Good morning sports fans.
Welcome to my new column, where each week I will be recapping the goings on in Shanghai's professional sport, and offering my two cents on all things sport in China. Throughout, I will look at the fortunes of the three football teams, follow the trials and tribulations of Shanghai Sharks, and discuss the big sporting events that Shanghai attracts, like the F1, BMW Masters golf and Shanghai Open tennis.
Beginning with football, the biggest 'movers and shakers' have undoubtedly been Xujiahui's own Shanghai SIPG. They began their pre-season with the acquisition of former England manager, tabloid favourite, and all round lothario, Sven Goran Ericsson. Sven knows the Chinese Super League (CSL) well, following his stint in charge at Guangzhou R&F. While far removed from his most successful days, Sven still brings both experience and glamour to the table at Shanghai's newest CSL club. His 'pull factor' also helped SIPG recruit Argentine attacking midfielder Daria Conca. Allegedly one time third highest player in the world when he first signed for Guangzhou Evergrande, Conca boasts an impressive CV, including several CSL titles, an Asian Champions league medal, plus some personal accolades, including a Brazilian Serie A and CSL player of the year award. With SIPG retaining Sven's fellow Swede and last seasons top scorer Tobias Hysen, young Chinese star Wu Lei and partnering them with Conca, 2015 could prove a big year.
Shenhua on the other hand have kept their off-season quiet, but the addition of talented Australian born, Greek international defender Avraam Papodopoulos will be a huge boost. Papodopoulos is a six time Greek champion and has amassed 30 international caps. He should also offer up some great Chinese commentary moments this coming season.
Finally, Pudong's Shanghai Shenxin who are never too flamboyant with cash have kept the core of last seasons squad and added powerful young Nigerian forward Daniel Chima Chukwu who should cause many problems to Chinese defenses.
2015 should be an improved season for Shanghai's teams fortunes, especially without Shenhua's points deductions hanging over them, and SIPG's revamped coaching staff. It is difficult to look past Guangzhou Evergrande for the title, however Asian Champions League qualification is not beyond the realms of possibility for at least one Shanghainese team.
One Shanghai team who won't be winning much this season is the Shanghai Sharks. Friday night saw them end a four game losing streak with a win over Bayi Rockets to improve to a 16 and 21 record, good enough for twelfth in the league. The big talking point for the Sharks however, has to be power forward, and former number 2 draft pick, Michael Beasley's future at the club. Averaging nearly 30 points and 11 boards a night, he has undoubtedly been a success. However, the manner in which he racked up an CBL record 59 points in the All-Star game, suggested he was most definitely trying to stick his name right back in the minds of NBA general managers. Taking simple lay-ups when teammates were in place for a bit of All-Star game showmanship really took the gloss of an otherwise very impressive performance.
In other non-Shanghai related basketball news Errick Mccollom, brother of Portland Trailblazers combo-guard CJ, set a Chinese Basketball Record with 82 points in a single game for Zhejiang. His Kobe inspired performance saw him toss up 49 shots, whilst also getting to the stripe 25 times. It all proved futile, however, as his team went on to lose.
Formal National Basketball League (NBL) (China's second tier) standout Hassan Whiteside, who upon getting Sichuan promoted a few seasons back couldn't find a contract in the CBL, is well and truly breaking out this season in the NBA. Impressive performances for Miami Heat have seen him pick his first NBA triple double which included a franchise equaling 12 blocks, and huge 16 points/24 rebound performance. I wonder what the CBL executives are thinking now?
If I have missed anything, or there is any professional sport you'd like to discuss, please let me know. Next time, I will look at Chinese players abroad and what the future holds for the national team after being unceremoniously dumped out of the Asia Cup.
Words by James Butler