Here is Part One of a Two-Part piece in an introduction to the two newly promoted sides in the Chinese Super League. First up it’s 2017’s Chinese League One Champions Dalian Yifang.
A stellar 2017 saw Yifang take the top spot and make history, being the first promotion and piece of silverware since the Yifang group took over from the previous Aerbin group. A small, yet indeed an important fact in their history is that they have been at the very top in Chinese football before and stayed there until the Aerbin group started losing money and with issues paying the players unfolding, which saw the end to their top-flight stint. Not long after, the Yifang group took over the club and rebranded the side Dalian Yifang from it’s original Dalian Aerbin. In its first year since the takeover, they came third in the Chinese League One and failed to gain promotion back to the top flight in China. All of this has passed now and Yifang are looking to build extensively on their promotion campaign the season prior.
The Manager: Ma Lin
The man looking to build extensively on Yifang is Ma Lin. The 55-year-old had a very successful footballing career based in China, predominantly with Liaoning. He won six Chinese first division titles, two Chinese FA Cups and two Asian Club Championships. In winning all of these with Liaoning FC he became a cult legend there. To top off his playing career he played 45 times for China, scoring 21, competing at events such as the Olympics and the Asian Games.
As a manager Ma Lin has worked all over China and has most notably had 3 spells with, you guessed it, Liaoning FC. In 2014 he was caretaker manager of Dalian Aerbin so it only seemed right that he came back to Dalian to help them grow in the CSL.
Star Player: Yannick Boli
The former PSG prospect has spent the last few years in Russia until he signed for Yifang in 2017. In that one season he made an impact, helping lead them to the Chinese League One title by scoring 16 goals in just 24 games. He’ll look to be a force again in the CSL.
Notable Chinese Player: Zhu Xiaogang
He may not be a star but Xiaogang has been with Dalian since the Aerbin days and has amassed over 130 appearances for them. He’s seen them in the CSL, he’s seen them in CL2, and now he’ll be back in the top flight with the team he has been loyal to.
Star New Signing: Mate Males
Meet Dalian’s newest foreign investment, the classy Croatian Mate Males. The holding midfielder/playmaker has represented Croatia at every level including one appearance for the first team. He was also captain of HNK Rijeka, whom he left to join Yifang. He was sold for over £400,000.
The Dalian ride has been a long and frantic one but with some stability they may be able to make big progress and with Yifang showing intent on staying in the CSL for the long term they will need to.
How do you think they’ll fair this season?