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Spain's soccer armada drops anchor in China

By Li Xueqing In Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2015-08-06 07:48

The Spanish Football League is planning to extend its presence in the China market through greater cooperation with local authorities and soccer clubs.

"We have always treated China as a crucial market to develop," said Javier Tebas, president of the league, in Shanghai on Tuesday.

The first part of the Spaniard's plan is to organize exchanges between teams in the second division of their league with Chinese clubs in October.

They are also looking forward to an agreement with China sports authorities which will see Spanish coaches working at Chinese colleges and sports academies.

The first 40 mentors from Spanish clubs will help train local coaches and players. More are expected to come if the first phase of the plan goes well, said Tebas.

"I believe in a few months, the league itself will open soccer schools in China. We are aiming to train talent from the grassroots level," he said.

Spanish clubs have already made inroads in China. Barcelona recently launched soccer camps in five cities - Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Wuhan - from July 20-Aug 21.

Real Madrid has worked with Beijing Guo'an and Guangzhou Evergrande in the running of soccer schools.

Tebas also said he was heading to Nanjing to sign a contract on the broadcast rights of the next five seasons of La Liga with video streaming network PPTV.

The top Spanish professional league has already shifted some of its matches to earlier times, especially those involving Real Madrid and Barcelona, to attract a wider Asian audience.

The league also plans to bring more teams to China for preseason games, Tebas said.

La Liga is growing in popularity in China thanks to star players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The cooperation deal is working both ways as Wanda Group, one of China's biggest conglomerates, purchased 20 percent of Atletico Madrid's shares in January.

"The purchase is the first case in the cooperation of the two countries," said Tebas.

"I believe more Chinese enterprises will show greater interest in La Liga in the future."

He also said Spanish clubs continue to attract capital from abroad while showing a marked improvement in debt reduction over the past three years.

Reforms to broadcasting revenue will also likely boost income.

"We are optimistic that foreign capital, including Chinese capital, continues to go into La Liga," Tebas said.

"It is profitable to invest in La Liga economically, and it helps the enterprises raise their public profiles."

Tebas' visit to Shanghai was part of the LFP World Challenge, a project launched by the league last year to promote Spanish soccer and other Spanish brands in the international community.

Atletico Madrid played against Chinese Super League team the Shanghai SIPG, coached by Sven-Goran Eriksson, on Tuesday night as part of the campaign; the host side lost 3-0.

Members of the Spanish national table tennis team were also in Shanghai this week to play local players. They will participate in more activities with Atletico Madrid over the next few days.



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