t. I must remain neutral – Hong Kong is part of China – and the days of it being a British colony are long gone. This is a matter for the people of the affected regions and not the former occupants and their Union Flag. I’m here in China as a guest. A foreigner who feels foreign and is always reminded that I’ll never be local or Chinese. I know where I stand. That’s fine. It is accepted. I’m just trying to make a living and find a way to get onto the U.K. property ladder in my home country that is also far from free. I want to be like Mel Gibson’s William Wallace and say something like he did in the movie Braveheart, “I came back home to raise crops, and God willing, a family. If I can live in peace, I will.”

East and West are crashing together like heavy waves on a shoreline susceptible to costal erosion. For those of us living between the two, we have to knuckle down and work, without tickling any tiger’s testicles – and keeping the burning heat of tiger balm far away from our balls.

“I look upon human beings as automatons because they all think they can do what they want but they can’t. They are not free. No one is.” – Maitland Tapes-interview with Prof. Hugh Maitland 1970 L. S. Lowry – A Biography by Shelley Rhode

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

John Barnes or John Terry?

The Inktober day 2 picture has nothing to do with today’s post…

 

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

We have all heard something like, “I’m not racist but…” and then the sentence ends with something about going on holiday to Benidorm (Spain) and drinking Carlsberg, from Denmark, whilst wearing boxer shorts, made in China. Oh, and driving a Lada with your Indian friend who runs a takeaway. But, that isn’t my point. The point today is racism.

I’m white or Caucasian, or whatever you want to call me. My family heritage doesn’t involve a tribal background or slavery, to my knowledge. I haven’t been persecuted for being Hispanic or had my genetics questioned. I’m not Aryan, Semitic or Hamitic, and if I was, I wouldn’t care too much. I believe that I am human and like people born in Mongolia, Manhatten or Morecambe, I will treat all the same. If they wear a Man Utd shirt, they will earn my disgust. I couldn’t care if you have a Polynesian, Maori or Australoid ethnographic background, you’re sound with me as long as you don’t wear Giggs, number 7.

We live in a very politically correct age and people nowadays are exposed to more and more social media than ever before. Things are tweeted or written and appear instantly to a near global audience. Anyone can show the likeness between Kevin De Bruyne and Tintin or the Milky Bar Kid, or can they? Can Shaquille Rashaun “Shaq” O’Neal do that? Why did I choose Shaq? Well, he is hugely influential, rescued Nike in some ways and people idolise him. But, he isn’t a friend with Kevin De Bruyne, so it would be unlikely that he would think of such a comparison.

The punishments in football for racism are weak. For a game in October 2018, Padiham were fined £165 for leaving the field. Why did they leave? The Congleton end were racially abusive. Congleton had to pay £160. Okay, it is a lower level, but it reflects UEFA and FA fines or punishments in a way. Leeds goalie Kika Casilla is accused of racially abusing Jonathan Leko, but like the John Terry versus Anton Ferdinand matter, it will be a weak outcome. Terry had a £220,000 fine and a 4 game ban. Somehow, Anton’s brother Rio tweeted that Ashley Cole was a ‘Choc Ice’ (white on the inside?) to give Rio a £45,000 fine. The recent year has seen over 30 instances presented to the F.A. There is a rise in line with crimes committed outside of football. The social problem goes on. The guy saluting Hitler in the stands against City yesterday, he definitely was racist.

Hitler mk. 2 nominee Bernardo Mota Veiga de Carvalho e Silva, has just been found guilty of an ‘aggravated breach’ of misconduct rules. This relates to a social media post that he made. Bernardo, was raised in the colonial powerhouse that is Lisbon, a place that gave football and S. L. Benfica the legendary Eusébio. Born of Portuguese Mozambique, Eusébio da Silva Ferreira, was often nicknamed the ‘Black Panther’, much like the name of a Marvek Superhero. Did Eusébio’s statue outside Benfica ever envisage that one day a famous son of the club would be embroiled in a racism scandal?

Fast forwards from Benfica, and Benardo Silva has played from Monaco and Manchester City. He shares a close relationship with his probable best friend with Benjamin Mendy. There is banter and there are jokes. Some are shared on Instagram and Twitter in the public domain. One implies Mendy is completely naked whilst being dressed in black. Now, hands up, is that observational humour, racism or just something people say to each other? I mean white guys at school said the same to me when I was dressed in white, and guys of other ethnic origins have said the same since. I didn’t feel abused – let alone racially abused. Bernardo has since used Twitter to share a chubby looking kid (Mendy) and Conguitos character with the words, “Guess who?” and two emoticons.

