BEIJING - A Chinese real estate tycoon who
pledged to spend 500 million yuan ($77.3 million) to boost
football in the country over the next three years has taken
offence at comparisons with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
Wang Jianlin, the chairman of Dalian Wanda, said his path to
fortune had been nothing like that taken by the Russian
"It's a shame to be compared to the Russian billionaire. I
feel ashamed to be mentioned with him," he said.
"He accumulated his wealth by monopolising his country's
natural resources," Wang was quoted as saying in the China Daily
newspaper on Wednesday. "I set up my business empire step by
step, competing fiercely in the market."
Wang insisted he would not use Chinese football as his private
recreation. The Dalian chairman said investment in Chinese
football was "necessary support to push it out from the bottom."
He added: "[Abramovich] treats football as a kind of amusement
in his luxury life while I am really concerned about the sport's
poor situation in the country.
"I am keen to lift it from the valley."
Dalian Wanda is not new to the football scene.
In 1993 it established the professional Dalian Wanda club,
but the company sold up in 2000 disillusioned at the lack of
progress of Chinese football.
Chinese football has lurched from crisis to crisis in recent
years, disgruntled fans turning away amid corruption scandals,
match-fixing and violence on and off the pitch.
"After all the [corruption] I hated the game deeply at that
time," said Wang. "I can't say I still love football now.
"However, as an entrepreneur I felt the responsibility on my
shoulders so I just came back to push it. I am not a saviour."
The new deal reached between Dalian Wanda and the Chinese
Football Association will include the hiring of top foreign
coaches and sending young players to Europe for training.
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