Advanced Search
Business | Metro | Nation | World | Sports | Features | Specials | Delta Stories
Liancheng moves in for Zobon
24/12/2005 9:19

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 league.

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 honors.