Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan and an FK Sarajevo football fan pose for a picture during his visit to the Bosnian capital last week.
PETALING JAYA: For FK Sarajevo, Tan Sri Vincent Tan is like Santa Claus.
The Malaysian tycoon, already the owner of English Championship side Cardiff City, came to Sarajevo on Christmas day last year and bought the two-time Bosnian Premier League champions FK Sarajevo. Now, there is money for the club to expand their activities and be a force in Europe.
The 62-year-old businessman, valued at US$1.6bil (RM5.07bil) by Forbes, has pumped in a few million euros to restore the club’s financial stability.
The cash injection was spent to wipe off some of the club’s debts but a bigger portion of it has been set aside for the construction of a brand new training ground.
It proved to be money well-spent for Vincent as the capital-based club clinched the Bosnian Cup in May this year to qualify for this season’s Europa League. It was their first triumph since winning the Bosnian League in 2007.
FK Sarajevo also finished a creditable third in the league last season.
The Sarajevo outfit, founded in 1946, are a club with a rich history and massive reputation. Nicknamed the Bordo-Bijeli (The Maroon Whites), they are considered one of the most successful clubs from Bosnia in former Yugoslavia. They were twice winners of the Yugoslav First League crowns. Then, top sides like Red Star Belgrade, Partizan Belgrade, Hadjuk Split and Dinamo Zagreb played in the league before the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
Safet Susic, who coached the Bosnian national team at the recent Brazil World Cup, was a former FK Sarajevo player.
Unfortunately, the club fell on hard times in recent years.
Now with Vincent on board, FK Sarajevo see a bright future ahead.
“Vincent’s arrival has stabilised our beloved club,” said FK Sarajevo general manager Dino Selimovic.
“He came on board with a sincere intention to assist us and he shared our club’s vision and philosophy. And he did not demand immediate success.
“But we have set a goal, that’s to be a dominant force again in five years’ time. We want to regularly make it to the Europa League or Champions League,” added Selimovic.
Vincent recently returned to Sarajevo to watch FK Sarajevo in action in a home match against Norwegian rivals FK Haugesund at the Asim Ferhatovic Hase Stadium in the Europa League second-round, first-leg qualifying match on July 17. Despite dominating the match, FK Sarajevo lost 1-0.
Selimovic said FK Sarajevo fans were thankful of Vincent’s cash injection as the club begin the long journey back to the top.
“It’s all looking good now and I believe there are better things to come under Vincent’s ownership. He is now very popular and fondly known by people in Sarajevo as Amidza, which means Uncle in our language.
“Our immediate priority is to make use of the funds available to construct a training centre-cum-academy for the club.
“Despite being one of the biggest clubs in the country, we don’t even have our own proper training ground and facilities. We’ve been renting all this while.
“So it’s essential to have our own facilities where we can place all under one roof – our first team, youth team as well as an academy.
“Our new academy will be massive. We need a sustainable development. We want to see more quality players being groomed from our very own development programme,” added Selimovic.