0Shares0000Chinese football fans celebrate after Germany beat Argentina 2014 World Cup final © AFP/File / JOHANNES EISELESHANGHAI, China, Jun 4 – True to form, China failed to qualify for the World Cup but the planet’s most populous country will be far from absent: thousands of its fans will fly to Russia, and Chinese sponsors will loom large on global TV screens.Despite not being able to cheer on their home side, many Chinese supporters are undeterred, and they are expected to arrive in numbers that will dwarf the followers of many competing teams. The growing presence of fans and sponsors can be linked to China’s consumer boom, while excitement for football has been spurred on by President Xi Jinping’s ambitions to make 73rd-ranked China a world power in the sport.China have only qualified once for the World Cup — when they exited goalless in 2002 — but expectations are high that it will bid to hold the tournament, with 2030 and 2034 often mentioned as possibilities.One Chinese fan, Dai Qian, said he will spend nearly $10,000 to visit Russia and watch the tournament.“We appreciate football as an art and we like the feeling of watching live football,” said the 38-year-old, a university professor in energy engineering who will travel as part of a 400-strong Chinese tour group.According to the latest FIFA figures, nearly 37,000 tickets out of 1.7 million went to Chinese fans, the second-largest showing from countries that didn’t make the tournament, after the United States.Dai said that in the absence of their own team, Chinese fans back the countries of their favourite players. For him, it’s Argentina because he grew up watching Italy’s Serie A on TV and was a fan of Gabriel Batistuta, the former Fiorentina and Roma striker.– ‘Jump to be a global brand’ –The World Cup is a major advertising vehicle in China © AFP / WANG ZhaoAccording to research by Britain’s Professor Simon Chadwick, Germany are the most popular foreign team in China, with some female fans swayed by the players’ looks.It helps that Germany are reigning world champions and among the favourites in Russia.“There is something about ‘brand Germany’ and the relationship between Germany and China,” said Chadwick, professor of sports enterprise at University of Salford.“There are sections of the Chinese population who like to be conspicuous consumers — who like to be seen to be consuming the best brands, the best-quality brands, and that confers a particular status on them. The same is true of their football.“So if you can be a fan, why not pick the best?”Mark Dreyer, Beijing-based founder of the China Sports Insider website, said the growing ability of Chinese to afford overseas travel is a major reason for the large numbers going to the World Cup.Russia is also much closer geographically to China than, for example, the World Cup in Brazil four years ago.Television viewers across the globe and fans in World Cup stadiums will also become familiar with three tournament sponsors from China — tech company Vivo, electrical appliance and electronics supplier Hisense, and Mengniu Dairy.There is also FIFA sponsor Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate and formerly a major stakeholder in Spain’s Atletico Madrid.Zhu Shuqin, brand director at Hisense, declined to tell AFP how much the company paid for its sponsorship.But she said a similar deal at football’s 2016 European Championship in France “helped us greatly in our global market expansion”.That included a 60 percent surge in television sales in Europe in one quarter, Zhu said.Already well known in China, Hisense are eyeing the North American, European and Japanese markets.“We want to use such sponsorship to realise our globalisation goal,” said Zhu, outlining the company’s hopes from the World Cup.“Secondly, we can see in the global market of consumer electronics that the top companies, such as Samsung and Sony, all choose this kind of top event to sponsor so that they can jump to be a global brand from a regional one.”0Shares0000(Visited 3 times, 1 visits today)
Last month, with Solskjaer now at the helm at Old Trafford, he signed a deal keeping him at the club until at least 2024.The France international marked his first start since that contract with an assist and a superb second in the 3-0 win against Fulham, where his fine solo goal led ex-United captain Gary Neville to compare it to a Ronaldo effort at Craven Cottage in 2007.“He does have similarities, of course,” said Solskjaer, who replaced the sacked Mourinho in December. “If he wants to be at Cristiano’s level, Anthony knows what he has to do. It’s up to him. He has the talent.”“I am glad he is in my team,” the Norwegian added. “He has contributed to so many chances, so many goals. He is a Manchester United player. He excites the crowd. He excites the manager. He excites his teammates. And he is a great character around the place.”Martial, 23, who became the most expensive teenager in history when he moved to United from Monaco in 2015 for an initial £36 million ($46 million), has scored 47 goals for the club.Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances for United, winning the Premier League three times and the Champions League.United play Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, bolstered by Neymar’s injury, but Solskjaer said the absence of the Brazilian would be a loss.“When you play against the best teams, you want to play against the players,” he said. “The crowd want to see the best players. Too bad for Old Trafford.“I have played a couple of games when we played Real Madrid and (Brazil’s) Ronaldo and (Luis) Figo and all those were coming to Old Trafford. That gives it an extra edge.“Unfortunately for Neymar he is injured but of course he is a quality player. I think our right-back thinks it is not too bad he will not be here.”0Shares0000(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today) 0Shares0000Anthony Martial can emulate Cristiano Ronaldo, says Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer © AFP/File / Geoff CADDICKLONDON, United Kingdom, Feb 11 – Anthony Martial has the talent to reach Cristiano Ronaldo’s level if he puts his mind to it, according to Manchester United caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Martial had looked set to leave the club in the summer after falling out with Jose Mourinho but battled his way back into the Portuguese manager’s plans.