Santander League 2022 – 2023
‘El Mundo’ neatly displays the Chinese toy businessman, owner of the blue-and-white unit since 2015
Chen Yansheng (Pumei, Guangdong, China, 1970) speaks slowly and has a very low voice. The pink shirt peeking out from under the dark Mao-collar jacket is the stark contrast to a formal demeanor that abruptly changes as journalists move away from tough business issues and toward passion. That’s when he relaxes, when his lips draw a smile and the sentences are no longer short and distinct, prompting his interpreter, Mao Ye, Espanyol’s CEO, to lengthen the translation. Chen Yansheng, the toy tycoon founder of Raster Group, better known as Mr. Chen ever since he took control of the Blue and White Club, doesn’t budge when asked about his humble origins. “I have nothing to hide”.
- see backside.
- My parents were farmers. I was born and raised in a very small town in southern China with my sisters, one older and one younger. It’s called a pomi. When I was 25 years old my father passed away. Then I was free. I started entrepreneurship at a very young age.
- How did you build your toy empire?
- I was a lucky person. This coincided with a good time in China and took advantage of the country’s decades of development, where there were many opportunities. Based on the Chinese philosophy, with a stable family, everything is prosperity. I always had a family that supported me a lot, and prosperity too. It helped me a lot to get started.
- Which toy changed your life?
- [Sonre y su gestualidad cambia], An electronic soccer ball that spins on its own and which I made in 1995. It was very new at that time. But I had great success with the 1998 World Cup in France, with a ball that included music. It was a complete success. It was a hanging ball. You gave it a touch and it started ringing: “O, o”.
- What is money for you? Is this what is taken for granted in capitalist culture?
- Money is a tool that can help you fulfill your desires, but you have to understand that it is just a tool. Everyone should follow his happiness. Like in football. I like this. Money helps me be closer to football. In our company, the most famous products are cars (radio-controlled, scales, replicas for children…). As I was saying, I started by making an electronic soccer ball. But I also love cars. So I also decided to make them as toys for collectors… I remember when Real Madrid commissioned me for cars in the 90s, for merchandising or gifts that the club gave to its guests was. As a thank you, Madrid asked me what I needed. And I ordered a resin shirt. I still have it on display at my toy factory.
- Where does so much interest in football come from?
- I was attracted to football from a very young age. It comes from family. My father was a big fan, and we, his kids, used to watch games with him. Of all the world
- Did you save the Espanyol from ruin?
- I would not say so much that he saved her, but rather that he guided me a lot to my happiness. I approached Espanyol because I loved football. Incidentally, after a trip to Barcelona and when I fell in love with the city, I learned that Espanyol had this opportunity. You don’t have to chase money, but your profession. Make your profession, make your hobby, earn money.
- Seven years ago I bought Espanyol. I promised to take him to Europe. The team qualified for the Europa League, but was then relegated, only to be promoted again shortly after. and now?
- It has been seven very intense years, many experiences and many ups and downs. When I arrived, the main difficulty was the financial and sporting situation of the club. In the first years we put a lot of effort to clean Espanyol, we built a sports base. Then we reached the Europa League, but in the midst of a pandemic we immediately faced relegation. There have been extraordinary events, but they are the ups and downs that greatly enrich the experience.
- Can a sports club, where emotions and history come together, be managed like a normal company?
- This is characteristic of football. It is a football club, but also a company. Whether we like it or not, these two legs are intertwined.
- You have made a very significant investment in Espanyol. If we compare the turnover of the Premier League with that of La Liga, do you regret investing in Spain, not England?
- Other factors drove investment more, not so much economic. I like football, I like Barcelona. I represent a lot with the values of Espanyol. I don’t know if any English club will attract me in future. But today I feel it was right for me to invest in the league.
- Are you satisfied with the management of LaLiga chief Javier Tebas?
- From a management point of view, LaLiga does quite well. And Javier Tebas has taken a number of measures to make the championship prosper in the medium and long term. He is a very good president. It has given rise to several control regulation norms, much needed measures. There can never be future prosperity without clear rules. Espanyol respects these rules and we do our best to accommodate them.
- What sets it apart from the Arab sheikhs and the club-state model?
