Valencia eye love affair with Singapore

Valencia eye love affair with Singapore
KALLANG NEXT? Valencia defender Shkodran Mustafi (centre, in white) tackling Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski in a friendly in Beijing on July 18.
PHOTO: Reuters

With Singapore owner Peter Lim in place, and their first overseas office opened here at Great World City as well, La Liga's fastest-growing football club Valencia CF are walking the talk when they say they want to mean something to folk in the Lion City.

Indeed, Valencia's commercial and marketing director Peter Draper revealed yesterday Valencia, nicknamed Los Che, could play here next July, and to solidify their links in the country, they are open to help develop local football in terms of aiding coaches and helping groom young talent.

In an interview at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia yesterday, the 63-year-old Englishman told The New Paper: "Depending on the availability of the Sports Hub, I'm hoping we will be able to come here next year.

"We would love to and we are working on things, so hopefully you will see us playing a game here next year.

"We also had really good meetings with (Football Association of Singapore general secretary) Winston Lee about how we will be able to support the sport across a variety of levels.

"If it means coaching coaches, helping young players become better, we can do that here or back in Valencia. These are all in a very formative stage of discussions.

"Over time, I would like to think of us as part of the structure of football here, a part of Singaporean life, and Singaporeans can celebrate the fact that Valencia's owner is a successful Singaporean."

Valencia are still playing catch-up with the bigger European clubs who have set up shop throughout the world, but opening their first overseas office in Singapore signifies their ambition to court a global audience.

FOR THE FUTURE

"We are here for the future, and embed ourselves in the culture and sport here," said Draper, who has enjoyed success working on branding with leading sports and entertainment profiles like Manchester United, Umbro sportswear, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo and J K Rowling.

"We will become more relevant here if we are patient. We are interested in performing on the football pitch, engaging a global audience with content through new media and doing well commercially in terms of sponsorship, licensing, retail, intellectual property, touring, etc..."

There is also the possibility of having a first Singapore footballer in La Liga, although Draper conceded that the Spanish top flight still lags behind the English Premier League and German Bundesliga in terms of enlisting Asian players.

He said: "I'd love for us to sign an Asian player tomorrow, personally, but I'm not the coach.

"The important thing is we have good players. We have people who know what a good player looks like and how to get them. If we can find one in Asia, we will take him. Will it make a difference to us commercially? Yeah, absolutely.

"The Singapore goalkeeper (Izwan Mahbud) played an absolute blinder against Japan making 23 saves and you go, 'Crikey! Can he do that every week?' I don't know. Other people make judgments around that.

"We would love to find an Asian footballer, but it's been easier for South Americans, to be honest, in terms of language, culture and the network that has existed between clubs and South America over the years. It's not been as easy with Asia for La Liga."

What Draper is confident of, however, is that Valencia have a good crop of players like Dani Parejo, Diego Alves, Alvaro Negredo, Shkodran Mustafi and Paco Alcacer, who will form the foundation as they look to challenge the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly, and the increasing power of Atletico Madrid.

NOT IMPOSSIBLE

"Is it difficult? Yeah. Is it impossible? No, Atletico showed it can be done," he insisted, referring to Atletico's La Liga triumph last year. "We've given a good account of ourselves in the last year, so it's doable.

"Only one team can win every year, but we got to be there or thereabouts.

"We got to be Valencia. We haven't got to be Real Madrid. We don't want to be Barcelona, or Manchester United. We want to be Valencia and authentic, in that sense.

"We've spent a fair bit, not crazy amounts. We chose a particular route, the coach wants to do that. Some of these guys look as though they have just finished the paper round, they are still going to school, they are young guns. If they are good enough, they are old enough." It definitely seems that Lim has found the right recipe and ingredients in his first year at the helm, after the club climbed four places to finish in fourth spot last season, improving by 28 points from the previous season.

Said Draper: "For Peter Lim personally, I think it has been tremendously rewarding. For the fans, it is just a joy.

"From being nearly bankrupt, to turn that around and have no debt, and to be able to develop a new stadium in time for our centenary in 2019, genuinely, there is nothing but joy in Valencia.

"It is an unqualified success in every dimension - the ownership being welcomed, the ownership proving themselves to be interested, caring about the fans at every level."

VALENCIA'S ROLL OF HONOUR

La Liga champions: 2003/04, 2001/02, 1970/71, 1946/47, 1943/44, 1941/42

Spanish Cup champions: 2008, 1999, 1979, 1967, 1954, 1949, 1941

Uefa Cup champions:2003/04, 1962/63, 1961/62

Champions League runners-up:1999/00, 2000/01

davidlee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 29, 2015.
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