Are the smell yellow people (Minions), the Simpsons and other cartoons racist? Is shoehorning in a character racist because the original period of time or that story didn’t have enough ethnicity racist? The Spanish chocolate peanut brand Conguitos has been accused of racism for a long time. Conguitos means ‘Little Congans’ – a generalisation of many tribes from the Congo basin. Conguitos, have a white and chocolate version. Like Robertson’s jams and the characters that they used (golliwog, now simply golly), good education and conversation has helped eradicate such a silly character. Rather than dish out bans and fined, education and conversation should be key.

“I think he looks like a young Mendy. I don’t see what the issue is. This has got nothing to do with racism. They are friends. Regardless of whether it looks like Mendy or not, why is that offensive?” – John Barnes, former Liverpool and England footballer – and now racist sympathiser

So, how do we punish this? The FA have a 6-match ban, as a minimum for on field racism, with an education programme. Nazi-saluting Wayne Hennessy had the book thrown at him and that set a precedent. Allo, Allo never had any repeats in the Hennessy household. German team-mate Max Meyer would have corrected him rather than posting the photo, right? Anyway, with that innocent shout for a waiter from behind a group of people posing for a photo, and the arm in the air, Hennessy is desperate to learn about Nazis, according to a fellow white man. Did the actions and photograph bring the game into disrepute? Yes, but no, but, yes, but no.

“Football doesn’t have a racism problem, it has a denial of racism problem. John Barnes and Pep Guardiola’s claim that Bernardo Silva did not tweet a racist image of team-mate Benjamin Mendy is nonsense” – @BenHCarrington, Professor of Sociology & Journalism

Teammate Raheem Sterling, so often the voice against racism, and a sensible mature voice at that, defended Bernardo. Not that this makes it right, but it does kind of give a character reference from someone slated by social media abuse – and actual media abuse. With a possible ban, somehow being talked into the scene and players like De Bruyne out injured, who is to benefit? Raheem Sterling, of course! It’s all a big conspiracy. No, it isn’t! It us a huge witch hunt – and mostly for those who want to add their two pennies worth. The money and time spent on this matter is stupendous. There is actual racism out there, by fans, by groups, by clubs, leagues and nations… Don’t be complacent, be proactive – or we’ll join the global list of fascism in football time and time again.

Yids, as used by Spurs fans, and against Spurs fans is a term, I’ve heard countless time in recent years. You can buy Conguitos on Amazon as easily as seeing money leaking from the Premier League’s inclusion campaign and Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, duplicating their tasks. Xenophobia and racism are in the game, from grassroots upwards. We’re too dismissive. The game has a Black and Asian Coaches Association (BACA), in a way that is similar to the LGBTQ+ movement to eradicate homophobia in society. It shouldn’t have to be that way, but it is. Time to mention Millwall, because they like many (Burnley, Arsenal, West Ham and Peter Beardsley, and so on) have problems. Islamophobia and antisemitism are on the rise in society – and football is the tip of a great big white iceberg of problems. Mel Gibson and others found to hold stupid archaic messages have been outcasted. SO, as a Manchester City fan, I say this: Ban Silva for the season, if you truly believe he was racist. If there is doubt, let’s keep the endless battle against racism and bring Bernardo into the army against it. Embrace Bernardo – and make sure he never makes a mistake again and sets an example to other professionals.

Has Bernardo’s tweet brought the game into disrepute? Most certainly. Now, the overlord-like white privilege are jerking each other off over their keyboards? Real stonewall racism is being overlooked in a way that only UEFA-standard referees can overlook VAR decisions. But, here we are focusing on the fact that a professional who has followers has taken the game into an area that the game doesn’t want to be. So, that’s why the F.A. will fine and ban Bernardo Silva. By deleting the tweet, Bernardo has admitted a mistake, and like an artist with an eraser, that error should have been removed, but we live in an age of Big Brother and screen capture. Too little, too late. That’s why the right wing will argue that white people can’t say or do this or that, without fear of reprisal by laws or vilification. Bernardo, wasn’t racist, he was naïve.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā

Blues in Shanghai / Buzz of Yokohama

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do / S’mae / Namaste

Back in July, I’d flew to Nanjing (南京市) from Shenzhen. The flight to Nanjing was simple enough and having paid for my train ticket to the city centre in cash, I checked in at the hotel early. The ticket machines being a rarity in that it didn’t take WeChat pay – it seemed the whole of that area uses Alipay only. On arriving in the city, I explored the impressive city walls, bumping into Peter from Valvoline there to watch the game in the sponsors’ area. After a gentle exploration I found an Irish bar, Finnegan’s Wake and had a natter to the owner Ian. After a hearty meal I returned to the hotel before having a good night’s sleep.

