Slim pickings at Real Oviedo

Mexican billionaire among unlikely band of investors saving Asturian soccer club from oblivion

Members of the Peña Azul Oviedo fan club on their way to last weekend’s match against Atlético Madrid B. / SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

A journalist, an appeal on social media, a hoax phone call, Real Madrid CF and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim make an unlikely band of saviors for a struggling soccer club but Real Oviedo has one or all of these to thank for its continuing existence.

The historic club, which currently plies its trade in Segunda B, was in desperate need of 1.9 million euros to stay afloat. An appeal was launched by Sid Lowe, The Guardian’s Liga correspondent, for people to buy shares in the struggling club at 10 euros apiece. Real Madrid chipped in with 100,000 euros and the ball was really rolling.

Slim’s involvement came through a hoax telephone call placed to his right-hand man, Arturo Elías Ayub, by a radio station in which a presenter variously pretended to be Real director Emilio Butragueño, former player Roberto Carlos and former club executive Jorge Valdano.

Ayub promptly took to the ether to confirm that he had bought 30 shares in the club. Later, he stated that Slim had invested two million euros in Oviedo after hearing of its plight. Ayub said Oviedo’s huge and passionate fan base had been a key factor in the move.

More than a business investment, it was a personal move to support the team’s fans”

“The team has a lot of qualities, an impressive history and a strong following,” Ayub said. “More than a business investment, it was a personal investment to support the team’s fans.”

Slim’s toe-dipping into the Spanish league follows his participation in two Mexican first division teams, León and Pachuca, earlier this year. Those purchases were intended to strengthen Slim’s online sports broadcasting base in the Central American country, where he is under a government ban preventing him from offering broadcast television. For Oviedo, it opens the door to loan signings from the two clubs.

Last weekend, fans of Real Oviedo living in Madrid took advantage of the club’s match against Atlético Madrid B to show their support for the Asturian team. There were hundreds more away fans than Atlético supporters at the game. “Carlos Slim investing in Oviedo gives us a lot of security. I think at the end of the day he did it because of the amazing support the team has,” said Borja García, the leader of the Peña Azul fans’ group. Every time Oviedo plays away from home, García and his colleagues hire a bus to travel to the game.

Also at Saturday’s match in Madrid was Lowe, who was approached by many fans thanking him for his effort. “It’s a slightly uncomfortable situation professionally because, being the subject of the information, I can’t write about Real Oviedo in the newspaper," he noted.

However, after some haranguing from Oviedo forward Diego Cervero, Lowe did agree to take the honorific kick-off in the Carlos Tartiere stadium next weekend.

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