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Saturday, October 24, 2015, 11:36

Timeline traces highlights of Sino-UK soccer cooperation

By Sun Xiaochen

1997: Former England international Bobby Houghton became the first Briton to be appointed head coach of the Chinese national team.

1999: Manchester United, one of the most popular clubs in Europe, made its first preseason tour in China. Alex Ferguson's side played a friendly with Shanghai Shenhua FC.

2002: Sun Jihai became the first Chinese player to debut in the English Premier League and the first to score a goal while playing for Manchester City.

2002: University of Liverpool's soccer industrials MBA program accepted the first Chinese applicant to study the business aspects of professional soccer. The program has enrolled more than 40 Chinese students since.

2003: In October, Beijing staged the first Sino-British grassroots soccer exchange, including junior matches and coaching sessions.

2005: During a visit to China in September, then-prime minister Tony Blair trained with students at Beijing's Yuetan Sports Center to promote a youth soccer clinic led by ex-England boss Bobby Robson.

March 2013: Retired English soccer star David Beckham accepted an ambassador role to help promote the Chinese Super League and Chinese Football Association's youth program during his visit to Beijing.

December 2013: The Premier League and Chinese FA announced a multilevel cooperation agreement during Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to China.

2014: British automaker Jaguar Land Rover and the British Council launched the Premier Skills youth soccer promotion program for Chinese children and referees to improve their skills with help from Premier League trainers.

March 2015: President Xi Jinping expressed the intention for China to embrace British soccer expertise during a meeting with Prince William of Britain during their meeting in Beijing.

September 2015: A partnership, which will see young players and coaches exchange soccer expertise, was signed between China and Britain during Vice-Premier Liu Yandong's visit to Britain.

September 2015: British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in September that Britain would provide 3 million pounds ($4.7 million) in funding to train 5,000 Chinese coaches to English Premier League level.

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