Lebanese investor buys majority stake in Italian Lega Pro club

Ali Zaayter have bought a 97 percent stake of Varese Football Club

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After Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, it's now Lebanon's turn to show its interest in European football.

Ali Zaayter, a Lebanese businessman, has recently bought 97 percent of an Italian Lega Pro club.

“Varese Football Club is among the most important teams in Europe, especially in Italy … It is an achievement and as a Lebanese I am very proud of what I have done,” Zaayter told Al Arabiya News Channel’s Mohammed Nubani.

“I'm glad I'm [investing] in sports; I hope it will work out,” Zaayter said, acknowledging that Italy is renowned for being one of the top European footballing countries with leading teams.

Varese Football Club, which was founded in March 1910, has played in Italy’s professional leagues Serie A and B.

It is now playing in Italy’s Serie C, also known as Lega Pro (or Pro League), after “regressing in recent years due to economic reasons,” according to Zaayter.

Speaking about his plans for the club, Zaayter said: “We hope that we will be able to bring it back like the old days and even better.”

Zaayter said the remaining three percent stake is held by the club’s former president.

Lebanese talents

During the interview, the businessman said he intends to help young Arabs play on an international level, particularly “talented Lebanese players.”

Zaayter also encouraged others to invest in sports, whether in Europe or the Arab region.

He warned however that investing in sports is an “adventure” in which every step must be “calculated.”

He also said he didn't choose to invest in Lebanon due to the unstable security situation in the country.

Football has become a booming business in the Arab region, but regional investors tend to hand money to European clubs.

In recent years, $1.5 billion has been spent by Middle Eastern investors and groups on team ownership across Europe.