Du Wei

Ask any Celtic supporter who is the worst  centre half bought by Celtic in the last 50 years and the odds are very high that the answer will be Du Wei  the Chinese player whose Celtic career lasted 45 minutes.

Yet recent events may require that too glib assessment to be re-evaluated. It is a bit like discovering the beautiful girlfriend you chucked for being irredeemably miserable has been blissfully happy both before and after you, so maybe the problem is not all her but some of it might be you. Du Wei has recently performed heroically on the international stage, starring as both a leader and a winner, as well as a top class defender.

DuWei had a good pedigree before he joined Celtic. Born in 1982, he was one of the star players in the World Youth Championships of 2001 where no less a critic than Maradona said very complimentary things about his play and his potential. He won the Chinese League with Shanghai Shenhua in 2003 and performed well in the 2004 Olympic Games football tournament. So it was no surprise that in 2005 he made the move to European football, signing for the famous Glasgow Celtic.

His Celtic career was not a glorious one and his competitive record consisted of one start, a Scottish Cup Tie against Clyde at Broadwood on 9th January 2006. Strachan substituted him at half time, a publicly humiliating allocation of the blame for an infamous 2-1 defeat and he never again tasted first team action, leaving quietly some months later to return to Shanghai and a Shenhua team delighted to recoup him.

Over the past few years I have watched that game on DVD several times (Clyde win every time by the way!) and it is gross oversimplification at best to lay the blame for the Celtic defeat on their debutant centre half. True he looked lost but that was not entirely his fault and while he did not play well he was no worse than many another Celtic player on that grim day and certainly no worse than many a Celtic centre back over the last few years. They did not play any better in the second half without him.  Strachan unnecessarily offered him up as the public hostage for Celtic’s poor fortune. There is an echo there of the recent Twitter comment by Kaka’s agent immediately after the Lyon game claiming Pellegrini was one of these “Coward trainers”  who make publicly visible substitutions to shift the blame away from their own failings. Whatever, such brutal humiliation is not good management. Surely Strachan would have been better telling him what to do differently in the second half. One certainty is that Du Wei won’t be another ex-Celt signing for Middlesbrough any time soon.

Since leaving Celtic Du Wei has patiently rebuilt his career at both club and international level, a process that culminated recently when he was elected ‘most valuable player’ of the tournament at the recent East Asian Championships when he captained China to victory. Incidentally, Du Wei took over captaincy of the Chinese team from a certain Zheng-Zhi and is now rated as a better leader than the current Celt. Before anyone sneers at the quality of the “East Asian Championship” it should be pointed out that both the second placed team, South Korea, and the third placed team, Japan, used the tournament to prepare their national elevens for the forthcoming World Cup, an experience not likely to be enjoyed by many of the current East End of Glasgow squad.

So maybe the problem was Celtic rather than Du Wei himself. Celtic fans who have had to endure the supposed international class of McManus and Caldwell over the past few seasons might wonder whether better handling could have given them a centre back who now figures as definitely international class. Du Wei has done more over the past 12 months to create international credibility than the rejected pair of Caldwell and McManus and the new recruits Hooivens, Loovens, Rogne, and Thomson. For all his tactical complexity and obsession with zonal marking, ex-midfielder Strachan might not be the best man to help centre backs play to their full capabilities. Maybe there is a case for Celtic adopting the US NFL system of defensive co-ordinator coachs who ensure that defenders know what they have to do and are enabled to play to their true potential. Certainly Celtic supporters should now open their minds to the possibility that their club actually missed out on an international class defender and leader and maybe the answer to the original opening question should be Brazilian rather than Chinese. Although if you go to Celtic Matters Post No 2 you will see that maybe even Rafael Scheidt got a raw deal at Celtic Park.

Chinese Green World

The excuse I used many years ago when caught at school reading “World Soccer” in class, “Please Miss, it helps my geography”, has been repeated over the past years by thousands of young Scots who prefer studying football to their formal lessons. Like most rationalisations it has a grain of truth, and many a Scottish teacher has been pleasantly surprised when otherwise seemingly ignorant children have displayed informed knowledge about the differences between Madrid and Barcelona; Seville and Valencia; Paris and Marseille; and Milan and Rome.

Even after over 40 years of such dedicated study, you never stop learning. Until last week I had never heard of Hangzhou. I suspect I was not alone in my sorry ignorance and that very few GGW readers have ever heard of it, far less know anything about it. Yet it is one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the world. In the early centuries of the last millennium it was often the largest city in the world. Marco Polo described it with awe as “beyond doubt the finest and noblest city in the world”.

There is a traditional Chinese saying

“Be born in Suzhou(because of the education and civilisation of its citizenry),

Eat in Guangzhou(because of the excellence of its food);

Die in Liuzhou(because of the special wooden coffins that delay the decay of the body)

but Live in Hangzhou (because of its beauty)”

Hangzhou has over 2,200 years of history, and is now a modern vibrant city of 2.6 million residents that has managed to combine modern development with preserving its traditional beauty and its  treasured historical features.

Hangzhou’s current relevance to GreenGreenWorld is that after his return from the East Asian Championship success, Du Wei has transferred from Shanhai Shenhua to Hangzhou Greentown, a Chinese team that play in green and white and have considerable corporate funding behind their attempt to make an impact in the Chinese Super League. As well as capturing the Chinese captain they have signed two Honduran internationalists (again sneerers should remember Honduras will be in South Africa while Scotland will not.) They have also signed Palacios of Honduras, not alas Wilson of Spurs and Wigan fame but his older brother Jerry. In addition to these new signings, they have 4 Chinese internationalists plus the only Hong Kong national player to be playing in the Chinese League. They play in a modern 51,000 capacity stadium almost as impressive as Celtic Park.

Celtic fans looking for a Chinese club to support could do worse than adopt Greentown and their new captain Du Wei. GGW will bring regular reports on their progress during the new Chinese season which gets underway next weekend.

It is a safe bet that there will be far more citizens of Hangzhou who have heard of Glasgow than Glaswegians who know Hangzhou. They will know that Zheng Zhi plays there, with the famous Glasgow Celtic, and that Du Wei had a bad experience in Glasgow. The y will know they share green and white colours with Celtic. GGW would be delighted to hear from any reader who has been to Hangzhou about what they thought o f it.