China makes French connection with 'Future Star' program

Updated: 2011-09-18 08:02

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The Chinese Football Association (CFA) sealed a deal with French Ligue 2 club Le Mans as a second step in the fledgling "Future Star" program in Beijing on Friday.

The French connection follows the launch of a Portuguese initiative last month.

The "Future Star" program, which started last year, aims to provide Chinese teenagers with more opportunities to play overseas. The first batch will head to Portuguese clubs at the end of this month.

According to Wei Di, vice-president of the CFA, China will send 20 to 30 young players aged 13 to 17 to Le Mans in the coming years and expects to attract other French clubs through its cooperation with that club.

"Le Mans had a Chinese player from Liaoning province before. Therefore, it has confidence in Chinese teenagers and is willing to cooperate with us," Wei said. "Le Mans will send youth development directors to China to select players, who will spend three to five years in France."

Wei also said, different from the Portuguese deal, which is being sponsored by a Chinese company, Le Mans will look for sponsorship for the Chinese players in France.

"Our partnership with the CFA is more about technical cooperation than business," said Henri Legarda, president of Le Mans. "Our youth development directors have been to China four times in the past 10 years, and we found there are many talented players here.

"We will select about two dozen players to join our youth training system, which has proved to be successful, and hope more outstanding players from China and Asia can play on the international stage after three to four years," he said.

Legarda said the Chinese teenagers would receive a normal education in France and he expected them to quickly adapt to the rigors of French soccer and take part in the country's Under-17 league.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/18/2011 page7)