Korea’s Suwon Samsung Bluewings’ 3-0 victory over Shanghai Shenhua on Tuesday was at best a tepid affair, and at worst an achingly sad defeat for the several thousand Shenhua faithful in attendance at Hongkou Stadium.
For Shenhua, the AFC Champions League match with Suwon was a mere formality, with no possibility of advancing past the group stage regardless of the result. In their 5 previous matches in Group H, Shenhua suffered 3 defeats and 2 draws against Sydney FC, Kashima Antlers and the Bluewings, with their fate sealed after a 2-0 loss to the J-League’s Antlers on May 3rd.
Suwon’s Ha Tae-gyun was the man responsible for dashing any hopes of Shenhua leaving the pitch with their pride intact, after scoring 2 goals at the 12th and 54th minute marks. The second goal by Ha effectively took whatever wind there was left out of Shenhua after the team returned from halftime with a renewed sense of purpose. Shin Se-gye tapped in the final goal at 89 minutes, just to rub it in for good measure.
There was little in the way of excitement or drama on the day, with Suwon’s three gentle taps into goal all coming from defensive lapses in concentration on Shanghai’s part.
But that didn’t deter the diehard Shenhua supporters in royal blue, who cheered loudly throughout the game at both ends of the stadium, some removing their shirts as the night wore on and waving enormous flags the whole evening. Each goal scored by the Bluewings, who had their own vocal cheering section replete with a snare drum and banners, had little effect on the chanting and singing by the Shanghai fans.
After the final whistle blew, the Shenhua faithful timed their cheers of ‘申花!’ to coincide with those of the Bluewings’ supporters, successfully drowning them out in the process. As the Shenhua footballers made their way around the stadium at the end of the game, the fans shouted ‘联赛冠军!’ (‘League Champions!’) at the top of their lungs, to let the side know that their fans’ still supported them, believing that incantations of victory can make it so.
Photos and story by Fan Huang