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School, Santos FC to build academy

By Qiu Quanlin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-01 07:39

A Chinese middle school has teamed up with a top Brazilian soccer club to build a soccer academy to develop young talent and coaches, as part of China's plan to become a soccer superpower.

Sun Yat-sen Experimental Middle School in Zhongshan, Guangdong province, signed a cooperative agreement with Santos FC-who soccer legend Pele played for from 1956 to 1974-on Monday to build the academy.

The middle school, which is already a training base for Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, will allocate more than 3 million yuan ($437,000) in funding to introduce coaches from the Brazilian club.

"Building the academy will help develop the training system for young players, as part of our efforts to boost the popularity of the sport among local schools," said Li Liang, deputy director of Zhongshan educational authority.

Under the agreement, Brazilian coaches will become technical managers of the local under-13 and under-15 teams, and a number of young players will be selected to receive training at Santos FC.

The Brazilian club now operates nearly 100 soccer schools worldwide, with some located in Japan and South Korea.

"Working with top overseas clubs, especially those from traditional soccer superpowers like Brazil, will help provide young Chinese players with professional training," said Xie Liang, a veteran soccer commentator at Radio Guangdong.

China's plan to become a soccer superpower, which includes President Xi Jinping's short-term goal of having the country's men's team qualify for the FIFA World Cup for only the second time, has been boosted by cooperation between Chinese investors, social organizations and top overseas clubs.

Spanish giant Barcelona launched a soccer academy in Haikou, capital of Hainan province, early last week in cooperation with Mission Hills Group.

"Barcelona has a great reputation for developing youth players. With the top professionals that are coming here, I believe Chinese soccer is going to flourish," said former Brazil international Ronaldinho, who is now an ambassador for Barcelona, where he spent five trophy-laden years as a key player from 2003 to 2008.

The Barcelona-backed academy, which will double as a training center for China's national team and top clubs, is one of tens of thousands of facilities expected to be built as the country strives to improve its global performance.

Barcelona's Spanish rivals Real Madrid have cooperated with Chinese real estate giant Evergrande Group to open the world's biggest soccer school to date in Qingyuan, Guangdong province, accommodating more than 2,000 students.

China plans to have 50,000 academies and soccer-focused schools by 2025, according to the Ministry of Education.

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