A Chinese football club seeks to be the new Barcelona

Ooh! Aah! Cantonese!

IN A modest stadium built into a hillside at Yuexiu Park in Guangzhou, around 10,000 fans were supporting their club on a recent evening by waving blue flags, beating drums and shouting encouragement to their team in the local Cantonese tongue. The club, Guangzhou R&F, plays second fiddle in this huge southern city to its more illustrious crosstown rival, Evergrande, which has many more fans and a much larger stadium. But the owners of R&F (it stands for “rich and force”, the meaning of the two Chinese characters that form the name of its sponsor, a property company) think they know how to turn the club into a winner. In a country where officials are often suspicious of regionalism, club bosses are trying to appeal to the pride of Cantonese speakers.

Football in China is in a sorry state. The country has qualified only once for the World Cup, in 2002, when it was quickly knocked out without scoring a goal. The main national league has been…Continue reading

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