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Latest update : 2017-07-16

China dreams of superpower status on the football pitch

China has been redrawing the world's football map in recent months. Thanks to virtually unlimited funds, players and coaches from some of the best European clubs are flocking to China to develop its national league, while football academies are popping up to train future stars. The reason for all this enthusiasm? President Xi Jinping’s penchant for the beautiful game and its potential as a vehicle for Chinese nationalism.

China has just made a stunning entry into the world of football. With high-profile transfers and outrageous salaries, Beijing intends to become a major player, attracting the biggest stars to its football league. Argentina's Carlos Tevez, Brazilian players Givanildo Vieira de Sousa (known as "Hulk") and Oscar as well as Belgium’s Axel Witsel are just some of those who were unable to resist the appeal of the Chinese Super League clubs and their wealthy owners.

This craze can be partly explained by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s taste for the beautiful game, with the Chinese leader making the sport a national priority. His goal is twofold: to make China a football superpower and to use it as a vehicle for Chinese nationalism.

The country is aiming high. China hopes someday to host the FIFA World Cup and even dreams of becoming a world champion in 2050. From Shanghai to Guangzhou, our reporter went to find out more about this new tool of Chinese soft power.

By Antoine VÉDEILHÉ

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