Tonight will see the massive Shanghai Stadium host a sporting event for seemingly the first time in ages. More akin in recent times to holding pop concerts and ceremonies, the 80,000 all-seater arena will be the venue for an exhibition match between American MLS Soccerball team LA Galaxy and China Division One side East Asia (kick-off 7:30pm).
The match is part of the Galaxy’s pre-season tour of East Asia and will also serve as a prelude to the start of the new domestic season in China later this month. Pre-season showpiece games aren’t usually noted for being particularly exciting, but then, for a lot of people, this match isn’t really about the football – it’s about catching a glimpse of David Beckham. As reported yesterday however, it’s still unclear whether the former England captain, currently marooned on 99 caps for his country, will be risked for the match given his history of injury problems since moving to LA last year.
Aside from Golden Balls, US striker Landon Donovan and former Liverpool and Middlesborough defender Abel Xavier (he of the bleached white hair and goatee combo) will be the other notable players who may be among the starting eleven for the Galaxy, as Ruud Gullit’s side continue preparations for the start of the MLS season at the end of this month.
Shanghaiist is not entirely sure what to expect from this game between two sides who ply their trade in domestic leagues not exactly renowned in the footballing world for their quality – the Chinese league being riddled with more alleged bribes and dodgy referee decisions than an Italian Serie A game, and the MLS coming from a country which is, at best, largely indifferent about the sport. Added to this is the fact that Shanghai East Asia aren’t even from Chinese Super League (why aren’t the Galaxy playing Shenhua instead?!). Still, at least the pitch is in good condition. Oh wait…
Anyway, with all due respect to the players at last year’s Women’s World Cup, David Beckham has to be the biggest football star to grace our fair city since… err… well, probably ever. As a result, Shanghaiist will be at the game and there’ll be post-match reports, comments, and photos on this page later, so watch this space.
In other China related football news, English Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United have reportedly held preliminary talks about staging a friendly game in China in the run up to this summer’s Olympics in Beijing. Discussions remain at a very early stage but both clubs have links with China – Tottenham through sponsor Mansion, an online casino with dealings in the country (and that has had their logo in Chinese characters on Spurs’ shirts at times this season), and Newcastle through owner Mike Ashley’s stake in Chinese retail group ITAT – and enjoy a good working relationship, meaning that such a proposal is a distinct possibility.
In related news:
If you’re wondering what Beckham’s been up to in Shanghai, he’s been conducting a football clinic and causing a commotion while visting young leukaemia patients at the Xinhua hospital (not owned by newswire of the same name).