Valencia fans believe S'pore businessman Peter Lim will revive club

Valencia fans believe S'pore businessman Peter Lim will revive club

I don't know where Singapore is, except that it's in Asia, but it doesn't matter. I believe in him. -Sergio Torrero

He is not the same as other foreign owners. He's with us because he loves his football, not because he is a businessman. -Mr Toni Almudever

Sergio Torrero does not know where Singapore is on the world map.

But the 15-year-old has adopted the Republic as his "second country", ever since Singaporean tycoon Peter Lim swooped in to bail out financially-troubled Valencia CF.

Even before Los Che kicked off against Malaga in their first home game of the season this morning (Singapore time), Mr Lim had become the de-facto owner.

All that is left before the official announcement of the takeover are paperwork and formality, which are expected to be completed by the end of next month.

Torrero, sitting at a cafe just outside the majestic 55,000-seater Mestalla Stadium, told The New Paper yesterday: "Peter Lim is our messiah. We can't tell you how happy we are that he's going to be our owner.

"We have been waiting for someone to come to our rescue and he appeared as our saviour.

"I don't know where Singapore is, except that it's in Asia, but it doesn't matter. I believe in him."

Torrero was among a group of 50 devoted Valencianistas, as Valencia fans like to call themselves, to welcome the players at the stadium ahead of their clash with Malaga.

This was some 10 hours before kick-off.

The club share a special relationship with the fans.

Valencia pride themselves as a family club, and see the fans as their backbone.

The feeling is mutual. The splendid Monument a L'aficio facing the stadium was erected in honour of the supporters.

Any football public relations expert worth his salt will know that the toughest thing for a foreign football club owner is to win over the fans, and Mr Lim has somehow done that in a flash.

Mr Alejandro Pla, 39, a lifelong Valencia fan and former journalist, told this reporter that when fans took to the streets to protest against Spanish bank Bankia earlier this month, many held placards in support of Mr Lim.

He added that to Valencia fans, the crucial thing they want to see in a new owner is his passion for football.

Mr Pla is not alone.

Artist Toni Almudever was clad in a Valencia jersey and seated on a stone bench beside the Mestalla.

Mention "Peter Lim" to him and his eyes light up instantly.

Mr Almudever said: "We have waited a long time for someone like him, a good man with honour and the courage to lift us out of trouble.

"He's not the same as other foreign owners. He's with us because he loves his football, not because he's a businessman, which is why I'm not worried at all about his intentions."

A huge Red Devils fan, Mr Lim has a box seat at Old Trafford and owns exclusive rights to run a chain of Manchester United-themed restaurants and bars in Asia.

Mr Lim had previously tried to buy Liverpool and, according to reports, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid as well.

It helped that Valencia needed a rich benefactor to lift them out of the hole they had dug for themselves.

DEBTS

Their debts are well-documented. To cut a long story short, the financial crisis which began in 2008 hit La Liga hard as advertising revenue and sponsorship dollars began to diminish.

Valencia, like many other Spanish clubs, slipped into trouble and began selling star players such as David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata.

For a team who reached the Champions League final as recently as 2000 and 2001, this was hard for the fans to stomach.

Things came to a head last December, when Bankia refused to refinance the club.

Enter Mr Lim.

Mr Nacho Ros, 22, succinctly summed up the perception of Mr Lim in Valencia.

He said: "As fans, we are all disillusioned. But Peter Lim gave us reason to dream again."

As the team bus left the premises, the same group who had greeted them earlier was there to wave them goodbye.

Hope has returned to Valencia, thanks to one Singaporean.


This article was first published on August 30, 2014.
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