Beijing Guoan conquering the Chinese Super League last year was indebted to two brothers from another of the world’s alpha cities. Indeed, in their maiden season in the capital, Sydneysiders Joel and Ryan Griffiths finished as the club’s eight-goal joint-leading marksmen as they got their hands on the trophy for the first time.
Now the pair are out to inspire the Imperial Guard to more success. “I hope to win the second league title with Beijing and help my team fare better in this year’s AFC Champions League,” Joel, 30, told FIFA.com. “Furthermore, I wish to represent Australia in the forthcoming World Cup.”
The Griffiths siblings are content to sacrifice individual accolades in order to help Beijing release their ambitions. “As a forward I always want to score as many goals as possible, but to top the scoring chart is not on my priority list,” continued Joel, the former Newcastle Jets striker who won the Australian A-League’s golden boot in the 2007/08 season. “For me the team invariably comes first and winning three points is more important than me scoring three goals.”
Ryan, 28, concurred: “If you have only goalscoring in your mind, you don’t pass to your team-mates when they are in better positions. As a result the team may lose the chance to win.”
They displayed their unselfishness in their Beijing debut in the AFC Champions League 2009. After opening the scoring against Newcastle Jets, Ryan intercepted a ball deep into the injury time and fed Joel, who crossed perfectly for Du Wenhui to seal the 2-0 victory.
In doing so, the duo not got one over on their former employers - Ryan spearheaded the Jets’ attack from 2002 to 2004, while Joel has had two spells at the New South Wales outfit – but also their brother Adam, Joel’s twin, who shored up Newcastle’s defence in the game.
“Adam was a bit frustrated after losing the match,” Ryan said. “But we went out for a couple of coffees and he was happy after the family reunion. The relations among us are inspiration more than competition.”
After that perfect start, the forwards never looked back, impressing in the Super League with their strength, movement and goals. Beijing, in fact, never lost a match in which either of them found the target.
Joel has started out this term where he left off last one. He scored to help Beijing win their opening AFC Champions League fixtures, and broke the deadlock in their 2-0 victory over newly-promoted Nanchang in their Super League curtain-raiser.
Ryan, for his part, also found the back of the net on Sunday, when he canceled out Vyacheslav Hleb’s opening goal for Shenzhen, only for the Belarusian to grab a late winner for the visitors.
South African dream
With the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ just around the corner, the Griffiths brothers are confident the Socceroos can go one better than four years ago, despite having landed in a tough group alongside Germany, Serbia and Ghana.
“We were the little-noticed side at Germany 2006 and we surprised quite a few by reaching the second round,” said Joel. “The opponents will keep wary of us this time around, but we can reach our goal as long as the team show their best.”
He spoke with a down-to-earth tone when asked about their prospects of making into Pim Verbeek’s final squad. “Our job is to score goals and win games - it is the coach’s job to decide if we go.”