It was a football turn up of a different kind when our local team headed east – Stockport County Supporters mobbed in China
The group of supporters, who play for the Stockport County Supporters FC in the Stockport & District Sunday League, is co-managed by County Commercial Manager Simon Dawson, so when Director Steve Bellis was looking for a team to represent Stockport, it was a case of look no further.
The squad and non-playing guests travelled out on a direct flight to Beijing with Hainan Airlines and arrived early on the Saturday morning. With time to kill before rooms were ready, the group decided to go to Tiananmen Square, where they were duly mobbed by hundreds of Chinese people.
On the second day of the Beijing part of the tour, the squad headed out to the Great Wall. It was a foggy day and sadly an arduous walk did not give the fantastic views that were hoped for. However, this was widely seen as the best tourist part of the trip as the group were again mobbed by intrigued Chinese people and the attraction is truly a wonderful feat of engineering, design and build. The majority of the squad later found themselves in a bar in the centre of Beijing. Strangely, whilst catching up with the Premier League games, Rachel Braide of Marlow-Braide Solicitors, from, of all places, Edgeley, stood looking in amazement, as she recognised Simon and Steve, having sponsored a game just three weeks earlier. It really is a small world.
Monday saw a five hour, three hundred kilometres per hour, train journey back across China, to the city of Xi’an. The team were greeted by a host of dignitaries and a press conference was arranged on an island across from the team hotel, in the middle of the Chinese National Water Sports Centre. Bellis answered questions about the reasons for the trip and how Stockport County were fairing as a non-league club. There was intense interest in how County have managed to keep crowds at the level of many League 1 clubs and at how important bringing youth team players to the club was.
A welcome banquet followed the press conference, with a plethora of Chinese meal options, none of which would be found in your local take-away. There was a slight misunderstanding about what the players requested for breakfast though, as in the centre of the table, plates of bread, sausages and fried eggs were regularly replenished. This was presented at every meal.
Tuesday saw an open training session at the ‘4G’ pitch at Xi’an University, where both team coaches were able to swap tactics, techniques and coaching drills.
Wednesday saw the team arrive at the stadium for the game, with the opposition made up ex-players from the Chinese Super League and university students, studying football as a course. Stockport was well represented and were unlucky to lose the game 2-0, with several close chances going begging.
A further sponsors banquet followed before the group headed out to visit the Terracotta Warriors and a contemporary art museum. Then it was back to Beijing for one last evening whilst waiting for the plane, where once again they met the Edgeley solicitor and made many new friends.
The aim of the trip was to continue to maintain the unique relationship that Stockport County started in 2001 when they were the first team to visit Western China. As football, as an industry, continues to grow and develop in the region, it is important that Stockport County and indeed Stockport as a growing town, are in the minds of the people and businesses. The aim was certainly fulfilled, as County are now very hopeful that a Chinese contingent will visit Edgeley Park early in 2018.
Sounds like a great trip Simon!