Many might see Shenzhen as place ‘without culture’ – a megacity of malls. Others find a gap in the market and see opportunity. Thiago Lobo, an avid football fan, has worked within the field of AI and football for the past six years in Shenzhen. Five months ago, one of his investors, Shanghai Bank, held a football tournament and asked him if he knew any amateur teams with foreigners that could join. Airfare fully covered.
This sparked an idea for Lobo. He noticed that Shenzhen really only had one professional football team, in comparison to cities overseas which usually had three to five. So, Lobo along with former professional players on the Brazil National team, Belem and Djair, started recruiting. They found coaches and players from Brazil, Colombia, the UK and US, taking the best, and created Galáticos Shenzhen F.C.
Lobo tells us over a phone call, “Anyone can create an amateur football team, pick some players and choose a name. But they don’t have the resources (training, kits) for the players. We’re the first to create a base of an amateur team with the potential to be professional.”
Lobo is taking a very professional approach for his team. He’s registered the logo, website, company, WeChat account and other marketing materials as his goal is to be top-tier.
Unlike most other amateur teams who only meet to compete, Galáticos meets once a week to train and once for matches. To date, they’ve played three matches and won all with over 10 goals each. The first was against a middle-level Chinese team, and they finished 14-3, while the other was an 8 v 8 match against Monsters F.C, and most recently they played against the SZ Dragons, 12-2.
Inaugration ceremony of Galáticos Shenzhen F.C. at Brass House. Image via Galáticos Shenzhen F.C.
By the end of the year, Lobo hopes the team will join professional Chinese league in addition to creating partnerships with foreign professional clubs. He has his sights set on bringing players overseas and vice versa to create a channel. He’s already received feedback from big clubs like Inter Milan on his project and hopes to get large companies like Tencent as future sponsors.
“Football is very popular in China, it’s Xi Jinping’s favorite sport. There’s lots of investment there. China’s national team already has a plan for 2035.”
Image via Galáticos Shenzhen F.C.
The current team. Image via Galáticos Shenzhen F.C.
At the heart of these ambitious plans is Lobo’s longing for community. Not only does he want to create a top-tier football club, he also wants to create a better sense of community and incentives for players to stay. Shenzhen, like any other city filled with expats can be a very transient environment. Every game there’s hongbao and rewards for players, in addition to dinners, socials and BBQs planned on the event calendar.
For Galáticos’ up-to-date schedule, click here.
[Cover image via Galáticos Shenzhen F.C.]