Nicolas Anelka: A Guide To Shanghai Shenhua for Arsenal and Chelsea's Incredible Sulk

Flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of complacency dogged his careers at Chelsea and Arsenal. Now he's been announced as player-manager of Shanghai Shenhua, here's what he can expect from the city.
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Flashes of brilliance mixed with periods of complacency dogged his careers at Chelsea and Arsenal. Now he's been announced as player-manager of Shanghai Shenhua, here's what he can expect from the city.


'Hello, McDonalds? Four cheeseburgers please, hold the chicken feet...'

Welcome to Shanghai, home of your new team Shanghai Shenhua. As a former Shanghai resident let me give you a brief guide to the greatest city in the People’s Republic of China. Chelsea it isn't...

Shanghai Shenhua: Flower of Shanghai

Your New Teammates

As the only non-Chinese member of Shanghai Shenhua you may feel you have a social mountain to climb. With so many new names to learn and pronounce it can be daunting. You may have other fears; for example I once overhead the following conversation about Chinese people between two British tourists in a restaurant:

"What I don’t understand is, since they all look the same; how can they tell each other apart?" Asked a woman.

“No, they can tell each other apart.” Answered the only slightly more intelligent male. “It’s just us foreigners that can’t.”

Don’t worry Nicolas, these were but idiots, you will easily be able to tell your teammates apart on the pitch. It is just a shame, that since they aren’t very good at football, you will have no desire to pass the ball to them.

The Fans of Shanghai Shenhua

The fan base may be small but what they lack in numbers they make up for in forced European football fan passion. As you play on the bobbly pitch at Hongkou Stadium and look up at the small supporters section try not to misinterpret their flag emblazoned with the words "Welcome to Hell" as any comment on your sudden career downturn.

The Chinese: A Great Bunch of Lads


There are three broad conversational topics to avoid. Conveniently for memory purposes they all begin with the letter “T”.

Tiananmen Square



Bringing up one of these topics will do you no favors and bring you no friends. In return the Chinese won't bring up your time at Bolton Wanderers. Deal?

Being a Laowai

You are a foreigner. The fact is that you look different to the near 2 billion people that live in China. Similarly there aren’t great deals of black people in Shanghai either. The children will often gasp at your presence and say "hei ren" or "Obama" to each other and then giggle manically. Old people will stare, possibly longing for a time when it was illegal to talk to a foreigner. Parents will shove babies in your face to get a good look at you. There is no malice in these actions it is pure intrigue on their part. So just smile, nod and refuse to score goals till it stops.

Don’t worry Mr. Anelka. Shanghai is amazing, China is beautiful and the people are brilliant. Good Luck.

Social Etiquette

One area that marks the Chinese as king among men is their approach to bodily functions. In London a public burp or fart would make you a social pariah, a beast among men. In the People’s Republic of China you can guff and burp to your hearts content and no one will bat an eyelid. Yet it is the Americans that think they are free.

NB. Although you can publicly release gas as you please, remember other people shall as well. Shop assistants will burp in your face and think nothing of it. Be prepared


Chinese food won’t taste like the Chinese food you are used to. Tread carefully at first. Make sure you know what you are ordering. The last thing you want is the food arriving, you asking what the meat is and the server saying the phrase “Wild Cat” before grinning and walking off.

There is a famous saying in China that translates as “The Chinese eat everything with four legs, except tables, and everything that flies - except airplanes”

You will take this literally as you force down chicken feet, pigs face and of course, the Wedding favourite Shark Fin Soup.

When all else fails food wise the Chinese have a secret weapon: 24 hour McDonalds Delivery. No minimum order. Delivered in less than ten minutes. Perfect for weight gain, hungover Sunday's and every other meal of the day.


The underground system trumps London. It is cheap (about 20 pence a ride anywhere), fast and clean. Though look out for “Subway Pole Dancers” who are women that do a little lap dance between stations in hope of finding a rich husband.

Taxis are another great way to get around. Cheap, fast and reasonably clean. However the speed and carefree approach to safety may be difficult to get your head round at first. Just avoid this driver:


Bicycles are another option. Apparently there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing. It’s a fact, you can’t deny. Sadly, Bike enthusiast Katie Melua wasn’t so forthcoming on her numbers for Shanghai. Either way, there are a lot. It’s a good way to get around, though be careful or your bike will get stolen. However, if your bike is stolen, don’t dismay, just take a trip to the local Stolen Bike Market. Where you can walk around until you see your bike and buy it back off the man that stole it in the first place.

Spare Time

Internet and Shopping

One issue you may face is the Great Firewall of China. No Facebook, twitter or YouTube. Restricted Google searches. This will then free up your time to spend the hundreds of thousands of Kauai you are getting paid every week. There are all the shops you would expect in London, including a spookily empty Marks and Spencers. If you fancy hording all your easy earned cash then take a trip to the fake market where you can get anything you want from DVD’s to clothes to iPad's. All fake, poorly made and cheap as chips/rice.


The dice game is a very popular drinking game with the youth of China. Get a bottle of whiskey and some friends round a table. Roll a dice and drink accordingly. Later, call an ambulance.

Also whilst in Shanghai try to steer clear of a place called The Da Tong Bar Mall, It’s essentially a lady supermarket. An underground lair of sex worker bars that looks like Saddam Hussein’s palace. It replaced seedy street Tongren Road as the place for expats to go to lose their shame. Avoid, except when John Terry comes to visit.

Don’t worry Mr. Anelka. Shanghai is amazing, China is beautiful and the people are brilliant. Good Luck.

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