KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The new funder behind FC Bari 1908, who has raised eyebrows here and in Italy, has been unmasked.
Malay Mail can confirm Datuk Noordin Ahmad is a 59-year-old businessman from Manjung in Perak and is a close friend of Kelantan FA president Tan Sri Annuar Musa.
“We’ve been buddies since 1972. We were classmates in Royal Military College and even played rugby together,” the Ketereh MP said.
“We still keep in touch and in fact, I was just on the phone with him an hour ago.”
Annuar spoke highly of Noordin.
“He is a genuine businessman with vast experience in oil and gas, education, aviation and corporate restructuring. He has always kept a low profile despite being in the industry for 33 years.
“Noordin was never with the government ... he was on his own the whole way.”
Annuar, who is abroad, said Noordin was expected to return to Malaysia soon.
“We have plans, big plans. All will be revealed soon,” he said.
Asked if the plan was to send Malaysian players to Italy, Annuar said: “We have big plans, huge ... just wait.”
Malaysians and Italians have been scrambling to know more about Noordin after FC Bari announced he was the new 50 per cent shareholder of the Italian club. The amount Noordin has invested in the club is not known.
On Wednesday, he was pictured with Hollywood star Antonio Banderas and his girlfriend Nicole Kimpel as they attended Pope Francis’ general audience in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Noordin was given a warm reception as hundreds of fans chanted and sang at the arrival hall of the Karol Wojtyla airport in Bari, Italy, on Thursday.
He told reporters he invested in the club in gratitude to Italy. He is also confident of the government investing in Italy through this acquisition.
“I was in Rome during Christmas and suffered my second heart attack. The first time I got an attack was 10 years ago. I thought I was going to die,” he said.
“The doctors in Italy took care of me ... they saved me. So, I thought I should do something for Italy.”
He also intends to bring cheer to football fans in Malaysia.
“Malaysian football is not at the same level (it was) decades ago, when we were a force in Asia. Young footballers in Malaysia do not have a future anymore,” he told a press conference in Bari on Thursday.
“I want to invest in Italy, build football academies in Bari and Malaysia. Through the partnership between the two countries, it will give a new life to Malaysian football.”
He imagined an academy in Malaysia which will be able to churn out talents who can graduate to play in Europe.
He was bullish Bari will be able to position themselves at the “top of Italian football in five years”.
“We have amazing sponsors and companies that support us. Also, the Malaysian government will be very happy to invest here,” Noordin said.
“Until now, sovereign Malaysian funds have invested in China, UK and India. Now it could be Italy’s turn as the sovereign funds have not been earning as much as they could have.”
He said he bought the stake in FC Bari with his money.
“I am satisfied with having half of the club and I don’t intend to raise the percentage. I believe in a 50-50 relationship, with the other half in the hands of the city of Bari.”
“I have interests and plenty of companies in Malaysia and all over the world but I think it’s unnecessary for me to list them down,” he said.
“I’ve been an adviser for Finmeccanica for a long time ... that’s enough for me to say.”
Finmeccanica is a global aerospace, defence and security company, with its headquarters in Rome. Efforts to contact the firm yesterday were unsuccessful.