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UPDATED: 14:49, July 16, 2004
FIFA boss hails China as football birthplace
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China is the birthplace of football.

At Thursday's opening ceremony for the Third International Football Expo in Beijing, FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter said his organization concurs with the findings of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), which has officially concluded football originated in Linzi, Zibo of Shandong Province.

AFC secretary-general Peter Velappan and experts on sports history and archaeology also attended the ceremony.

It means football's origins date back 2,300 years to when Linzi was the capital of the ancient Qi kingdom.

FIFA once announced China would be officially recognized as the birthplace of football.

The formal ceremony was to have been held during last year's FIFA Women's World Cup, which was originally scheduled to be held in here. The tournament was moved to the USA after the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

"It is so great to hear president Blatter make the announcement.Football is the world's No 1 sport, so I am honoured that China is being recognized for inventing and developing ancient football," said CFA vice-president Zhang Jilong.

Although a great many countries claim to have 'invented' football, historians point to the game of "cu ju" in China as the origin of the sport.

Many centuries before football appeared in Europe, the Chinese were already practicing kicking the ball with their feet to score points in organized matches.

"Having been recognized by FIFA and CFA, we have to take on the responsibility and cling to the honour. We should also take greater efforts to make a contribution to football development," Zhang said.

Velappan also expressed the need for more research on the game's history.

"Thank you China as the birthplace of football. Football started in china and the sport's future belongs to Asia," said Velappan.

"Now I will ask the CFA to work with FIFA and AFC to establish a museum and further establish related courses in college," Velappan added.

Velappan said the upcoming Asian Cup will help reinforce China's love affair with the game.

"China's has so much potential to develop football. I hope the Asian Cup will help highlight the truth that China has the most football potential in the world."

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