Nanjing could easily be one of my favourite cities in China. Despite having a population of just over 8.2 million it feels spacious. Trees line the roads and add natural feelings. Xuánwǔ hú (lake/玄武湖) stretches from the main railway station over a circumference of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) – a strangely round number of 444 hectares. The city was once the capital of China from 1368–1420 then from 1928–1937 and also from 1945-1949. The Second World War and civil war in China have greatly affected this city. The city retains great swathes of culture and the museums throughout the area are well worth a wander.

On matchday Phil, having headed from Beijing, and I met up with many other travelling blues, enjoyed the pre-game event ran by the Nanjing OSC before heading over to the huge 61,443 seater Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre Stadium. On entering we passed market stall after market stall selling City’s new home shirts for around £4 a go (30RMB) and other tatty sporting event essentials (you know binoculars, raincoats and vuvuzelas). How new kit provider Puma and the Premier League allowed so many knock-off shirts to be sold nearby was beyond me?! The quality was near spot on with only a few visible faults on the club crest. Oh, and no sizes over UK medium didn’t help any foreigners to cash in…

On passing a body pat down, metal detectors and three separate ticket checks, we were in the stadium for the first fixture: Wolves versus Newcastle Utd. But, first to the bar. Oh. Lemon tea… and plum juice. Or water. Tepidly warm water. Or tiny little sweet sausages and crisps. No re-admission to the stadium. No drinks permitted at the gate either. Hmmm. Good job we had eaten earlier and drank some good coffee, and a few beers. Wolves dominated their game over Toon, who had just been taken over by Stevey Bruce the Elephant Man. Jota’s brace alongside goals from Gibbs-White and Allan of Toon made it four goals to nowt. A very one-sided affair. Martin Atkinson in the middle had little to do.

Nanjing has parks galore, and square dancing grannies (great for Wayne Rooney) – and people walking plastic bottles. It has character unlike some cities that are more copy and paste than commerical espionage at a car factory [NO NAMES… Land Wind?].

In a stand, east or west, I cannot recall, a large pocket of sky blue shirts filled block after block. Considering it was pre-season and a weekday (in a country where people work long hours and many days) it was quite impressive. Thomas Cook (before they went kaput in September) had made a mess and Etihad Airways had just managed to get City into China with very little time to spare before the game. The press was hounding City for time and events – and sponsorship commitments were hastily rearranged and fan meetings held, but with little information given out. As an expat living in China, I could not source when signing events and open training was being held. Others seemed in the know through media and channels unreadable to an English speaker.

A toothless West Ham display, so typical of pre-season games, started with the Hammers scoring a penalty against the run of play. Noble banged the ball in off the spot, after referee Craig Pawson had pointed to the spot. David Silva made the game level from a great solo volley before Pawson once again pointed to the spot. Up stepped Hamburg-born Lukas Nmecha to give the purple-tinted sky blues the lead. Sterling started a run of goals that would carry on into the season, finishing twice in that game. The atmosphere was subdued, relaxed but generally very nice.

Premier League Asia Trophy matches: Wednesday 17 July, Nanjing Olympic Sports Center
Newcastle 0-4 Wolves / Man City 4-1 West Ham

The day after the game, I checked out of my hotel. The train to Shanghai smoothly glided into the final destination. The last few kilometres gave me a panoramic view that revealed the city of Shanghai was far from small. My exhaustion from a late night’s drinking didn’t help me. Checking into the 24K something-or-other hotel near to the People’s Square was simple enough.

The game in the impressive Pringle-shaped curves of the Hongkou Stadium was policed by the central government’s Public Bureau of Security. Despite there being a notice saying that flags of 1m by 2m were allowed, a rough looking three-chevron official tried to snatch my simple Shenzhen Blues and Manchester City flag. I said no. He backed off. His 30cm height-disadvantage and my quick scrunch and pocketing of the flag did no harm. Piles of snatched flags and scarfs, eve posters lay on a table by the unwelcoming metal gates. The Newcastle supporters showing ‘Ashley Out’ printouts remained untouched. A Leeds flag hung at the halfway line. The atmosphere for the game was generally good despite City losing 3-2 on penalties, following a 0-0 draw. Wolves have always been a good side against City – and on this day deserved to lift the Premier League Asia Trophy. The only problem was the general over-policing, however, you could go outside at half-time for a pint, or varied soft drinks. Hóngkǒu Zúqiúchǎng (虹口足球场) was pretty much sold out – but some mentioned that the 33,060 was not allowed due to a license restriction. Would I attend any of City’s potential future games in China? No. The atmosphere is far from conducive for enjoyment at major sports events. I’m sorry to say football in a communist state is duller than a dull thing on a dull day in the village of Dull as the dull festival is commenced at dull o’clock.

