Cai Zhenhua (left), deputy director of China’s General Administration of Sport and president of the Chinese Football Association, and Reinhard Grindel, president of the German Football Association, or DFB, pose after signing a cooperation agreement at the chancellery in Berlin yesterday. — Reuters
CHINA and Germany signed a deal yesterday to boost cooperation in football, as the Asian giant sets its sights on becoming a superpower in the sport.
The five-year deal comes after football talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both fans of the game.
“The cooperation will be targeted at continuous exchanges between both countries,” said the German Football Federation, or DFB, in a statement on the agreement signed at the chancellery in Berlin.
“The aim is to support the development of Chinese football through measures, including the training of players, coaches and referees, as well as through an exchange of expertise in the organization of a league.”
While Chinese sides stand to glean expertise from the Germans, China offers Bundesliga clubs a major market for sponsorship and merchandising.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who attended the signing of the agreements, said boosting football exchanges is an “important part of my visit to Germany”.
“Germany is a great nation in world football, and China can learn a lot from it,” she told business daily Handelsblatt in an interview published yesterday.
China is showing an insatiable appetite for “the beautiful game”, as it seeks to raise its game to a level matching its economic and political strength.
Beijing wants to become a “world football superpower” by 2050, with a target of 50 million people playing the game by 2020, according to a plan published by the Chinese Football Association in April.
Over the past few years, millions of dollars have been ploughed into European football, as investors snap up clubs, players, coaches, media assets and high-profile sponsorships.
Purchases have included Italy’s AC Milan and Inter Milan while key investments have been taken in English Premier League side Manchester City and Spanish La Liga’s Atletico Madrid.
Herbert Hainer, former boss of German sportswear giant adidas and a member of Bayern Munich’s advisory board, has said future Bundesliga matches could take place overseas, especially in China.
“Of course that could happen,” Hainer told Sport Bild when asked about future Bundesliga matches being played in China.
“We have already seen in US sports that the so-called season opener has more often taken place in other countries, so why not? We’re talking about future vision and whoever starts it first, whether that is the Premier League or the Bundesliga.”