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Home >> Sports
UPDATED: 13:13, May 22, 2007
Barca take on Beijing Guo'an in Asia Tour
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Former FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, star striker Samuel Eto'o and teenage sensation Lionel Messi will lead a star-studded Barcelona team against Chinese Super League club Beijing Guo'an on August 5, organizers said yesterday.

"During a visit to the Spanish club by a number of chief Chinese officials, the club has promised to send their strongest team to China," said Liu Hongwei, one of the tour promoters.

"The club also promised that even if one of their superstars is sold, they will buy a new icon to join the tour.

"The deal has been made between the two sides and the club will have to take responsibility if the top players are not included in the tour."

The match, one of three on a tour that also stops in Japan and Macau, will be played at Beijing's Fengtai Stadium as the refurbishment of the bigger Workers Stadium will not be completed in time.

The "Audi Barca China Tour" is also an important part of the 2007 Spanish Culture Year in China and the one-year countdown celebrations to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"It means a lot for both sides and we have to make it a big success."

Barcelona has been gaining in popularity in China thanks to its attacking style and star players like Ronaldinho and Messi.

However, their previous trip to China was a calamity. They took on Shanghai United the day after the 2004 Asian Cup final, which China lost to Japan, but very few fans turned up to watch.

"In 2004, Barcelona's visit to Shanghai was a total flop and the club felt it damaged their image," Liu said. "So they want to repair it with a first-class squad and performance."

Organisers will put in an extra 6,000 seats to take the capacity up to 35,000.

Liu added the limited number of seats will not lead to an increase in price.

"We will keep the price at a lower level than Real Madrid's tour to Beijing two years ago. It is important to protect the sport's market so we will not increase the price and undermine the fans."

Ronaldinho has asked not to be included in Brazil's squad for June and July's Copa America because of fatigue after a long season.

Barcelona is also looking to gain a foothold in the Chinese market by co-operating with the Chinese Football Association (CFA).

Javier Munoa, Barcelona's International Business Director, said the club is planning to set its sights on China's grassroots soccer first and is likely to join "Vision China", an Asian Football Confederation (AFC) program that focuses on setting up competitive amateur leagues to attract sponsors and fans.

Source: China Daily

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