SHANGHAI, China, Mar 22 – German powerhouse Bayern Munich opened a Shanghai office Wednesday in a bid to capitalise on China’s vast fan base and voracious hunger for top-flight football training.
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge announced the opening of its office in the German Centre, a complex in Shanghai’s Pudong district, with support from the China Football Association and Shanghai’s soccer and education authorities.
“China is a massive market,” Rummenigge said through a translator.
“Germany is a football powerhouse. We hope we can provide some help in China… (and) through such cooperation we can help China boost football overall.”
On the same day, German Bundesliga side Wolfsburg also opened new offices in Beijing’s 798 art district. Club general manager Thomas Roettgermann told AFP it was a “long-term project” for the club, adding that:
“At the end of the day, it’s such a huge market that every club which is interested in playing internationally should be in China in order to bring these billions of people on their side and also to earn some money there.”
These efforts are the latest in a spree of European clubs seeking to cash in on China’s explosion of football investment.
Despite its 1.3 billion population, China punches well below its weight in football, reaching the World Cup only once in its history — in 2002, when the team lost all three group games without scoring a goal.
But under President Xi Jinping, a football fan, China has ambitions of hosting and even winning the World Cup, triggering a rush of Chinese investment in foreign clubs, players, coaches and media rights.
Last month Spanish superclub Barcelona launched its own football academy in the southern island of Hainan invested by Mission Hills, owner of the world’s biggest golf resort.
And in the southern province of Guangdong, Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande have opened an academy in conjunction with Real Madrid for more than 2,000 students, reportedly the world’s largest.
China plans to nearly double the number of publicly run youth football schools this year to 20,000, state media reported last month.
Bayern said they want to lend a hand in China’s youth training by setting up more football schools in the country.
The German club already has one school up and running in the eastern city of Qingdao in Shandong province with the first group of Bayern’s coaches already there.
The school plans to train 1,000 football teachers and 5,000 students in China this year, mainly in Shandong province, board member of the Qingdao school, Yu Hao, told AFP.
Bayern is the second most influential European team online in China, just after Manchester United, a survey done by sports marketing firm Mailman showed last month.
The German club, claiming to have 136 million fans in China, is set to take on Arsenal in Shanghai and AC Milan in Shenzhen during a promotional tour in July.