By Cal Widdall
The current Brazilian champions Corinthians have signed former Shanghai Shenhua youth team player Chen Zhizhao on a two year deal. The team has made no secret of the fact that he was signed based on a recommendation from the marketing department, whose director reportedly claimed last year that they were planning to bring in “any old rubbish from China” in order to promote their brand in Asia.
Betraying the standard industry approach to signing Chinese players – claiming the player’s nationality wasn’t a consideration, and the new market of 1.3 bajillion people hadn’t even occurred to them – Club official Roberto De Andrade made the following comments on Arena SporTV (translation by Goal.com):
“Having a Chinese player is part of our bid to start opening the commercial market between Corinthians and China.
We want to have a store in China for Corinthians. We can play pre-season friendlies too. And if you have a Chinese player, I think the doors open with more ease.”
The team’s president, Mario Gobbi, even announced plans for an offshoot team to play in China. He said this would be done not only for financial reasons, but also to nurture talent.
Despite the reasons for his transfer from Nanchang Hengyuan (who picked up stakes and are now getting into fights with Shenhua in their new incarnation as Shanghai Shenxin), the 23-year-old attacking midfielder has already proved popular with fans, 5000 of whom voted in the club’s online poll to decide their new player’s nickname. ‘Zizao’, as a 43% majority have decided to name him, will be given the shirt number 200 to celebrate 200 years of Chinese immigration to Brazil (and, presumably, not the amount of competitive minutes he will play before quietly returning to China in two years time).
In a recent interview with the club, ‘Zizao’ claimed that his hero is Ronaldo (the fat one, rather than the duckface advocate), who was also signed for Corinthians based on a recommendation by the marketing department.
The now ginormous striker played for the Brazilian champions between 2009-11, before acknowledging that injuries (and his snowman-esque physique) had overruled his hunger for the game.
Unlike his hunger for pies, which will never be overruled. NOM NOM!