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Man City CEO pledges to play active role in Chinese football

Jul 26, 2019

LONDON(UK) July 26: Manchester City CEO Ferran Soriano promised that the English Premier League champions will play an "active" part in the development of Chinese football.
Soriano told Xinhua in a telephone interview from Hong Kong that despite the criticism leveled about City's week-long tour in southeast China, he has no worries about City's future expansion prospects in the country.
"I don't think there is any worry," he said. "It is a long journey. We are here to stay. We have the aspiration and the commitment. We will be a positive force in the development of Chinese football. We have no doubt that in a decade, or even earlier, Chinese football will be much, much better."
In his first interview during the Asian tour, just hours before City's 6-1 win over Hong Kong side Kitchee, Soriano reiterated City's "commitment" to China, saying they will help do their part to boost the development of football in China.
City lost on penalties against the Wolverton Wolves in the final of Premier League Asian Trophy last Saturday in Shanghai after beating West Ham 4-1 in Nanjing in their first game.
Soriano accused some teams of making no long-term commitment and investment in the way as City.
"I don't want to say anything about West Ham or other teams ... They just come here to play a game. This is not our case. Our commitment and investment in China goes far, far more. We have a team in Chengdu. We have coaches in Chinese schools and we want to be part of the football development in China. We want to be an active part and not just a foreign team comes to play and goes back."
City has been criticized for failing to engage with local fans in China and for showing discrimination against Chinese media, who found themselves excluded from a number of events, but Soriano denied any wrongdoing.
"I don't think it is the case," he said. "We are not arrogant anywhere. You can see that our players were close to the fans, every media was treated the same way."
But he admitted that City will improve their service with fans and media in future visits to China, which he promised would happen very often in the next 10 years.
"Obviously we will improve every time," he said. "Sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we lose games, but our ambition is to be as best as we can be. Manchester city want to be the best of the world. Our promise is hard work and commitment. We obviously don't promise not to make mistakes from time to time, not to lose games from time to time. It is unrealistic.
"If you are a smaller club, you get less scrutinizing. Because we are winning, we will be more scrutinized. We accept this as part of the game and part of the business. We are rather in this position than a position of a smaller club -- that is not winning and has less scrutinizing."
Manchester City has become one of the most popular Premier League clubs in China since 2015. At the end of that year, China Media Capital bought a 13 percent stake in City's parent company City Football Group for 400 million US dollars.
In February, City's owners bought a stake in a Chinese third-tier club, Chengdu-based Sichuan Jiuniu FC - their seventh football club, creating a closer relationship between China and the club.
"I have spent the whole month of July in China. I moved my family here. Personally I think it has been very good to spend a lot of time in China with my family, to be able to go to games and to do normal activities like other Chinese families over the weekend.
"I have the opportunity to speak to a lot of fans and our partners. I also have had the chance to learn more about Chinese football. I have been in Chengdu with our players and coaches. Overall the experience in China is very good."
"It is our obligation to understand China and the Chinese partners and the Chinese fans. It is not their obligation to understand us. I think we understand them better and better."
City's tour was delayed because their flight to China was prevented twice from taking off, forcing them to cancel some media duties.
The delay was caused by an administrative error by travel company Thomas Cook Sport and solved with the help of Zhong An, their partners in China.
"It was unfortunate," Soriano said. "But in the end the trip is very successful. We are very happy. We don't remember the first 24 hours' [of] inconvenience."
"We are welcome everywhere not only by the fans but everybody we meet who are very kind to us.
"Both games in Nanjing and Shanghai were good, the fans were good, the atmosphere were good and the players were happy."
Source: Xinhua