Beijing’s upcoming Winter Olympic Games has no doubt initiated an interest for activities like skiing and hockey in China, but sports for cold weather aren’t the only ones keeping Chinese consumers active—China, in fact, has major soccer plans. President Xi Jinping said last year that he wants to see the country become a “world football superpower by 2050,” and the Chinese Football Association is losing no time in setting itself up for reaching this goal. The latest endeavor to get closer to this dream has been to open a football academy in Hainan Province’s capital city of Haikou.
Futbol Club Barcelona (FCB), which first opened an office in Hong Kong in 2014, and Mission Hills Group teamed up to “create a legacy for football in China,” Ken Chu, chairman and CEO of Mission Hills Group said in a press statement. The academy, called FCBEscola, will be the first one abroad managed by FCB, which currently has 25 other overseas schools and has trained the likes of Argentine footballer Lionel Messi and Spanish footballer Gerard Pique.
Opening officially this summer, the academy will feature seven pitches and can accommodate up to 1,000 kids. In addition to the training school, the academy boasts an experience area “to help raise the profile of football,” which will feature a tourism an leisure complex complete with luxury hotels, international restaurants, and shopping and entertainment. The FC Barcelona area will also allow visitors to experience firsthand the history of the club and its famous players.
Mission Hills, whose property in Hainan boasts five-star resorts and wellness centers, recently also collaborated with the Ritz-Carlton so that they could create the luxury hotel brand’s first golf resort in China. While golf recently ranked number two sport, just behind jogging, for wealthy males in Hurun’s Best of the Best report, soccer likely will have a broader long term effect on China’s health and wellness industry, one that is seeing an increasing number of luxury shoppers buying up sportswear from the likes of Adidas and Nike over the more fashionable big-name brands.
Luxury brands are recognizing this to an extent—in August, Italian menswear brand Ermenegildo Zegna teamed up with China’s national soccer team for a four-year partnership. The brand, which has a history of working with sports teams elsewhere around the globe, is the designer for the team members’ formal and leisurewear and has been marketing the sponsorship to Chinese consumers.