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“Borrowing the Chicken for Its Eggs” – What Went Wrong Between Dutch Soccer Club ADO and Chinese Owner Wang

The relationship between Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag and its Chinese owner Mr. Hui Wang has been a rocky one since the beginning. What once seemed to be the start of a successful takeover of the struggling Dutch club, has now finally reached an all-time low after the Dutch court ordered Wang to pay approximately 2.6$ million on Thursday. What went wrong in this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’?

Manya Koetse

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The relationship between Dutch soccer club ADO Den Haag and its Chinese owner Mr. Hui Wang has been a rocky one since the beginning. What once seemed to be the start of a successful takeover of the struggling Dutch club, has now finally reached an all-time low after the Dutch court ordered Wang to pay approximately 2.6$ million on Thursday. What went wrong in this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’?

The past few years have not been easy for Dutch soccer club ADO. The struggling club, that is over 110 years old, announced a takeover by Chinese company United Vansen (合力万盛), owned by Hui Wang (王辉), in the summer of 2014. Although the club was initially hopeful about United Vansen’s promised investments in the club, it soon turned out that payments failed to appear.

At the start of 2015, the club finally did receive money from United Vansen – but the affair had received a lot of media attention and relations between ADO and the Chinese owner were already going sour, especially when payments were again delayed later in 2015.

Although Wang allegedly said the delayed payments were caused by “cultural misunderstandings”, the problems were still not solved in 2016. The Dutch court has now ruled on January 5th that Hui Wang has to pay ADO nearly 2.5 million euros ($2.6 million) as part of his 2015 takeover.

Wang was not present in court on Thursday, nor did he or his lawyers attend the hearing that took place a week earlier.

Although the ‘Sino-Dutch soccer war’ is making headlines in Dutch media and international newspapers, it is receiving little media attention in China. In the Netherlands, many people are puzzled about Wang’s moves and his motivations: what went wrong?

 

THE CHINESE SOCCER DREAM

“Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs.”

 

China has great ambitions when it comes to soccer. The Chinese soccer dream is such a priority that the National Development and Reform Commission, Chinese Football Association, and the Sports Bureau and Ministry of Education have set out a visionary plan to produce one of the world’s strongest soccer teams by 2050.

China has the soccer ambition, the soccer fans, and the money – but still lags behind when it comes to successful clubs and players. To become a bigger player in the world of football, Chinese president Xi Jinping made soccer a national priority in 2015; not coincidentally the same year that Hui Wang officially took over ADO Den Haag.

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In a 2016 interview with Chinese newspaper Da Gongbao, Hui Wang was clear that his priorities were on the development of Chinese soccer, and not necessarily on saving Dutch ADO: “Of course we are borrowing the chicken for its eggs,” he said: “We are borrowing the European soccer environment to cultivate some cream of the crop players.”

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Learning from international clubs and players is seen as an important way for China to become a more relevant football nation. On social media platform Sina Weibo, Chinese sports journalist Shi Qingsheng posted a picture of Hui Wang (l) in Holland, stating: “By Hui Wang going to The Hague (..) we can better serve Chinese football and Chinese soccer fans. We all know that China’s soccer is still in the lower levels.”

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On Weibo, some netizens are clear about the fact that Wang’s plans to take over ADO had to do with his ambitions to bring Chinese players to Europe. When that did not happen, the investments stayed away.

 

AIRING DIRTY LAUNDRY

“In the Dutch media, this ‘China nightmare’ was blamed on Wang.”

 

Dutch club ADO had different dreams for the club’s future than Wang had. According to Voetbal International, one of Wang’s dreams was to bring a Chinese player to ADO and have him featured in a real-life soap on his Dutch soccer adventure.

But ADO was not willing to take the player in, since his level was far beneath that of the general soccer players at the club. It made Wang suffer a loss of face – he had to cancel all plans for the upcoming Chinese TV program.

One of Wang’s alleged bigger plans was to turn ADO into a breeding ground for Chinese players, after which they could be sold with profits. But these dreams were also thwarted by the Dutch council of ADO, that did not want to turn ADO into a Chinese “trading house.”

Another issue that caused friction was the quality of Dutch trainers sent to China. One of the many ways in which Wang hoped to use ADO for the advancement of China’s soccer dream was that ADO trainers would travel to China to train young Chinese players. But according to experts in 2015, the trainers that were sent there were practically ‘unemployed’ and relatively unknown – not what United Vansen had hoped for.

ADO trainers in China, via ADO Den Haag.

ADO trainers in China, via ADO Den Haag.

