Owen, Wright plan to propel China to world football top

London, June 15 (IANS) Two former English international football stars have unveiled plans for a new venture to specialise in the development of soccer schools and coach education programmes in China.

Michael Owen, whose career took him to Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid, is joining forces with former Liverpool captain and England international Mark Wright in their venture, Red Sports, reports Xinhua.

The dynamic duo want to play a key role in helping China’s ambition to become a football superpower with aims to develop a national team capable of winning the World Cup.

They are already in detailed discussions with eight provinces in China about a program to teach and coach Chinese children in the art of football from the age of three.

Announcing their project on Tuesday in Liverpool, the two said in a joint statement: “Following President Xi Jinping’s visit to Britain in October 2015 and the Chinese Government’s series of announcements regarding the development of football, the country is undergoing a transformation regarding the sport.”

High-profile recent signings to the Chinese Super League include Alex Teixera (54.5 million U.S.dollars) and Jackson Martinez (44 million U.S.dollars). They say China has pledged billions of dollars to revitalize the sport, increase its popularity and improve facilities across China.

“Red Sports, owned by Owen and Wright, will assist the Chinese provinces and private sector in China in the training of soccer coaches, the development of Football Academies and, most significantly, the development of Soccer Schools,” said the statement.

“To improve the future of the National Team you have to start at grassroots level. Our program will provide children in China with the opportunity of learning about football and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and improved fitness,” Owen said.

“This is a strategic plan that will provide an ongoing stream of talented youngsters from which the clubs and the China national team will undoubtedly benefit.”

Wright added: “We are delighted to be at high level discussions within the government in China and the response to the programs has been amazing. We will be utilizing not only mine and Michael’s experiences but we have also secured a stable of high profile former footballers who will be assisting in the delivery of the programs. This puts Red Sports in a unique position to develop future talent with the use of Legends within the game.”

The venture was announced in Liverpool on the second day of the three-week long International Festival of Business which has attracted 25 trade delegations from China.

Max Steinberg, chair of IFB2016, said, “I’m delighted Red Sports is developing in China and that they are able to announce their success at IFB2016. This is yet more evidence that the breadth of the UK’s excellence and innovation is renowned across the globe and it clearly demonstrates the diversity of Britain’s export potential.”

High profile officials and over 60 Chinese delegates attended today’s announcement at the Exhibition Center where the festival is taking place.

Red Sports specialises in the delivery of programs in China, including Soccer Schools, Academies, Coach Education Programs and Stadium Games.

Owen is regarded as one of the greatest-ever Liverpool players, listed 14th in the “100 Players Who Shook The Kop”, an official Liverpool fan poll. He was named by superstar Pele in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.

Wright, who made 45 appearances for England was a member of the team which reached the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in 1990.



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