Qi Wusheng, former Coach of China National Football Team, said, "The atmosphere was always fantastic. Our first experience was always the fans' enthusiastic reception. It was as good as a warm-up exercise."
In June 1983, Zeng Xuelin was appointed national team coach. The newly-formed China National Team played its first ever match in the Great Wall Cup International Tournament, at the Workers Stadium. After victories over the Bayi and Beijing teams and a team from Japan, they claimed the title, undefeated.
The following year, still led by Zeng Xuelin, they appeared in the Nehru Gold Cup in India. The former World Cup winners Argentina were also involved. To the amazement of the football world, China beat Argentina 1-0, and took the trophy.
Qi Wusheng said, "Every time we trained, 300 to 500 fans would crowd around to watch."
Li Huajun said, "In those days we travelled by train, not plane. The fans crowded into Shenyang South Station, the old station, just to see us off, and to greet us when we returned."
Qi Wusheng said, "No one was allowed to miss training. If the football went over the fence, we had to go and fetch it immediately, otherwise the fans would take it. Sometimes, even if we climbed the wall the moment the football got away, we'd see someone escaping with his "souvenir" on his bike and waving goodbye."
In May 1985, summer arrived early in Beijing. In a World Cup Qualifier a few days before, China had beaten Macao by a score of 6-0. On May the 19th, they were to play the Hong Kong team in their final group match. A draw would be enough for China. All the newspapers were trying to predict the result. Football even published an article, under the headline, "Water Can Always Pass through Dense Bamboo", a reference to the fact that it expected China to beat Hong Kong by at least 2 clear goals.
Yu Dawei said, "Tickets were being sold at the Workers Stadium. The prediction was that we'd win 2 or 3-0. There was no way Hong Kong would score. So the tickets were really just for a celebration at the stadium."
Mr Rong said, "If it wasn't 6-0, it'd be at least 4 or 5-0."
An excerpt from the TV series Year after Year shows the precise date: May the 19th, 1985. Many people in Beijing were eagerly anticipating the match.
The streets were busy that evening. After the day's work, people gathered in front of their TV sets for the match at 19:30pm.
"This is CCTV. Good evening, everyone. We are coming to you from the Beijing Workers Stadium, with a live broadcast of the 4th round group game, in the Asian Regional qualifiers for the 16th World Cup. China is at home to Hong Kong. The Chinese team are in white." – Live
At 7:30pm the match started punctually. The 80,000-capacitty stadium was packed with spectators. But to everyone's surprise, Li Huajun was not in the starting lineup.
Mr Rong said, "We were very happy, and we'd brought many flags and banners with us."