- I don’t see anything. It is incomparable. And Espanyol has nothing to do with that type of club.
- And about philosophy? Other sole proprietors make extravagance.
- The path that Espanyol has to follow is to take firm and progressive steps. We cannot stand still. Standing still is like stepping back. But if you try to make a big jump you can fall. And that falling is very hard. The safest and most stable thing to do is to take drastic measures, however small they may be. But we are sure that they will help the club move forward.
- How did he experience the years of political upheaval in India? process, Were you worried that political conflict would affect Espanyol?
- We are diverse and transversal in our club, that’s something very positive. We are united by the passion of blue and white and a football club, which is precisely because of its uniqueness and respect for all who feel it out of emotion,
- In all this time, what have you learned or wondered about Spain and Catalonia? What has caught your attention the most?
- We are going to talk about similarities that sometimes we overestimate the differences. The great similarity of Barcelona and Catalonia with the place where I was born is the culture of the sea, of the coast. Coastal societies are much more open. In China they are considered more receptive to what is different than what is outside. I didn’t notice any big cultural difference.
- The Chinese football team is ranked 78th between Uzbekistan and Gabon in the FIFA rankings. I won’t even play the world cup this year [slo ha participado una vez en su historia, en la edicin de Corea del Sur y Japn en 2002] Why doesn’t Chinese football develop? Does the Chinese government help you invest like you did with Espanyol?
- This is an investment abroad. But the growth of Chinese football has been somewhat stagnant in recent years due to the pandemic, even because of the generational change of its players. The selection generation has not been good. It has had very bad results. But the Chinese government has a commitment to sports, it wants to promote sports activities at the national level. Also, there have been six restricted investment areas for Chinese capital overseas for more than five years, and football is one of them. This limit is still there.
- How has your business group been affected by COVID and now the war in Ukraine?
- The region most affected by the epidemic in China is playing. We haven’t had a very significant impact in our group.
- The hiring of striker Wu Lei was a big bet for the Spanish league’s entry into Espanyol and China. What do you assess now that you have left? It was said at that time that his arrival would have a great impact on the expansion of trade. Was it a great experience or was the effect less than expected?
- I rate very positively. Wu Lei was a very professional player. He installed all the facilities that came. When he had minutes, he did everything possible. And this last time, with minutes already short, he asked to return to China so that Espanyol would have more room to maneuver in this summer’s market. He proposed it because he felt that his stage was over. He himself admitted that the club needed more strength than just capturing that file. Wu Lei came to Espanyol in his splendor. He was the top national scorer in the Golden Ball, China, and his team was the champion of the Super League. It was then the best time for his club to renew and ask for a pay increase. But he preferred to come to Espanyol for less earnings.
- Espanyol now has to manage the position of team star Ral de Tomes, who has not been able to, despite his desire to leave.
- Although he has shown an interest in leaving and has had to stay, he is an important asset to the club.
- Has Espanyol increased its value as a club since you bought it?
- We haven’t done a market valuation, but my feeling is that the club is now worth a lot.
- Have you received many offers to sell it?
- Direct contact, no. These are rumours, just people talking.
- He spoke of a philosophy of small but firm steps. I don’t know if he is aware of the expectations of Espanyol fans. Could this be a source of frustration in a sport where immediate success is sought?
- Of course I understand fans, because I am a fan myself. I totally understand the sentimental football part. But from the management, we should take the path that we think is good for the club and in the long term. Through the work we are confident that fans will see results. And, in the long run, understand that it was for the best. The least we can say is that Espanyol will not sell assets to sign, and will not have to sell players to pay off debt as before.
- remotely running the club [Chen Yansheng no viajaba a Barcelona desde febrero de 2020]No danger of losing perspective?
- Regarding that aspect… I understand it in two aspects: frequency and depth of contact. As for frequency, there is no problem as it is solved through technology. I talk to the people of the club regularly. And regarding depth, distance is not something that worries me. There are tools and people who help me achieve this.
- What are your aspirations with Espanyol?
- My dream is to see it grow, with my work and dedication. I will not stop this growth.
- Is that hard to do when your neighbor is Barra?
- If Espanyol has been growing for 122 years, that means it has enough material to continue on its way.
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Reference from www.elmundo.es