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French flair for new breed

By Sun Xiaochen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-10-24 07:26

The production line that rolled out the likes of Thierry Henry, Eric Cantona and Kylian Mbappe, is now set to manufacture Chinese talent.

The Clairefontaine National Football Center on the outskirts of Paris is credited with producing many of France's 1998 World Cup-winning squad and rivals Barcelona's La Masia academy as one of the world's most prestigious soccer schools.

Last week the center signed a partnership with Beijing-based sports marketing and consulting agency Shankai Sports to open its doors to Chinese players.

A 12-day package, including flights, accommodation, a weeklong training program and sightseeing in Paris, is now available on Shankai Sports' website for 42,800 yuan ($6,457).

A group of 17 Chinese Super League juniors took part in a weeklong pilot camp in August.

"The first camp as a test proved to be a success as our kids experienced intense soccer culture in France and exchanged with their local counterparts in exhibition games. It's just the beginning of more camps to come," said Zheng Lai, vice-president of Shankai.

During their stay, the Chinese youngsters were coached by the mentor of Paris Saint-Germain teenage sensation Mbappe, Dominique Bijotat, and legendary former AC Milan and France star Jean-Pierre Papin.

Since the academy was founded in 1988, France has won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 and made four major finals, while Europe's elite - including Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger - continue to keep a close eye on its latest students.

Equipped with nine pitches, a FIFA-certificated medical center and more than 200 apartments, Clairefontaine hosts 14 French national teams of all age groups, while the France senior team regularly uses it as a training base.

Clairefontaine director Eric Latronico said the academy will offer tailor-made curricula as well as world-class nutrition, fitness and medical support to its Chinese students.

"We would love to provide Chinese soccer a French solution in youth training," he said. "Our program, which combines education, athletic training and cultural activities, will appeal to the Chinese players."

The Clairefontaine-Shankai cooperation is the first of its kind since the establishment of the China office of the French Football Federation and French league, which governs Ligue 1 and 2, in February.

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