Singapore - Chinese President Xi Jinping's push to promote
football in his country is bearing fruit with the help of English Premier
League clubs, a top Manchester City executive said Wednesday.
City's chief commercial officer Tom Glick, speaking on the
sidelines of a business conference in Singapore, said Chinese investments in
English clubs like City reflected a growing appetite for sport in the world's
most populous nation.
"We have a relationship with the Chinese ministry of
education where we have 30 coaches in nine cities, working every week with
12,000 students, boys and girls, and their teachers to learn the sport of
football, develop skills and the passion for it," Glick told AFP.
"This is central to the government's initiative,"
Last year, Xi released a 50-point plan to turn the country
into a "football powerhouse", including proposals to set up 50,000
football schools across the country.
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As part of a pre-season tour, City visited China in July,
playing one game with German club Borussia Dortmund after a showpiece derby
against Manchester United was called off because of torrential rain.
State-backed China Media Capital (CMC) announced a 265
million pound ($355 million) investment deal for a 13 percent stake in Manchester
City Football Group (CFG) last December, two months after Xi turned up at the
club's academy during a state visit to Britain.
As well as Manchester City, who are the current Premier
League leaders, CFG also owns New York City FC and Melbourne City FC and is a
minority shareholder in Japanese club Yokohama F. Marinos.
Chinese investors have been beating a path to the English
Last month, West Bromwich Albion announced a deal to sell
the club to a Chinese investment group headed by entrepreneur Guochuan Lai.
Second-tier clubs Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers,
both of which play in the same Midlands region as West Brom, have been taken
over by Chinese investors.
Glick said it was "no surprise" that China
continues to eye English clubs.
"The Premier League, I think by an objective measure,
is the best and most important league in the world," he said.
He also said there was a "hunger on the part of Chinese
business people to grow the options and choices for Chinese citizens to enjoy
sport, media and culture."For
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