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Vice-premier: London forum advances soccer hopes

Zhang Chunyan and Ma Chi
Updated: Sep 19,2015 9:25 AM     China Daily

Vice-Premier Liu Yandong receives a Tottenham Hotspur Football Club jersey at Capital City Football Academy in London on Sept 18.[China Daily]

Chinese representatives seek tips for developing higher level of playing

There is huge potential and complementarity for China and Britain to cooperate on soccer, Vice-Premier Liu Yandong said in London on Sept 18.

“Britain has a rich soccer culture and history, and a mature professional league, while China has an enormous soccer fan population and market,” Liu said at the China-UK Football Exchange Forum at Capital City Football Academy in London.

As the first government-backed exchange event on the development of the sport, the forum was aimed at helping improve Chinese soccer through communication between the two sides.

“Strengthening cooperation on soccer between China and the UK has a historical origin and realistic needs as well,” Liu said.

As China vigorously promotes soccer reform, it wants to learn from strong teams as are found in the UK.

“From our basis in China’s conditions, we want to learn from the advanced experiences of other countries,” Liu said, adding that China will further develop professional and youth soccer.

China has pushed ahead with the development of soccer talent with the Ministry of Education planning to have 20,000 primary or middle schools with specialized soccer programs by 2020, Liu said.

During the third China-UK high level people-to-people dialogue, China and Britain signed a partnership plan called “China-UK youth football future star”, which is the first cooperation plan between China and countries with well-developed soccer traditions since China launched a program of domestic soccer reform in 2013.

The partnership is expected to train more excellent Chinese soccer talents and enhance the understanding and friendship between the two countries.

Soccer insiders said that as the China-UK relationship is entering a “golden age”.

John Whittingdale, British secretary of state for culture, media and sport, said at the forum: “Football has a long and proud history, bringing people across the world together. The success of the Premier League is partly because of overseas supporters, including Chinese fans.

“Chinese football is going from strength to strength. The Chinese government has put major investment in the game, and football has entered more and more primary schools. I believe China will become a formidable force in football,” Whittingdale added.