zhang yuliang

Greenland group breaks silence over potential Shanghai Shenhua takeover

Real estate giants Greenland has confirmed it is interested in buying Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua but say it is waiting to see how the general situation develops.

Late last month, Chinese media reported that the group had purchased the club, however the news turned out to be premature. No confirmation came from Greenland and Shenhua’s eccentric chairman Zhu Jun responded with several cryptic remarks which appeared to suggest the story was without foundation.

However on Friday, group chairman Zhang Yuliang responded to a journalist’s question on the question of buying Shenhua, after he had finished giving a speech to students and academics at Beijing University.

Zhang said, “Before Shanghainese football was good, but in recent times it has not fared so well. There were some media stories suggesting Greenland should come out and take over a team, and this is something I also considered.

“I’ve been asked about it before and my answer was just one word – ‘possibly’. For now, we need to see what the next step is, our wish is to serve the needs of society.”

At Beijing University, Zhang was delivering a lecture entitled “How much distance should entrepreneurs between themselves and politics?”. A fitting topic considering the intertwined nature of business and the government in China in general, in particular the Real Estate sector in China, an industry currently going through a boom period. The majority of CSL clubs are currently owned by Real Estate firms, most famously Guangzhou Evergrande who have invested millions to turn the club into China’s top team.

It would appear that Greenland Group does have intentions to buy Shenhua but the takeover process may be long and drawn out, indeed this statement may be the first move in their negotiation strategy. For his part, current owner Zhu Jun spoke a week ago of “waiting for other teams to decline” so Shenhua to become a leading team again, and that he would re-invest money in the club if his business took an upturn.

Shenhua fans cautiously welcomed the news and some scoffed at Zhang’s statement about Greenland wanting to meet the needs of society.

“Society needs you to lower the cost of housing. Will you do that?’ was one rather pointed remark, referring to China’s soaring property prices and inability of first time buyers to get on the housing ladder.

Others focused on Zhu Jun’s reckless leadership of the club and what they believed the be the tarnishing of the club’s name.

“Quickly, kick pig-head out of Shenhua” – a play on the family name of Zhu Jun being a homonym in Chinese for the word for pig.

“Do you really want to see the likes of Song Boxuan and Zhang Kaimu sold off next year, then amateur players taking their place? I have only one thing to say – so many years of not qualifying for the Asian Champions League, so many years of being second best to the turtles (Beijing) are you willing to be resigned to that? At least, I am not.” – a commentator responding to someone saying Zhu Jun may not wish to sell.

“Sell up quickly, let’s get rid of this “pig germ”, a tramp who treats players like migrant workers, not paying their wages properly, drive him out!” – “pig germ” being another word play on Zhu Jun’s name.

Whether or not a takeover is imminent, the desire for change at Hongkou seems clear.

Author: Cameron Wilson

UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football since 2005 for various International and China-based news outlets such as Agence France-Presse, Goal.com, Shanghaiist, China Sports Review, That’s Shanghai, Time out Shanghai and City Weekend. In August 2010 he decided to launch a website dedicated to Chinese football as a central despository for all of his writings ont he subject.

He’s traveled all over China following Shanghai Shenhua as a fully paid-up member of its infamous Blue Devil’s supporters group.

His association with China stretches back over a decade, having first arrived in August 2000 to teach English for a year in a rural town a few hours northwest of Shanghai. He took in his first Chinese football match during this time – a 2-1 victory for Shanghai Shenhua against Dalian Shide. He went home to the UK in July 2001 but returned to China to live in Shanghai in 2005. Since then he’s been a Shanghai Shenhua season ticket holder and a member of the Blue Devil’s supporters’ club. The views expressed by him on Wild East Football may suffer from a slight bias to this effect.

He is also however, still very much a fan of his hometown team, Dunfermline Athletic. A “Par from afar”, as it were.

A passionate believer in the power of the beautiful game to build bridges between diverse peoples and cultures, he was the first foreign fan to travel with the Blue Devil fans’ club to an away match – a tremendous 3-2 victory for Shenhua over Beijng Guoan in September 2007.

Cameron speaks decent mandarin and can crack jokes in Shanghainese.

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