Wanda-ful news for fans

Updated 2018-02-23 14:22:03 China Daily

After a near 20-year hiatus, Wanda Group is returning to Chinese soccer, hoping to rediscover the glories of the fabled Dalian Wanda FC team.

Chinese news website ifeng.com reported on Thursday that Wanda Group will take over Dalian Yifang FC, although there has been no official announcement yet from the property giant.

Founded in 1994, Dalian Wanda FC became one of the most successful teams in Chinese soccer history.

The team won the country's first professional league title in 1994 and went on to claim another seven top-flight titles, the last of those coming in 2005. It also made history by remaining undefeated for 55 consecutive games.

Fans on social media welcomed Wanda's return in a frenzy of nostalgia-fueled excitement.

"Finally, the most familiar name is coming back," wrote a fan nicknamed Xiaoage online.

"As a fan born in the '80s, watching Wanda's games is my happiest memory. The love for Dalian Wanda FC will never fade away."

In 2000, Wanda sold its team to Dalian Shide Group and 12 years later Dalian Shide FC quit the Chinese Super League.

Dalian Yifang was founded in 2009, initially as Dalian Aerbin, before being purchased by the Yifang Group in 2015.

After years in the doldrums, Yifang won China League One last season to win promotion back to the CSL under Spanish coach Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, who has since been replaced by Chinese coach Ma Lin.

Still, many fans sounded a cautionary note about Wanda's comeback - and how it will play out.

"The priority is to keep the club's position in the CSL," a fan nicknamed Clearsky wrote online.

"Although Wanda is coming back, the CSL is not the league they played in before."

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