England football megastar David Beckham may set up his exclusive training school in Beijing. The 2008 Olympic city is seen as one of the most important stops during a selection campaign for the David Beckham Asian Academy venue.
"We are looking at cities all throughout Asia. From Tokyo and Seoul to Dubai and Doha," said Ed Cunningham, managing director of Asian Strategy and Operations of AEG, a partner in the project. "In China, the cities we are looking at are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Tianjin."
After setting up two academies in London and Los Angeles, the former England captain is now looking for an Asian city.
His London and Los Angeles academies have attracted record numbers and attracted high levels of sponsorship from top Fortune 500 companies. More than 20,000 young football players received training in the London academy under a scholarship programme last year. Organisers hope to repeat the same result in Asia.
"Football in China should start with the young children, since every sport starts with the young athletes," Cunningham said.
"China may be a good place to develop soccer because first of all you have fan bases that love soccer. I mean this country loves soccer. You've got so many great young athletes."
Cunningham said the first criterion for deciding the site was finding top-level facilities. He was impressed with China's venues.
"There are lots of facilities in China that almost meet this (criterion)," said Cunningham. "Finding good facilities is not a big problem in China because there are so many great facilities."
The venues under construction for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games have also aroused his interest. "We visited a lot of Olympic venues and we have evaluated them for two or three months," he said. "There are so many good facilities in Beijing as well as other cities in China that can meet the needs of Beckham Academy.
"So I think you can almost pick any major city in China that we could develop its venue into a fairly top-level academy."
To be the site of the Academy, the city should also be the hub of cities all over Asia and a right partner should also be found in the city.
After discussion with Chinese sports officials, Cunningham is confident of support from Chinese sports government.
"I have met Nan Yong, one of the senior officials of the Chinese Football Association and he is in passion of building up this football academy," Cunningham said. "All the officials we met here are very supportive of building this project."
Cunningham said the final decision for the site of the Asian academy would be made by the end of this year.
Source: China Daily