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Chinese Football Association

Wanda chief Wang Jianlin reveals first batch of Chinese soccer ‘Rising Stars’ is almost ready to bloom

Chinese real estate magnate says that a soccer youth development scheme that saw some 180 youngsters receive a footballing education in Spain six years ago will soon bear fruit

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Monday, 27 March, 2017, 2:17pm

Chinese real estate magnate Wang Jianlin said that a soccer youth development scheme that saw some 180 youngsters from China receive a footballing education in Spain six years ago will soon bear fruit.

Wang said the “Rising Stars” initiative established in 2011 will yield players good enough to make the grade in the Chinese second tier by the end of the year, in comments to Xinhua.

The ¥100 million (HK$113 million) scheme saw promising youngsters travel to Spain to further develop their skills while training with Uefa Champions League quarter-finalists Atletico Madrid.

Wang conceded that the young players would not be ready to help China in their current World Cup qualifying campaign saying “youth training takes time.”

He encouraged a longer-term approach to the development of Chinese talent.

“In terms of fostering players, we have to be patient and wait for up to 10 years before real results can be realised,” said Wang, whose Wanda Group bought a 20 per cent stake in Atletico in 2015.

“You have to first try new measures in order to determine whether or not they will work. After all, there is no soccer power in the world that relies on other countries to foster and train its own young talent.”

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When Wang purchased the Spanish giants in 2015 he discussed the prospects, who were training in Spain at that time.

“These kids are the hope of Chinese soccer and they will spend six years in Spain,” Wang said. “Most of them will train with Atletico. We believe Atletico is very earnest and committed to youth training.”

Wang’s Wanda Group is one of a number of Chinese conglomerates that has intensified its interest in Chinese football since president Xi Jinping laid out his plans to make China a global footballing superpower by the year 2050. Xi has spoken of his desire for China to qualify for another World Cup, host a World Cup and win a World Cup.

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Last week, new national team coach Marcello Lippi led China to an historic 1-0 victory over Asian powerhouses South Korea in their seemingly doomed World Cup 2018 qualification campaign.

China’s next match is against qualification group-topping Iran in Tehran on Tuesday night.