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Old 1st March 2007, 10:11   #1
chriselkins
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Default Chelsea sign deal with AFC to develop game in China

Chelsea sign deal with AFC to develop game in China

Nazvi Careem
March 1, 2007
Reuters

English champions Chelsea signed a four-year contract with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Thursday to develop football in China at grassroots and level.

The London club's chief executive Peter Kenyon hailed it as "a big day in the history of Chelsea" after inking the deal he hopes will help their ambitions of becoming the world's most popular club.

Chelsea will join the AFC's Vision Asia project that aims to lift the standard of football in Asia, working solely with the China market.

"Chelsea's vision is, by 2014, to be internationally recognised as the number one club," Kenyon told reporters.

"And that cannot be achieved without serious participation in Asia.

"This is a long-term project and we are not going to see immediate returns. We are excited by the opportunity to accelerate the Vision Asian project, which we are very impressed with after seeing the work being done on the ground."

The agreement will allow the 10 best young players from select Chinese cities to train at Chelsea's Cobham academy.

In addition, the AFC Player of the Year has the option to train in London for one month.

Chelsea will also send coaches and administrators to China to improve the domestic set-up.

AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam said the deal did not offer Chelsea any financial guarantees.

"I must stress that this is not a business contract but a development programme," Hammam said. "Chelsea is the first overseas club to approach us with the philosophy of giving, and not taking. Any support that provides a platform for greater success in Asian football is a good thing."

Hammam said Chelsea's input would be of particular value when it comes to improving the structure of clubs and leagues in Asia. The AFC is aiming to launch a major club tournament similar to the UEFA Champions League in 2009, involving elite Asian countries.

"At the moment, only Japan has a proper infrastructure in Asia," said Hammam. "Some countries are not far behind while others have a long way to go. We hope Chelsea can help us with the expertise to improve the way clubs and leagues work in Asia."

Chelsea's recently hosted the Chinese under-23 team at their Cobham training base but the trip was soured after the visiting coach reportedly criticised the facilities. He later denied the allegations.

The Chinese squad were also involved in a brawl during a friendly match against London club Queen's Park Rangers.

http://football.guardian.co.uk/break...448698,00.html
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