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China quickly becoming top destination for big clubs

By Tang Zhe (China Daily)

08:41, July 25, 2012

European soccer clubs are determined to make inroads in China.

The nation has become a top destination, as powerhouses from the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga have made China a regular part of their summer plans. The Premier League's Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal; Bundesliga's Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg; and Italian Super Cup finalists Juventus and Napoli will tour four Chinese cities this summer.

Arsenal head coach Arsene Wenger was the busiest member of the team during the Gunners' three-day visit to Zhejiang province last July.

Besides attending news conferences, open training and a meet-and-greet with fans, Wenger instructed some under-18 players and spoke to more than 450 college students at Zhejiang University before the team played Hangzhou Greentown on the final night of the trip.

Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis told China Daily that the club will join its international partner, Save the Children, to launch charity programs during this year's visit.

The club will make a donation of 300,000 pounds ($470,670) over three years to improve the quality of the education of disadvantaged children ages 6-15 in some of Beijing's most under-funded schools.

"We are excited to be launching this new project, which carries on our tradition of giving back to the community," Gazidis said. "It will help us reach even more young people globally and give them a chance to realize their potential."

Ian Cafferky, chief brand and commercial officer of Man City, said the tour will mark a new start of the club's Chinese "marathon".

"Obviously, it's our first big step, so we've contacted the soccer authorities (in China), discussing their development plans and how we can participate. So, hopefully, in the next six months we will be able to announce a cooperation within China, which will be at the grassroots level but also create a genuine relationship with our fans here," Cafferky said. "It's not a sprint. It's a marathon. And we are going to be here for quite a long time."

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