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China Daily Website

Rise of Asian football good for global sports industry

Updated: 2013-12-30 09:28
( Xinhua)

DUBAI -- Football managers from Saudi Arabia, Italy and England said here on Sunday at the 8th Dubai International Sports Conference the rise of Asian football to global significance was irreversible and that East and West would benefit from it.

Besides hosting football stars like Franck Ribery and Christiano Ronaldo, the two-day sports conference held under the theme "empowering the future of football" shed a light on upcoming trends in global soccer.

Dr. Hafez Al-Medlej, executive committee member of the Asian Football Federation (AFC) and responsible for the association's marketing, said in his presentation that with Qatar having won the bid to host the World Cup in 2022, Asian football would get a new push towards the global stage after Japan and South Korea co-hosted the World Cup in 2002.

"China has also expressed ambitions to host as the fourth Asian nation the world most important soccer tournament, maybe in 2038," said Dr. Hafez, who added that number of football aficionados was rising sharply in Asia, although traditional Asian sports were dominating the mindset of young and old. The Saudi football manager quoted FIFA president Sepp Blatter who once said "the future of football is Asia".

AC Milan director Umberto Gandini said that neither the European football clubs nor the sponsors shall have to fear the rise of Asia as a top football region.

"Asia has a huge population, hence we in Europe should continue to reach out and co-operate by playing friendly matches and through participating at club championships in Asian countries," he said.

English football legend Ian Rush, who remains with 346 goals during his career for the FC Liverpool from 1980 to 1996 the club's all-time leading goal-scorer, agreed with Gandini.

"Football will definitely grow in Asia," he said.

Rush, who heads the Liverpool academy, said the fact the Dubai's state-owned carrier Emirates Airline had been sponsoring English and European football clubs for many years was proof how Asia was reaching out likewise to Europe.

Emirates Airline is an official partner of the FIFA and it sponsors Arsenal FC, Germany's Hamburger SV, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Real Madrid. The Emirates, the fastest growing airline in the world, also sponsors the AFC.

Rush's comments led Peter Hutton, chief executive of MP & SILVA, to say that he would welcome more Asian matches to be aired on European television, "as it would give Asian sports sponsors more chances to address consumers in the West."

London-based MP & Silva is the world's largest distributor of football media rights. Hutton has lived in Asia and the Middle East for more than 20 years and only moved back to his home country England recently.

"But we cannot show Asian football matches during the European prime times when our football matches are shown. Therefore a proper coordination of timing is needed, but as Europe and Asia are in totally different time zone that is doable," said Hutton.