One of the ADO trainers who did travel to China, the 28-year-old Feenstra, said he “went through hell” there as he turned out to be on the wrong visa and was taken into custody. In the Dutch media, this “China nightmare” was blamed on Wang. Two other ADO trainers returned to the Netherlands within three weeks after their arrival because they found the working conditions in China too straining.

On Weibo, a statement from late 2015 denies "fake news" about Wang's late payments to ADO.

On Weibo, a statement from late 2015 denies “fake news” about Wang’s late payments to ADO.

All of these reports on late payments and “China nightmares” made headlines in the Dutch media. United Vansen shared its unhappiness about the status quo on its official Weibo page in late 2015, when they released an offical statement refuting any “fake news” about Hui Wang’s delayed payments to Dutch soccer club ADO.

 

TWO CHICKENS, NO EGGS

“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”

 

ADO’s critical approach towards Wang, the fact that they shared their dirty laundry with the Dutch press, and their unwillingness to adhere to their owner’s wishes, eventually hurt their relations beyond repair.

“Why do they turn me into their opponent after I have invested my money into them?”, Wang told RTL News in 2016.

All in all, it seems like the roots of this Sino-Dutch ‘soccer war’ can be found in the fact that the two parties, both on the Dutch and the Chinese side, were more concerned about their own goals than about those of the other.

The Dutch ADO, for 98% owned by a Chinese party, was not willing to let Chinese influences into their club – in that way ADO was also “using the chicken for its eggs.” Wang was working on his Chinese soccer dream, and not on ADO’s future.

In the end nor ADO nor Wang found the golden eggs they were hoping for. United Vansen can still appeal the Dutch court’s verdict in the days to come. It is not yet clear if they will do so.

On Weibo, the few Chinese netizens who talk about the soccer conflict seem divided. Some scold ADO for their actions, while others blame Wang for “ruining” the Dutch club.

The Chinese newspaper who covered the issue only did so briefly. As big as the ADO-Wang affair might have become in the Netherlands, for many Chinese, it is simply nothing more than a business deal gone wrong.

– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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China Media

Iran “Unintentionally” Shot Down Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752

Despite the overall condemnation of Iran, there are also many pointing the fingers at the US, writing: “It’s all because of America.”

Manya Koetse

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First published

Shortly after Iran’s military announced on Saturday that it shot down Ukrainian Airlines flight 752 on Wednesday, killing all 176 passengers on board, the topic has become the number one trending hashtag on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

In a statement by the military, Iran admitted that the Boeing 737 was flying “close to a sensitive military site” when it was “mistaken for a threat” and taken down with two missiles.

Among the passengers were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, and three British nationals.

Earlier this week, Iranian authorities denied that the crash of the Ukrainian jetliner in Tehran was caused by an Iranian missile.

The conflict between US and Iran has been a much-discussed topic on Chinese social media, also because the embassies of both countries have been openly fighting about the issue on Weibo.

Although many Chinese netizens seemed to enjoy the political spectacle on Weibo over the past few days, with anti-American sentiments flaring up and memes making their rounds, today’s news about the Iranian role in the Ukrainian passenger plane crash is condemned by thousands of commenters.

“Iran is shameless!”, one popular comment says. “This is the outcome of a battle between two terrorists!”

“Regular people are paying the price for these political games,” others write: “So many lives lost, this is the terror of war.”

The Iranian Embassy in China also posted a translated statement by President Hassan Rouhani on its Weibo account, saying the missiles were fired “due to human error.”

Despite the overall condemnation, there are also many commenters pointing the fingers at the US, writing: “It’s all because of America.”

Meanwhile, the American Embassy has not published anything about the issue on its Weibo account at time of writing.

The hashtag “Iran Admits to Unintentionally Shooting Down Ukrainian Plane” (#伊朗承认意外击落乌克兰客机#) gathered over 420 million views on Weibo by Saturday afternoon, Beijing time.

Chinese state media outlet CCTV has shared an infographic about the US-Iran conflict and the passenger jet news, writing they hope that these “flames of war” will never happen again.

By Manya Koetse
Follow @whatsonweibo

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

The Weibo Battlefield in the US-Iran Conflict: Iranian and American Embassies ‘Argue’ on Chinese Social Media

The US-Iran conflict has extended to Weibo, where Chinese netizens watch the online ‘battle’ unfold.

Manya Koetse

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“Don’t know if you all have discovered it yet, but the Iranian Embassy in China and the American Embassy in China have started to fight on Weibo,” prominent Chinese media outlet 21st Century Business Herald (21世纪经济报道) writes on Weibo on January 10th.

