Friday, February 28, 2014
Biggest in the world
The entry of Guangzhou Evergrande into this season's Asia U-16 Champions Trophy gives the competition a massive endorsement from Asia's biggest club side. Just take a look at their academy. Evergrande's youth project has no less than 2,300 students, located some 75kms from Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China. Everything about the club is big. Not only is it China’s largest academy dedicated to football but it's almost certainly the biggest in the world. The complex has 50 football pitches and is building 30 more. On the 167-acre campus, there's a large stadium, a cavernous movie auditorium, an outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts and ping-pong tables, six canteens, a gym, a library and an enormous computer room. In a link-up with Real Madrid no less, there are 22 Spanish coaches attached to Evergrande. Two thirds of the students, who come from all over China, pay fees of $5,800 a year, while the rest receive scholarships. The school is the brainchild of Xu Jiayin, a property tycoon and one of China’s richest men. He bought the club in 2010 and has turned them into an unstoppable force. The club has won the Chinese Super League three years running and became the first Chinese team in 23 years to win the Asian Champions League. But it hasn't come cheap. Over $200 million has been pumped into the club by its benefactor. Phnom Penh Crown is proud of its own academy but this is youth development on an industrial scale as they seek to find and build China's stars of the future. It will make for a fascinating visit by the Crown youngsters, when they go to China to play Evergrande's U-16s on 7 June that's for sure.