On the face of it, ADO Den Haag seemed like an unlikely club to be the latest takeover target for rich foreign investors.
True, the club has a long history (it’s 110 years old) and The Hague is a one club city in a country with a deep footballing history.
But ADO has never won the Eredivisie (although it did win the old regional play off finals twice during World War Two) and had garnered a reputation for some of the toughest hooligans in Europe.
As one supporter proudly told me when I went to a recent game, the club made it in to the New York Times once: when a short report in 1982 detailed how the club’s fans were suspected of burning their own stadium down.
But in 2014 a Chinese investor called Wang Hui emerged from nowhere to buy the club. He turned up to training, turned up to the games, promised money, players and European football. And then … he appeared to go missing.
The money stopped coming and the club had to hold a press conference to admit that they could not get hold of Mr Wang.
Chinese investment in European football is a big issue right now, after Manchester City sold a stake in the club to Chinese investors after China’s President Xi Jinping visited the North West on a recent state visit. Xi is known to be a huge football fan. The question is: why has China started investing in football? And what can we expect?
So I wrote this for the New York Times about the past 18 months. This is a story, I am sure, that will run and run…
P.S. The photo at the top? That was taken before a recent game with Willem II (which ended 1-1). “Opa Hooligan” means “Grandfather Hooligan” in Dutch.
So, it turns out that Wang Hui still hasn’t sent any money, leaving the club in serious trouble. He did, however, give an interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS where he was pretty angry about the management of the club.
Still, I went back to The Hague for the start of the Dutch league, which just happened to be the highest risk game in Dutch football, v Ajax. the ADO fans had promised some banners and songs against Wang if the money hadn’t arrived. But there was none of that. Instead, there were monkey chants directed at one of Ajax’s black players.
I spoke to the president of the supporters’ group and the ADO right back Gianni Zuiverloon, who was on the pitch when he heard the chants, for this BBC World Service World Football report.
Not a great few months for the club…