A very classy kickoff

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-04-18 09:51
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Normal service resumed for the Chinese Super League over the weekend as the 2023 season kicked off with sold-out stadiums, passionate fans and action-packed matches. XINHUA

Fans flock back to stands as Chinese Super League makes eye-catching return

With over 46,000 fans packed inside the gleaming new Beijing Workers' Stadium, the Chinese Super League returned with some swagger over the weekend.

Now it's hoped the domestic game can build on the buzz generated by the opening day's action and consign its recent troubles to the past.

Beijing Guo'an's 1-1 draw with Meizhou Hakka kicked off the 2023 CSL season in style on Saturday, with the salubrious surroundings of the rebuilt stadium earning rave reviews. On the same day, three other matches were played in front of sell-out crowds around the country, with the healthy attendances proving the appetite for domestic professional soccer remains strong in China.

Being able to watch their teams at their home stadiums has been a rarity for fans over the past three years due to the pandemic. The eagerness of supporters to return to the stands was reflected in ticket sales.

According to reports, Guo'an has already exceeded its original 20,000 season-ticket allocation, with tickets for Saturday's opening match selling out within a few minutes of their release.

Thepaper.cn reported that Shanghai Port's 2-0 victory at Wuhan Three Town, and Dalian Professional's 2-1 home win over Nantong Zhiyun on the opening day were watched by over 35,000 and 22,000 spectators respectively.

The average attendance for the first round of 2023 CSL matches was 23,944 — higher than the average number for the entire 2019 season just before the pandemic. In total, over 190,000 spectators visited CSL stadiums over the weekend.

Fans' excitement was also evident online. The CSL's opening day generated a number of trending topics on Chinese social media. The hashtags "Chinese Super League opening ceremony" and "Fans rush to buy CSL tickets" were viewed 19 million and 18 million times respectively on Saturday.

He Sheng, an internet celebrity for his hardcore fan credentials, summed up the mood perfectly when he posted a picture of himself among the Workers' Stadium crowd accompanied by the message: "It has been too long for us to see this again.

"The match, actually, wasn't that thrilling," he added. "But that wonderful old soccer atmosphere is coming back. The brand-new Workers' Stadium is simply amazing."

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