By Igor Linnyk
Roman Abramovich shocked Europe with his move to buy Chelsea FC, and money from the former Soviet Union is also coming to a club's help in Switzerland after former European player of the year Ihor Belanov bought FC Wil 1900.
The Ukrainian, who made his money in the steel industry after his retirement from football, has linked up with his former team-mate Gennadiy Perepadenko to save Wil from bankruptcy and build a new club in their own image.
Under the banner of their New Building Design company, registered in Madrid, the partners have taken control of 51 per cent of shares in FC Wil AG - the club's parent company - paying a sum close to €200,000 to save the club from financial oblivion.
While the Russian Abramovich has made no secret of his desire to make Chelsea one of the leading clubs in Europe, Belanov and Perepadenko - strike partners at FC Chornomorets Odesa in the mid-80s - have rather more modest ambitions in Switzerland. Slow progress is more important to the Ukrainians than the more dramatic approach fostered by Chelsea.
We would like to build a pyramid, which would allow the whole club to progress - that includes not only players, but coaches as well," said club development director Mikhail Oshemkov, who studied western club management methods while working for FC Dynamo Kyiv. "We are bracing ourselves for systematic work."
There is certainly little doubt that Wil's new owners know plenty about football. Belanov played for Dynamo before moving on to Germany to join VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach, while Perepadenko played for FC Spartak Moskva after leaving Chornomorets and more recently has been living and working in Spain.
Belanov's footballing credentials were further enhanced when he founded a football academy in his native Odessa, where ten coaches train up to 350 young players. Having been part of the management team that led FC Metalurh Mariupil to promotion to the Ukrainian Premier League, he also knows how to run a club.
The first thing Belanov is planning is a spate of new signings. after the loss of five key players this summer. Dusan Pavlovic, Thomas Balmer and Bruno Sutter joined FC St. Gallen, while Marc Zellweger has returned to 1. FC Köln and Gerardo Morales moved to Grasshopper-Club.
'Bracing for change'
After Wil's 5-3 aggregate defeat by FC Nantes Atlantique in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, Belanov made his ambitions clear. "We have personnel problems," he said. "
We are bracing for change, looking for new signings, including Ukrainian international Serhiy Rebrov."
Work may also need to be done on Wil's Bergholz stadium. With a capacity of 7,500 for domestic games, a shortage of seating forced UEFA to downgrade its capacity for European games to just 2,000. However, the overriding mood is one of optimism.
'The ideal place'
"We chose Wil because of the young and dynamic people who work here and are looking to build something just like we are," said Belanov. "We will be training kids from across Switzerland and from other countries, looking to reach the UEFA Cup in the future. Wil is the ideal place for such a quest."
Indeed, Belanov has been so enchanted by the club that he is considering a permanent move to the area. "This club has a young and healthy heart," he said. "I must admit I am even thinking of moving here with my whole family."
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