Ailing Chinese club Tianjin saved at 11th hour

Shanghai (AFP) – Debt-riddled Chinese Super League (CSL) club Tianjin Tianhai were saved at the 11th hour after a new investor stepped in to rescue Fabio Cannavaro’s former club on Friday.

A string of lower-league Chinese football teams has folded in recent weeks, and Tianjin were set to become the biggest casualty of what state media called “a bleak winter”.

But Tianjin, who were available for free but are reportedly saddled with vast debt, said in a statement that Beijing-based real-estate company Vantone had come to the rescue.

No financial details were revealed.

Tianjin, who escaped relegation from the CSL last season by four points, once had Cannavaro as coach and Brazilian international Alexandre Pato in attack.

But the founder of the Quanjian Group, the club’s owner at the time, was arrested in January last year on charges of organising a pyramid scheme.

The club, once synonymous with big spending in the CSL, was thurst into the hands of the local sports bureau and renamed Tianjin Tianhai.

Chinese football is indefinitely suspended because of the coronavirus but Tianjin face a rush to bolster their squad in time for the season, which could begin as early as April.

The club in China’s northeast on Thursday asked fans desperate about their side’s plight not to gather outside team headquarters for fear they could spread the disease to each other.

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