Saturday 20 July, Hongkou Football Stadium, Shanghai
Newcastle 1-0 West Ham / Wolves 0-0 (3-2 pens) Man City

On the Sunday, Stephen and I from Shenzhen Blues joined the Manchester City Official Supporters Club Chinese branches in a meeting with club representatives. Many mentioned their OSC flags had been taken from them. The whole day seemed a little winy and the mood low. Stephen and I, with Greg from Hong Kong Blues spent much time explaining where the OSC money goes. An understanding of City’s fanbase domestically and an education of the meaning of the OSC works both ways.

Duting my time in Shanghai I caught up with my Aberystwyth University friend Kai, from Shanghai. We met over local food, a football’s kick from Puma’s flagship store and talked about old times, the present day and the future. I gave his son a small City gift and off we went. I hope we catch up again soon.


From Shanghai, back down to Shenzhen by flight, and up to Dongguan to do laundry and then outwards to Hong Kong’s Mong Kok area the next day after made for a tiring 24 hours. Watching open training, because Heather at City added me to the list, was relaxing and gave me a closer insight into how City operate on a coaching front. It was impressive.

The next day was game day and we headed to the Hong Kong Stadium despite an atmosphere of worry around the city and island of Hong Kong. Some protests had happened before our arrival and many were expecting more. Following a fantastic pre-game event organised by the Hong Kong Blues we headed into the football ground, famous for the HK Rugby Sevens.

I’d like to thank the tireless Martin Ng for his directions and Coco Kwok at HK Blues who had helped me store my bags before the training session. One thing that I enjoy about HK Blues, is that they are bloody friendly and very down to earth people. Every time I am in Hong Kong, I try to catch a game with them! Greg Knowles runs a tight ship over there, and they remain a credit to the Manchester City OSC.

City won the friendly with a less than friendly scoreline of 6-1. Protests concerning the ongoing political unrest in the area were present before, during and after the final whistle. The most bizarre thing, however, was the handing of flowers and substitution of veteran 37-year-old Kim Dong-jin. He’d played 11 games at Kitchee in 3 seasons, but he was given a huge hero’s applause. If he deserves it, fair play. Everyone loves a grafter and a spirit of the game protagonist. Following the win and a few drinks, it was bedtime and a flight the next day. Watch the YouTube match highlights and listen out for the phrase, “…and Wang is once again beaten again.” Oops.


I enjoyed the flight to Tokyo International Airport. Ray, blue Ray that is, was on the same flight. He’d opted to stay in Tokyo whereas I felt the time limit would give me just enough time to take in Yokohama’s sights. It was a cooler air than Shanghai and Nanjing but the game in Yokohama was toasty! Less humid, but bloomin’ hot! I didn’t envy anyone running in that heat. Yokohama F.-Marinos are a bloody good team. City found the net through from Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Lukas Nmecha (now on loan at Verein für Leibesübungen Wolfsburg e. V. – AKA Die Wölfe).

“It was an incredible test for us, incredibly demanding because of the conditions and the quality of the opponent.” – Pep Guardiola

City won the EuroJapan Cup with a 3-1 win – and shared a great style of play with the home team. Coach Ange Postecoglou has a vast career including spells at his native Australia national team. His Yokohama F. Marinos side currently sit 4 points off top-placed FC Tokyo and could secure an AFC Champions League play-off round place. If City ever visit Japan again, I’ll be booking my flights pronto.

Whilst Yokohama wasn’t cheap, the Minato Miraj 21 district has a great mix of architecture and history. The Nippon Maru ship was a museum boat and the skyline featuring the Yokohama Marine Tower made for a scenic city. Armed with a city map, coins for my subway and train rides I covered a great deal of ground and could even see Mount Fuji from afar – although the outbound flight from Tokyo Narita airport gave me a better view and scale of the beastly conical volcano. The Kirin beer factory and Cup Noodles Museum are located in Yokohama. Go on, have a try… and staying in a pod hotel can make the stay more affordable, as I found. The £11 pints will destroy your wallet.

Yokohama has a good toy museum, a cool model railway museum and the Nissan car centre isn’t a bad venue for a pre-match activity, as City did on the day of the game. The city is easy to navigate with plenty of railway and subway links – and they Nissan Yokohama Stadium is the pinnacle of their 4 city clubs. Holding 72,327 it is easy to see why hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup final and will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. It will also see football at the 2020 Summer Olympics. Just nearby is the outdoor Kagetsu-en Velodrome but sadly this closed in 2010 and I couldn’t gamble there.

 

再见/ Zài jiàn / Bài bài / Ta’ra / Goodbye / Hwyl Fawr / Dhanyabaad / Alavidā