A delegation from the Chinese Football Association visited The University of Salford this week on a fact finding mission, as they try to grow the game in their country.
The big wigs from Chinese football travelled around the UK taking in places such as St George’s Park, the home of the England football team, Old Trafford, The National Football Museum, as well as Salford, as they aimed to learn the game as part of their ambition to win the world cup by 2050. Currently the Chinese football team is ranked 81 in the world, despite having overwhelming the largest population.
From Salford the Chinese were learning about how to analyse sporting performance from Professor Ian McHale who developed the Sports Analytics Machine (SAM), which has been used by the BBC this year to help predict football results and has outscored the bookies with its predictions.
Manchester FA also gave a presentation on how to develop successful grassroots football.
One of their aims is to grow the number of grass pitches in the country to 50,000 by 2025, to enable them to develop a pool of talent which could propel them to number one in the world by 2050.
Professor of sports enterprise Simon Chadwick is an expert in the global game and particularly China. He organised the visit and said: “They are interested in how to develop grass roots football. They are literally starting at the grass roots, by building so many new grass pitches. They understand that football is the world game and that if China is to grow its power in the world then having a successful football team has to be part of that.
“Salford is developing a reputation as a real centre for football excellence and that reputation is now spreading across the world.”
The trip comes just hours after it was confirmed a Chinese businessman has had a bid to buy Aston Villa accepted by owner Randy Lerner.
Li Dongzhe, the General Secretary of the Yanbian FA, who led the Chinese delegation, said: “I was inspired by the statistical analysis as a way of looking at and improving performance and training.
“The Chinese FA were in contact with the English FA and they recommended coming to visit Salford University. We really appreciate the help and advice we have got from the visit. We are reforming our football organisation and we want to learn from the experience in Manchester and Salford.”