China to host int’l tournament

Beijing, July 13

China will host an annual national team football tournament starting from next year, entertainment and property conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group said on Wednesday as it seeks to build a sporting empire.

The announcement comes as Chinese companies snap up foreign players and clubs as the country increases its influence on the global game. The FIFA-approved “China Cup” will kick off in January 2017 with a four-game tournament featuring China and three teams from Europe and the Americas, Wanda said, without identifying the non-Chinese participants.

The company expects the cup, which Wanda says is a collaboration with the Chinese Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation, to eventually feature eight competitors from “among the world’s top-ranking national A teams”, the statement said.

China currently languish in 81st place in the FIFA world rankings, just behind Zambia and Jordan, and Wanda said that Chinese fans were “eager to see their national team rise to the top”.

“As the host country, China will automatically qualify to enter the national team in the tournament, gaining the opportunity to climb up FIFA ranks,” Wanda added. Wanda, headed by China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, already holds a key stake in Atletico Madrid and is a top-tier sponsor of football’s scandal-hit governing body, FIFA.

Wang built a $100 billion business empire founded on shopping malls, before setting his sights on building a global sports conglomerate.