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Dream come true: From Chinese superfan to social media ace
Club showing Far East ambitions.
13th Dec 2013
Dream come true: From Chinese superfan to social media ace


Brown

Villa are aiming to be a big noise in the Far East - thanks to our superfan journalist Rongtian He.

Our new social media executive Rongtian - nicknamed 'Ho' - runs our just-launched Sina Weibo and Youku accounts.

Sina Weibo is the Chinese equivalent of Facebook and Twitter while Youku represents the Chinese version of YouTube.

Villa are the seventh club to delve into the emerging market after Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.

And our figures are rising rapidly all the time, with over 50,000 followers on Sina Weibo and nearly 10,000 subscribers on Youku in just under a month.

Villa couldn't have a better social media whizz than Ho to run both accounts as the 25-year-old has been a claret and blue fanatic for the past 11 years.

When his school friends in Guangdong were showing allegiance to the likes of the Red Devils and the Gunners, Ho was fully behind Villa.

He was so fanatical about the club that every Friday before the end of classes, he would grab the chalk and write 'Good luck Villa' on the blackboard.

Ho, who named Lee Hendrie and Thomas Hitzlsperger as his original heroes, used to watch Villa on ESPN and follow their fortunes via Villa World, the previous incarnation of AVTV.

He said: "I remember watching my first game. It was a night match against Chelsea. We won 2-1 to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup. Juan Pablo Angel scored a wonder goal!

"I loved the team name, the team colours and, after some research, the vast and incredible history and heritage. Those factors really appealed to me.

"All my friends were glory hunters but I prided myself on my real support of Villa."

Ho

In fact, Ho wrote to the club in 2003 to say that his dream was to one day work for the club he loved, adding: "I know this is unrealistic."

Clearly it was not as impractical as he originally thought as he joined the marketing and communications team this month to get stuck into his new role.

Ho worked his socks off to make his ambition reach fruition, though.

On leaving China in his teens to study in England, he set upon a course in sports management at Loughborough University for two reasons - the reputation of the institution and, more importantly, its close proximity to Villa Park.

In fact, the minute he landed in England, he headed straight to the ground to snap up a season ticket and enjoy some unforgettable moments following the claret and blue troops.

He was there for the Anfield wonder win and the mauling of Sunderland.

He continued: "I didn't arrive in England with mountains of money - like any student - but I didn't hesitate to pay the £340 for a season ticket.

"I headed straight to Villa Park to buy one. I would have regretted it to the day I died if I hadn't.

"We lost my first match - 3-1 to Everton - but it was an amazing experience. It was so exciting, seeing the atmosphere build before the game and watching the Holte End in full voice. I couldn't stop taking photos either.

"I remember heading on the supporter coach to my first away game too. The guys must never have seen a Chinese fan go away with the team. They looked at me as if to say: "Who are you? Why are you here?" I found it so funny.

"But they welcomed me as one of their own when I told them my story.

"Seeing the win at Liverpool was incredible. It's moments like this that you will never forget."

Ho

During his time studying, he started venturing into the media world with roles at TalkSPORT commentating for Mandarian-speaking fans aswell as with IMG, helping publicise the Barclays Asia Trophy to supporters in the Far East.

Once his time at Loughborough was complete, Villa moved quickly to acquire his services.

And he's very excited about the possibilities going-forward.

He added: "I aim to really push the Villa brand in the Far East.

"It's fair to say that fans in the region we're reaching out to look out for the so-called big clubs but I believe Villa are an attractive proposition.

"You look at the proud history - what Villa means in the football world - this is a really big factor that I think fans in the Far East will respect.

"I have noticed that the two other clubs that have become popular over the past two years are Swansea and Southampton - Swansea because of their cup win and Southampton because of their rise up the table.

"I believe with the flourishing of the team under Paul Lambert, which is gaining momentum all the time - Villa can emerge as one of the leading lights in the Far East.

"I will be working extremely hard to make this possible. For someone like me to have the chance to work at a big Barclays Premier League club is incredible. My parents know very little about football but they appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity I have.

"For that chance to come at the club I love is an indescribable feeling. It was my dream - and my dream came true. This is a life lesson for anyone. Don't stop aspiring!"

Check out Villa Sina Weibo here.
Check out Villa Youku here.

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