The Iranian and American embassies have been all the talk on Chinese social media this week. While US-Iran tensions are dominating international media headlines, the embassies of Iran and US have been taking their conflict to the Chinese social media platform.

Ever since January 3rd, when the head of Iran’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani was killed by a US airstrike in Iraq, the Beijing embassies of both the USA and Iran have engaged in an online argument over the conflict between their two countries.

The Iranian Embassy (@伊朗驻华大使馆), that has 254670 followers on its Weibo account, condemned the assassination of Soleimani on January 3rd by reposting and translating a Twitter post by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, calling it a “dangerous and foolish” act of “international terrorism.”

That post received over 23,000 likes and thousands of comments, with many of them showing support for Iran.

The US Embassy Weibo account (@美国驻华大使馆), that has over 2,5 million followers, also posted a response to the attack on January 4 by translating several quotes by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserting that the decision to kill Soleimani was the right one and that it made the world a safer place.

Although many of the thousands of netizens responding to the American Embassy’s post praised the attack, there was also a lot of criticism.

“The terrorist group ‘USA’ has claimed responsibility for this act of terrorism,” one popular comment said, with others also pointing the finger at the American government for behaving as ‘terrorists.’

With the deepening of the US-Iran crisis after the Iranian military launched missiles against US bases in Iraq earlier this week, the Weibo posts and comments just keep coming in.

On January 8, the Iranian Embassy wrote that the “end of malign US presence in West Asia has begun,” a sentence also posted on Twitter by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

In between some light-footed Weibo posts about the Golden Globes, the American Embassy published various Weibo posts explaining its stance on the situation. One post of January 7 detailed the “bloody history” of Qassem Soleimani, writing about him as a terrorist and evil man who killed hundreds of people.

The online ‘battle’ between Iran and the US has led to various hashtags, such as “The Weibo Fight of the Iranian and US Embassy of China” (#美伊驻华大使馆微博互斗#), a topic that is receiving a lot of attention on Chinese social media.

The official accounts of two foreign powers’ embassies, discussing their conflict on a Chinese social media platform, in Chinese; it’s not common, and Chinese netizens talk about it while Chinese media write about it.

One sentence* has been reposted dozens of times by Weibo users over the past days: “Here’s the world’s largest imperialist country and the world’s largest theocratic republic, on a social media platform of the world’s largest socialist nation, using Standard Chinese to engage in a fierce diplomatic fight.”

“And we’re all watching and eating popcorn,” one commenter added [literal expression used is “Chī guā qúnzhòng” (吃瓜群众), online expression for “watermelon eating masses,” meaning clueless bystanders watching the situation unfold].

The Weibo battleground has seemingly also turned into a way for the embassies to win the favor of the Chinese public; the Iranian Embassy, for example, published a post on its Weibo account that invites Chinese tourists to visit Iran during the Spring Festival and pinned it to its main page to attract the attention of readers amidst the recent online upheaval.

The online presence of the US-Iran conflict shows the importance of ‘Weibo diplomacy,’ also known as ‘Weiplomacy.’ A large number of foreign embassies in China have a presence on Sina Weibo to engage with local audiences. It is a low-cost, convenient, and seemingly effective tool to promote their countries, political goals, and inform people about their latest activities.

Over the past week, it seems that the majority of Chinese netizens have sided with Iran and condemned the US. This public sentiment, however, might have more to do with the prevailing anti-American sentiments over the past year than a general pro-Iranian stance.

In a 2016 overview of most popular foreign embassies on Weibo, the US embassy scored a number three position with its 1+ million followers, while the Iranian account only came in at number 39 with a mere 6000+ fans on its account.

Although it is unusual for foreign embassies to use Weibo as an online battleground for their offline conflicts, it is not the first time it has happened. In 2014, What’s on Weibo reported how the Beijing embassies of Russia and Poland also argued on Weibo during the aftermath of MH17 crash.

This time around, some netizens conclude that the only one to really ‘win’ in online conflicts such as these is the Weibo platform itself. As the Weibo posts keep going, the ‘melon eating masses’ keep coming. “The Sina Weibo company must be secretly laughing at this ordeal,” one person writes.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions from Miranda Barnes
Follow @whatsonweibo

* Chinese sentence: “世界上最大的帝国主义国家,跟世界上最大的政教合一的神权共和国,在世界上最大的社会主义国家的网络平台上,使用标准的汉语进行激烈的外交缠斗”

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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