Shanghai Daily News
Shanghai Zobon's brief honeymoon with top-flight domestic soccer was as
abrupt as its foray into the Chinese big league.
Zobon, which finished 11th in the 16-team CSL last season, was taken over by
a local IT tycoon, who expectedly gave it a fresh new image.
Zhu Jun, the billionaire owner of the Nasdaq-listed online game operator, the
Ninth City, coughed up around 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) to get his hands
on the club.
The newly formed Shanghai Liancheng will retain much of Zobon's old squad but
will also bring in new faces. Some of the additions is expected to come from
Zhu's old club, Shanghai Ninth City.
Ninth City competed in the second division last season. Zhu offloaded the
club to make way for the new purchase as the Chinese Football Association
regulations forbid one business from owning two clubs at the same time.
Those likely to join Liancheng will most likely include former Ninth City
player-coach Qi Hong, who was one of the key members of the Chinese national
side which competed in the 2002 World Cup.
"A CSL-standard operation is a challenging mission for us, particularly under
the current difficult circumstances," admitted Fu Peng, Liancheng's general
manager. "But we would like to try out the best we can."
Zobon was battling financial difficulties in its very first year in top
The sport has struggled with match-fixing allegations, poor play and bad
refereeing forcing sponsors to flee.
Besides, established sides like Shanghai Shenhua SVA and International
Shanghai also made it difficult for Zobon as it bid for some market space.
International Shanghai has relocated to the northwestern city of Xi'an for
next season, meaning Liancheng will only have to battle Shenhua for local