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EPL veterans laud Haikou facility

By Qiu Quanlin in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2016-10-25 07:42

It won't be long before China is producing world-class soccer players.

That was the prediction from some former English Premier League stars after they got an up-close look at the effort being put into building training facilities to encourage more children to enjoy the game.

"Soccer will definitely grow here in China; there's bound to be some great players come out of this country in the years to come," former Liverpool and England stalwart Robbie Fowler said on the weekend.

Fowler was speaking after a friendly game with former Liverpool teammates Luis Garcia and Gary McAllister, along with Manchester United legends Paul Scholes, Dwight Yorke, Lee Sharpe and David May in Haikou, Hainan province.

The World Legends Cup, which also included a selection of young Chinese players, was held at a newly-established soccer training base at Mission Hills Resort.

Fowler said Chinese children should take advantage of the outstanding training facilities that have sprung up in the wake of the government's effort to boost youth participation in the sport.

"If you love the game and you play as much as you can, you will become better. With practice, the infrastructure and facilities, we will see much better Chinese teams in the future," said Fowler.

Improving the level of soccer at the club and national level has been one of the top priorities in China, and President Xi Jinping, an avid soccer fan, has underlined the goal of not only qualifying for the World Cup but eventually hosting and winning the global tournament.

"With the concept here at the Mission Hills, building all these pitches, it will not be long before we see real top-class Chinese players," said Fowler.

Garcia, a former Liverpool player, said building more fields will boost youth interest in soccer.

"The sport is growing very fast in China and we believe the country's football will become better and better in the near future," he said.

Scholes also expressed confidence in the future of the sport here.

"China's football will benefit from the European players coming to play in the Chinese domestic league. For young people growing up watching top-level players, it will give them more motivation to improve and be dedicated to practice," he said.

According to Ken Chu, chairman and chief executive officer of the Mission Hills Group, building the training base in Hainan is testament to the company's long-term goal of promoting the game.

"It is designed and built for players of all ages and abilities, from professional teams to amateur and youth organizations," Chu said.

The Haikou training base, with an investment of 640 million yuan ($94.5 million), spans 350 sq km, with five full-sized pitches and accommodation facilities already in place.

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