The latest message from governments around the world is that we need to prepare for the “new normal” after the coronavirus pandemic. Oddly enough, Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande might be a step ahead of us all. There may be no date set for the return of football to China but Fabio Cannavaro’s side stepped up their preparations for the new season with a 5-0 win over China League One side Meizhou Hakka in a friendly behind closed doors. A game at the training ground – and one where the opposition wore GPS tracking vests over rather than under their shirts – seems an odd thing to count as historic but, as we’ve all seen with the pandemic, life happens when you are busy making other plans. In a club friendly yesterday, Guangzhou Evergrande beat Meizhou Hakka 5:0. Elkeson, Ricardo Goulart & Wei Shihao each scored 1. Permanjan Kiyum, a youngster from academy made a double. All scorers are Chinese citizens. Xu Jiayin's 'Evergrande All-Chinese squad' goal accomplished. pic.twitter.com/49vvW0c0mm — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) May 3, 2020 As it was, history was made. This preseason friendly offered an indication that the two-time AFC Champions League winners and eight-time champions of China, the team who signed Serie A and La Liga winner Robinho, the club who coaxed World Cup winning coaches Luiz Felipe Scolari and Marcello Lippi to Guangzhou, and made Dario Conca one of the best paid footballers in the world, finally did what they had said they would. In 2017, Guangzhou Evergrande chairman Xu Jiayin – currently one of China’s richest men – declared that he wanted his club to have an all-Chinese team by 2020. Three years later his wish has been fulfilled. In a way. Fabio Cannavaro fielded a fully Chinese side at the Panyu training ground. Cynics would point out that three of his all-Chinese side were Brazilian – Elkeson, Ricardo Goulart and Fernandinho. The first two were on the scoresheet and Elkeson, now also known as Ai Kesen, was the captain. #CSL2020 #CL1 #Presaison Hier a eu lieu un match de preparation entre le Guangzhou Evergrande et Meizhou Hakka (CL1). Victoire sans appel du champion de super league sur le score de 5-0 (Wei Shihao 42e, Ai Kesen 44e, Goulart 68e, Feng Boxuan 79e, Paermanjiang Keyoumu 81e) pic.twitter.com/7BvzEYn5YE — Seb66 赛博 (@seb_perpignan) May 3, 2020 Also on the scoresheet was Xinjiang teen Paermanjiang Keyoumu, a highly rated youth prospect from the Evergrande Academy, the 1 billion yuan (US$141 million) “Hogwarts of soccer” opened in 2012. The debate over whether Paermanjiang fulfils the “all Chinese” criteria is perhaps more suited to the Uygur Human Rights Project or other NGOs that shine a light on human rights violations taking place in the 19-year-old’s homeland. Let’s take it on face value, one where he – a footballer held as a hope for the 2024 Olympic team – and Mirahmetjan Muzepper, the only Uygur to play for the Chinese men’s national team, are the faces of a new China, the “new normal” if you like. 2019 Financial Statement of Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao(ST)(834338), listed in National Equities Exchange Quotations(NEEQ):Revenue:￥948.9m(＄134.1m) Total Cost:￥2.89b（＄408.3m)Total Loss: ￥1.94b(＄274.1m). After being listed in 2015, the company suffered huge loss every year. pic.twitter.com/Yk4S5a8nAk — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) April 29, 2020 The same goes for the Brazil-born trio of naturalised players. Yes, critics can say that shortcuts were taken in creating an all-Chinese team, but not only is it legal it is what football has been doing for years, with the great Alfredo di Stefano swapping Argentina for Spain in the 1950s. It also seems a timely reminder that many of the rest of the world’s battles with racism, in a war that is not yet won, were won over with football. China, and nowhere more so than Guangzhou, has had an increase in racist attacks because of the coronavirus and an increase in positive cases being brought into the country from overseas. Maybe Evergrande’s “new normal” will work towards changing attitudes? According to the 2019 Financial Statement, how Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao (ST)(834338)make money: In the ￥948.9m（＄134.1m）total revenue, ￥782.8m(＄110.6m) is prime operating revenue: 72.34% from advertisement ￥463.4m（＄65.49m) from Evergrande Group, the parent company. pic.twitter.com/v0n9uXiqJt — Titan Sports Plus (@titan_plus) April 29, 2020 Maybe not, and nor should it have that responsibility but it is food for thought and it is certainly not the only thing to chew over in what should be a meaningless preseason friendly. A case in point: has the Evergrande Football School finally come good? The arrival of Paermanjiang was matched with fellow teenage academy product Tan Kaiyuan, who is a year younger at 18. The academy has impressed at youth tournaments but so far failed the litmus test of producing first-team players. These two look like, after several false dawns, the balance might be tipping. Where does this all leave Evergrande’s non-Chinese foreigners? Brazilian duo Paulinho and Anderson Talisca are two of the best, if not the two best, players in the CSL and have been vital to the club’s success. Attacking organisation in the Chinese Super League, a quick look at Guangzhou Evergrande FC. #CSL pic.twitter.com/DXxoJlLWBX — DB7K (@_DB7K) April 30, 2020 Talisca, like many foreign players, appears to still be overseas. There has been talk of foreign players and coaches being given special visas to allow them back into China, with overseas travellers currently banned. Perhaps the travel restrictions will have the side effect of every team turning towards an “all-Chinese” team of their own, aided by the naturalised foreign-born contingent being allowed to enter the country on their Chinese passports. Their future could also be decided by the news that Evergrande reported a loss of US$274 million for last season and still have plans to build the biggest football stadium in the world. We will see. Eight-time Chinese Super League champion Guangzhou Evergrande and Taobao reported a loss of 1.9 billion yuan (274 million US dollars) in 2019, according to official report released Wednesday. pic.twitter.com/bSLy9N4fto — Sports China (@PDChinaSports) April 29, 2020 Football’s return will be decided this week and everything will fall into place thereafter. What also might fall into place is the answer to the conundrum that has driven so many headlines since China’s focus on football. “Why can’t China pick 11 soccer players from 1.4 billion people?” is the question on everyone’s mind. Maybe Evergrande’s “new normal” is the answer. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.