Money and identity stoke Shanghai derby rivalry

Steve Crooks, a Shenhua fan since 2010, uses the same sibling analogy.

“There was this big-brother, little-brother thing when SIPG were coming through the leagues because they started as a youth academy and they had a lot of Shanghainese players and they played nice, passing football,” said Crooks, who writes for the Wild East Football website dedicated to the game in China.

– Toxic atmosphere-

“There was a very non-threatening rivalry, then they got this big corporate takeover and changed the name, so it became very much old money versus new money.”

Crooks said the fact that some abandoned the blue of deteriorating Shenhua for SIPG red makes for a “toxic” atmosphere come derby day.

“It used to be a lot friendlier but in recent years, since the takeover, there is a lot more needle and it’s nastier and you see occasional scuffles outside the ground,” he said.

Results in the derby have been roughly split between the two sides in recent years, but Shenhua are seeking revenge on Saturday for a 3-1 home defeat in May. 

Andy Strong, another Shanghai expat and an SIPG supporter, says accusations that they bought their way to success are hypocritical, pointing to Tevez’s wages.

“A lot of it stems from bitterness and jealousy,” said Strong, adding that several players in Villas-Boas’s starting XI came through SIPG’s youth ranks, including 25-year-old Wu Lei, the so-called “Chinese Maradona”.

Despite the rivalry, Strong, sports client manager at the Shanghai-based sports marketing and investment company Mailman, said he hoped Shenhua — in disarray after going through a succession of coaches — will rise once more.  

“I would much rather have a strong Shenhua side and have a competitive derby, fighting each other for the league title and AFC Champions League.”

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