Clash of EPL powerhouses to stir mania in Beijing
Updated: 2012-04-18 08:07
By Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Man City, Arsenal to vie for glory at Bird's Nest on Games opening day
A sleepless night is probably in store for Chinese sports fans on July 27. Seven hours before the London Summer Olympics commences, two Premier League rivals, Manchester City and Arsenal, will play the first Winoly Cup at the Bird's Nest in Beijing, only four years after the Beijing Olympic Games turned the capital inside out.
This is the first time that two Premier League powerhouses will compete in China and many think the contest will be as highly anticipated as the Supercoppa Italiana last summer, also hosted at the Bird's Nest and which drew more than 70,000 fans to watch AC Milan and Inter Milan.
"We are very much looking forward to the China trip this summer. It is going to be incredible to play in the Bird's Nest, one of the world's most recognized sporting venues," said Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. "The world watched the 2008 Olympics, which was a spectacular show of how China can create a truly spectacular sporting event, and it will be a privilege for us to be able to connect with fans from China and show them our skills in Beijing."
Manchester City is currently five points behind Manchester United with four games to play in the league, while the Gunners are five points ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and will likely secure direct qualification to the European Champion's League.
The two sides went half to half in the league with each managing a 1-0 win at home, while the City beat Arsenal 1-0 away in the Carling Cup.
"I think it will be a fantastic game. Both teams play great football, and we have had some excellent games with Arsenal this season," Mancini said. "We beat them at home and also away in the Carling Cup, but they have had some wonderful performances this season, beating Chelsea 5-3 at Stamford Bridge and recently beating Tottenham 5-2 at home. So the fans in China will get the chance to watch two of the best teams in England, in fact Europe."
The 47-year-old Italian, having coached his home sides Lazio and Inter Milan from 2002 to 2008, won the Supercoppa Italiana with Lazio when the championships were first held in Beijing in 2009. He said he is excited to see how popular his team is in the capital.
"We know that the support for English football in China is huge, and it will be interesting for us to see how much support there is for Manchester City when we visit," said Mancini, who took over City in 2009. "It is clear that the passion for the game is really strong, and it is important for us to connect with our supporters in China.
Former Chinese international midfielder Sun Jihai's move to the team in 2002 was pivotal in gaining more European exposure for Chinese players. The move also attracted Chinese fans to the rising club.
Sun visited the club in January.
"Manchester City knows all about Chinese football from when we had Sun with us," Mancini said. "He came to a recent game and was introduced to the crowd before the game. The reaction he got showed just what a big impact he had made at the club. I met him when he toured the stadium, and I could also tell from the welcome he got from players who knew him, such as Micah Richards, just how popular he was.
"It is difficult for players from a very different culture to get used to the European game, but I think it won't be long before there is another successful player such as Sun to make a big impression in Europe," he said.
(China Daily 04/18/2012 page24)