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Manchester City player Kolo Toure (center) attends a training session in Beijing on Thursday. The Manchester side will face Arsenal on Friday at Beijing's Bird's Nest, which was the main venue for the 2008 Olympic Games. Ed Jones / Agence France-Presse
Arsenal fans are having a blast catching a rare glimpse of their favorite players, who popped into downtown Beijing just one day before the much anticipated Winoly Cup at the Bird's Nest.
Fans surrounding a Nike store downtown sang the team song as several Arsenal players attended a commercial activity there. The Gunners expressed their excitement about tonight's clash with rival Manchester City.
"The Bird's Nest is brilliant itself, and the match against Manchester City will be very exciting," said young midfielder Alex Chamberlain. "We don't know about them, but they know a lot about us, so it'll be a hard game, but it will be a good one, a hot one."
His teammate, and Arsenal's backbone, Theo Walcott came to China last year when the Gunners took on Greentown FC in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. The midfielder said he believes China will see more top local players as time goes on and world-class players come to play in the soccer-crazy country.
"Being in the Premier League, to be honest, I don't know many (Chinese players), but the fact that Didier Drogba and some other players from the Premier League have come to the Chinese league will make the league stronger so you will see a lot of Chinese players coming through to the top level," Walcott said.
Walcott's speed won him the nickname "Tiger" among Chinese fans.
Where did that speed come from? It's genetics, he said.
"It's always good to practice and do a lot of work to get very quick, but actually all my family are very quick. My sister is quicker than me. But it's always important to try to practice as much as you can," he said.
The Gunners are using the match as a tune-up for a season in which they hope to lift one or two of the major trophies.
"We want to reach to the next level, but we've always missed our last goal," Walcott said.
Walcott said he had not talked much with teammate Robin Van Persie about his possible future, but said he would consider coming to China.
"Come to China in the future - why not? Passion down here is actually fantastic but you never know what the future is going to hold you, so we'll see," he said.
Besides Walcott and Chamberlain, goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, defender Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos, and midfielder Ryo Miyaichi were also on hand.
(China Daily 07/27/2012 page9)