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Greenland promise to return “Shenhua” to club name, fans sceptical

Greenland group have agreed to put “Shenhua” back in the official name of the club by the end of the year, but fan representatives gave the promise a very cautious welcome.

At a meeting last night attended by the media, Greenland and Shenhua’s main fan groups, the club said it would alter the name “as soon as circumstances permit”, declining to give a specific timeframe beyond the start of the 2015 season.

Club chairman Wu Xiaohui explained that Greenland’s take over of the club had been rather abrupt, coming just before Chinese New Year at the end of January leaving no time to take care of naming issue problems.

Be said, “Because Shanghai Shenhua Liancheng FC (the previous owners of the club) still exist so we could not use “Shenhua” in the club’s name. However, our CEO Zhang Yuliang specially requested we keep “Shenhua” in the name somewhere, hence we have the name “Shanghai Greeland FC, Shanghai Greenland Shenhua team.”

He continued, “Once the historical problems we inherited from Liancheng have been solved, and as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the club, and with the approval of the relevant authorities, we will return “Shenhua” to the club’s name at the most appropriate moment.”

“Taking over Shenhua has no real benefit for Greenland itself other than showing social responsibility,” he added.

Blue Devil’s fan group spokesman, Frank Ding, took part in the talks. Afterwards he told media he welcomed the news but expressed concerns over the lack of a concrete plan from Greenland.

“We can accept what Greenland have said for now… but no-one has said that we can be 100% sure the name will be changed back by the end of the year, and this worries me –  far as Shenhua fans are concerned, we want to see the name changed back tomorrow, but, anyway, this thing has already happened,” said Ding,  “For now, as long as “Shenhua” has not been returned to the clubs name, we reserve the right to protest.”

Word on the terrace is that the Shenhua fans do not trust Greenland’s pledge to return Shenhua to the club’s name.”It’s just a trick, Greenland lost a lot of face at the match last week with the fans protesting – the city mayor was there as was Greenland’s big boss,” said one fan,  “With this supposed promise, which is not even a promise because there are a lot of pre-conditions, they can turn the media even more against the fans than they already are, if we continue to protest we will be criticized and the general public will lose sympathy for us.”

The fan’s comments referred to a strong feeling that sections of the media were attacking fans rather than supporting their efforts to oppose the change. Fans also protested against Zhu Jun’s take over of the club in 2007 over concerns the club’s identity would be lost in the then merger with Shanghai United, Zhu’s previous club, and many allege the media coverage of that protest was much more supportive compared with the current state of affairs.

Passions are still running high in the city. Frank Ding had on Friday been a guest on a discussion panel on Five Star Sports radio and launched an impassioned yet rational defence of the Shenhua name, becoming an instant hero with Shenhua fans online – including one female weibo user who offered her hand in marriage to Ding in what appeared to be a light-hearted gesture of support, but one which summed up the mood.

Shenhua fan groups are currently discussing a formal response to Greenland’s overture and an announcement is expected soon.

A leading international commentator on Chinese football frequently quoted by the world's top media. Offers piercing and resolutely honest insights into the bustling crossroads where football, society, economics and politics meet in contemporary China. Based in Shanghai since 2005, observer of the Chinese game since 2000.

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