2010-06-05

of the grounds

One thing every foreigner should know about Beijingers, or the Chinese for that matter, is that many are fanatical about soccer. If you really want to see just how fanatical Chinese are, go to a soccer match. After the game you will leave without a doubt that Beijingers truly love their sport - and their team.

I recently went to see my first soccer match at a stadium. I always knew many Chinese liked soccer but I got the surprise of my life when I arrived at the Workers' Stadium that night.

Before entering the stadium, everyone has to go through a security check. After my bag went through an X-ray machine, the guard asked me to open it. I didn't expect any problems as it was just routine, or so I thought. But it turned out to be more then that.

I had a laser I bought from Houhai for 45 yuan, which set off alarm bells. Although the simple solution would be to just take the laser and return it to me after the match, this was not to be. While the officers were friendly and just doing their job, it still took about 30 minutes of calling every superior they could think of to decide what to do.

Eventually, after much discussion and questions, it was agreed I could pick up the laser after the game.

This was the first time I had been detained and what might have complicated this was that I didn't have my ID. My advice: always have your ID with you.

We were early and still had an hour to go before the game began, and we sat watching teams play monkey in the middle. If you don't know what this is, it's a game where one person is in the middle of three or four others and he tries to get the ball as they kick it to one another.

Shortly after, the two teams, Beijing Guoan and Changsha Ginde, entered the stadium. A roar of obscenities thunder across the stadium to greet Changsha Ginde and I looked around, somewhat in shock. As the match began, I could see the excitement the crowd had for Beijing Guoan as they jumped and cheered, and almost did backflips from their seats, for the home team. Changsha Ginde was on dangerous grounds.

I noticed that when a Changsha Ginde player ran to retrieve the ball from the touchlines, papers and plastic bottles would be thrown at him, along with things said about his mother.

It's fortunate I went to the game, supporting neither side as I didn't know enough about soccer. It crossed my mind that if I remotely said anything to support Changsha Ginde, I would be beaten to a pulp. Security guards sitting two seats in front of me gave me some comfort, should I be that foolish.

But later, just when I thought all obscenities would disappear after being engulfed by the spirit of the match, I found myself yelling things about the opposing team's mothers, too, and saying many other words I dare not say in everyday life.

I joined the spirit of the match and began to support Beijing Guoan as I sat there in my Green shirt, the team's colors, filled with excitement when I thought the team would almost score.

The final score was 0-0. Everyone left seemingly disappointed that they had cheered the team on so much, only to result in a tie. If I might say, I still found they played well and there were many times where they almost scored. But if anything, I realized that I left the game with the most important thing: I now want to support a team. I left with the spirit of sport.

The next day I shared the experience with one of my friends and he told me something I think everyone can use every now and then.

He said that whenever he finds himself angry and upset, he goes to a game and this gives him the chance to vent his anger. He can yell many obscenities without anyone looking on him as if he is weird.

After leaving the match, his anger would be gone. I realize this is a great way to release anger when tension and frustration about life builds up.
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