Belfast Telegraph

Grouchy Oscar aided by angry Hulk

By Billy Weir

I had been putting this off for a while but it was a quiet weekend on the old sporting front, so I dipped my toe into the world of Chinese Super League football for the first time.

Sky have added this to their portfolio, mainly in the hope that mercenaries from across the globe will hotfoot it east, maintaining that it was always their desire to spread the gospel of goal, experience new cultures, see lots of bicycles, and the vast sums of loot were an unexpected, but welcome, bonus.

There is the language barrier to deal with, of course, and that's just for the viewers as, I'm sure like myself, you thought elementary Mandarin was a wee tin of fruit from Lidl (other brands are available).

So we were off to Yuexiushan Stadium as Guangzhou R and F played host to Shanghai SIPG, with commentator Paul Walker telling us that "R and F are facing a huge challenge", the main one being what the R and the F stands for, and don't even start me on SIPG.

There were some more familiar names in Oscar and Hulk, Shanghai clearly adopting the approach of signing big names from kids TV of bygone days, and I was half expecting to see Bod, Bagpuss and Mr Benn on the bench, but in total we had five Brazilians across the two teams, so things shouldn't get too hairy - or so we thought.

We also had a Fu Huan, clearly not popular amongst his team-mates, while we should have had an inkling things could get a bit tasty with the referee called Zhou Gang.

The managers were very familiar in Andre Villas-Boas in the visiting dugout with Guangzhou coached by Yugoslavian great Dragan Stojkovic, although as things turned out he should maybe change that to Enter The Dragan Stojkovic.

Against the odds, R and F scored the opener, and it transpires it stands for Rich and Force, with a goal from Israeli international Eran Zahavi, whose shot squirmed through the hands of the unfortunate keeper for SIPG, or Simply Inept Poor Goalkeeping.

Then came the controversy and, you guessed it, those pesky kids characters were the cause, as Oscar and Hulk combined, albeit with the help of an assistant linesman who had clearly been distracted by Dogtanian and Chorlton and the Wheelies warming up, missing a blatant offside in the build-up.

Walker hadn't spotted it but did tell us that "R and F are not happy about something", indeed, they were Raging and Fuming, but "things look to have calmed down as we kick off again", except their captain was over with the assistant "giving a right old ear-bashing".

Oscar, despite the goal, was a little grouchy, and when the ball broke in the middle of the park he whacked it against one opponent and blasted the rebound at another before he was knocked to the ground and players, staff, officials, people who make up the nicknames and anyone else around joined in.

"The repercussions of this will rumble on long after the game is finished," Walker predicted, and the hotline to the No-Lan Show the next day was as red as the two cards dished out by the referee.

It seemed to work, the second period very tame in comparison, although things looked a little edgy when Hulk was fouled and Walker reminded us that he was "not a man to upset", as I'm sure we heard someone say "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry" and the sound of a shirt ripping open.

But no, sense prevailed, R and F relaxed and fulfilled with a point, and as for SIPG, well, sadly it's not as romantic as you had hoped, it isn't Shanghai Is Pretty Gorgeous, it's Shanghai International Port Group. Then again, they used to be called Shanghai Dongya, so we are to be thankful for small mercies.

Will I come back for a second helping? Probably, as I think I went through the whole article without mentioning takeaways and how free-kicks were really difficult because of the size of the wall, but only if SIPG change their name back.

The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: The Real Full Monty was a bunch of well-meaning celebs disrobing and jiggling their bits in the name of charity and to mark the 20th anniversary of the movie. Sport was represented by Olympic swimmer and now BBC expert Mark Foster and he is to be lauded, although, strangely, he wore less when he was in the pool than when stripping.

The bad: It might have been the heat, or a long-standing enmity towards all things Red Handed, but Kerry legend Colm Cooper’s prediction on RTÉ that it ‘could be a long day for Tyrone’ against Donegal was as gutsy as Gooch was as a player, but about as accurate as Graham Gooch playing hurling.

The ugly: Another big documentary on BBC1 NI, this time George Best: All By Myself marching down well-trodden pitches to look at the life, times and untimely death of the Belfast Boy. A good watch and some great archive footage I hadn’t seen before, but submissions from a never-ending succession of agents and past-wives determined to hang on to the name left a bit of a sour taste. Best move on…

Belfast Telegraph

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