March 20, 2013 13:25 ET

David Beckham Sets Sight on Bringing Chinese Football to World Stage

Football Icon Debuts Tour in China as Global Ambassador for CFA

BEIJING--(Marketwire - Mar 20, 2013) - Today, international football superstar David Beckham made his appearance at Beijing Shi-jia Primary School as the first Global Ambassador of the Chinese Football Association to promote the sport both across the country and internationally. Mr. Wei Jixiang, Secretary of the Chinese Football Association (CFA), Mr. Michael Dolan, Chairman and CEO of IMG Worldwide, Mr. Zhu Qilin, President of the Chinese Super League (CSL), Mr. Adam Zhu, Vice Chairman of IMG Asia Pacific and Chairman of Greater China, Mr. Simon Fuller, David Beckham's manager and business partner, Mr. Jeff Slack, Senior Vice President of IMG Football, and Mr. Zheng Menghui, President of CCTV-IMG, as well as other industry leaders and students were present for the occasion.

"I am extremely excited to be here. China is an impressive country. I'm fascinated by your history, culture and passion for sport. China's achievements in sport are admired throughout the world; the Olympics in 2008 are a great example of that," said David Beckham at the conference.

"I have been lucky to see the popularity of football across the globe and the potential for the game to grow here is enormous," Beckham continued. "I hope to inspire more kids to want to play the game I love and draw more fans to watching the game in China. The potential here is unlike any country in the world and I hope to play some small part in making the game more popular here."

Beckham's key mission as the title spokesperson for Chinese football is to promote the sport to over 1.3 billion people in the country and help inspire young people to participate in what most consider to be the greatest game in the world. The Chinese Super League (the country's top-flight league) has grown rapidly in the past few years. Beckham's China tour will also further popularize the game in the country as well as bringing Chinese football and the CSL to the world stage.

"CSL has already been facilitating a world-class environment here in China for the development of football. In addition to a multitude of talented players, a strong and ardent fan base, it is now striving for more international recognition and support," Beckham continued. "I hope to serve as a bridge, connecting Chinese football to the world, so that everyone can see its potential and value. This opportunity will also allow me to share everything that football has bestowed upon me. This is something I have always wanted to do. China has a huge pool of talent and I hope to be able to nurture and inspire them. Together, we can create history in Chinese football!"

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of professional football in the nation as well as the 10th anniversary of CSL. Mr. Wei Jixiang of the CFA also expressed CFA's commitment to cultivating a vibrant and healthy environment for the ongoing development of the national league.

"This is a significant year in Chinese football history as we usher in 20 years of developing this sport professionally and mark the 10th year milestone of the Chinese Super League -- which today reaches 300 million television viewers and 4.49 million spectators annually. We continue to set our sights high with a vision to cast the net globally through better team management and training initiatives," Mr. Wei said.

"Beckham's leadership as the global ambassador has opened a new chapter for us. He embodies the spirit of professional football and is looked up to by aspiring young footballers around the world. Through his international influence and consistent contribution in the field, Beckham is the obvious candidate to put Chinese football on the world stage as one of the most revered sports icons," Mr. Wei concluded.

Mr. Wei then presented Beckham with an ancient Chinese football and Mr. Zhu Qilin, President of CSL, presented Beckham with a golden CSL badge, signifying the union of CSL and the football superstar. Mr. Zhu expressed his appreciation to IMG and the CCTV-IMG Sports Management Company for their commitment to Chinese football.

Mr. Michael Dolan, Chairman of IMG Worldwide, said, "This is a terrific day for the people of China. David Beckham's involvement with the Chinese football program will inspire a whole new generation of footballers and will make a tremendous contribution to the game in this great country. We are proud of the role IMG has played in bringing this to fruition."

Mr. Adam Zhu, IMG's Vice Chairman of Asia Pacific and Chairman of Greater China, said, "It was through the seamless tripartite collaboration of the CFA, CSL and IMG that we are able to successfully bring in David Beckham as the global ambassador of Chinese football. IMG is extremely grateful for the opportunity to be part of this synergistic alliance."

Jefferson Slack, Senior Vice President of IMG Football, said, "The partnership between IMG and CFA has been very constructive. IMG is completely committed to developing Chinese football -- the CSL in particular -- and taking the great game of football to a new level in China."

Children present at the conference also offered up a token of appreciation to their legendary hero -- Play It like Beckham, a "smile" video montage of Beckham's interactions with the children on the football pitch, as well as a collection of drawings and cartoons expressing their admiration towards their idol and role model.

After the conference, Beckham made a stop at the Beijing No.2 Middle School. Taking his sportsmanship to the pitch with young players on campus, Beckham put forth his coaching skills and showed the kids some magnificent moves.

In the next few days of his China tour, Beckham will visit Qingdao and Wuhan to promote youth football and continue to give inspiration, guidance and encouragement to the youths and promoting the love for football across the nation.

The 2013 Season of the Chinese Super League kicked-off on March 8th and Beckham's support will bring increased national and international attention to the country's top-notch league.

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