Saints In China ! Saints V Schalke
Friday, 6th Jul 2018 05:21
Our man in China gives us the run down on following the team to the Far East and the tours first match against German side Schalke.
If you think that traveling to places like Newcastle or Manchester is a bit of a hike then try going to Shanghai, it is supposedly the World's biggest city with a population of over 24 million and as you would expect a very efficient public transport system, the only problem though is that it strangely shuts down very early, but more of that later.
Saints were playing in Kinsman which although part of the massive Shanghai sprawl is some 20 miles or so out of the centre, getting the train was cheap, quick and easy, getting a ticket was far worse having to find the one kiosk with English spoken written on it and then present your passport buy the ticket and file into a station with a similar level of security as Heathrow.
20 minutes later though we are at the nearest station to Kunshan stadium although still about 4 miles away from it, luckily a passing Chinese woman with a Schalke scarf took pity on us and invited us to share her taxi which she appeared to be negotiating the fare for with the driver.
Once at the stadium we found the Saints fans zone and got our tickets, Saints have been doing some good work over the last few days in giving away t shirts etc for the locals, but Schalke have been going there for four years and are light years ahead in their planning, literally every kid had a Schalke shirt on, blue was prevalent, red far less so, but we have to start somewhere.
The stadium was very impressive, but smaller inside than it looked from out, it held about 31,000 apparently there were about 10,000 expected and I would say that was quite accurate.
Saints were expecting about 15-20 Saints fans to make the trip, but some of those that registered didn't turn up and I would say that although there were a few English Saints fans living in the area there that there were less then 10 who actually made the trip from the UK.
There were quite a few Chinese in Saints shirts etc, but the numbers were far less than Schalke.
The stadium was sparse inside, no refreshment kiosks, only a few guys scattered around with piles of bottles of soft drinks, not even any food.
The game was pretty much your standard friendly, half paced and all change at half time, it was hard to tell who was good and who was not, I have lost count of the number of times I have seen players shine in pre season only to struggle in the League and not make the grade, so I am not going to get too excited by goals from Harrison Reed and Jake Hesketh or Stuart Armstrong's début.
The final whistle at just before 10pm left a challenge, the last train back was at 10.15 pm and we hadn't a clue how to get back to the station, eventually some of the traffic police forced a taxi to stop and pick us up, but only after we had posed for pictures with them.
WE got to the station at 10.15 on the dot, but getting in to it was another matter so we missed the train, the last one back into Shanghai and had to negotiate with the taxi drivers ourselves for a ride back into Shanghai.
All in all though day out I would not have missed, an nothing friendly in China, but a great experience, Shanghai is relatively used to foreign faces and all the signs are in English, but not a lot of the population speak it, next up is a trip to Xuzhou for the second game, if we though Shanghai was hard to handle despite being quite westernised then the Chinese interior will be a very different matter.
Photo: Action Images
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