For several years now, FC Bayern Munich has been actively pushing into the Chinese market. There is now an office in Shanghai, a soccer school in Qingdao, a cooperation partner in Wuhan – and recently a Chinese keeper on the Munich campus.
It was 2017 and the then President of FC Bayern Munich Uli Hoeneß had a vision. “My idea is”, Hoeneß announced at a gala event in Liechtenstein: “At some point a Chinese will play for FC Bayern. And if this Chinese plays for us, he will generate insane demand. If we play at two o’clock on Saturday, with it can be broadcast live in prime time in Shanghai or Beijing, 300 million Chinese press their iPhone and pay one euro each. Then they can imagine where it is going. “
Almost five years later, FC Bayern has actually signed its first Chinese: Liu Shaoziyang, 18 years old, keeper, contract until 2025. The fact that 300 million Chinese people press their iPhone for one euro because of him can at least be doubted. First of all, it has to be clarified which team he is allowed to play for.
As a non-EU foreigner, Shaoziyang is not eligible to play for the reserve in the Regionalliga Bayern. There are only exceptions in this regard for players from selected countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan or South Korea. That is why Alphonso Davies, Chris Richards and Woo-yeong Jeong were once allowed to appear for the Munich second agency. For Shaoziyang, theoretically, only appearances for the U19s, for the professional team or a loan to another club would be considered.
Shaoziyang has been living in the boarding school on the FC Bayern Campus since the summer. He mainly trained with the U19s and completed many extra units with the ex-goalkeeper and current junior goalkeeper coordinator Tom Starke. “For me, Tom is the best goalkeeping coach and a great person to relate to. He helps me everywhere: whether on or off the pitch,” says Shaoziyang.
FC Bayern Munich: Reasons for the cooperation with Wuhan
Shaoziyang was signed by the cooperation partner FC Wuhan Three Towns. The cooperation between the two clubs was hardly known in this country, but it was concluded without much public fuss in the summer of 2020. At that time, Wuhan, which was founded in 2013, was still playing in the third division, in the meantime the club marched through two promotions to the Chinese Super League through.
Wuhan was selected for the cooperation not because of the professional team, but because of the focus on young talent. “The aim is to train players together. In the case of Liu, this has been very successful so far. More players are to follow,” says Matthias Brosamer SPOX and GOAL.
The 39-year-old former youth coach of SC Freiburg carries the sounding title Head of Sports Asia FC Bayern. Together with his team in the Shanghai office and the campus manager Jochen Sauer, Brosamer oversees the cooperation on the part of FC Bayern. On site in China, it’s not just about player training, but also about coaching. “So Wuhan itself benefits from our know-how,” says Brosamer.
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FC Bayern “very satisfied” with Dallas cooperation
For FC Bayern, Wuhan is the second international cooperation partner after FC Dallas from the US MLS. “For us, both partnerships are about having a partner club in our two core markets, the USA and China,” says Sauer SPOX and GOAL. “At the start of the partnership, FC Dallas was already on a different sporting level, but both clubs distinguish their excellent youth work. That is why we decided on these two clubs and did not orientate ourselves on whether they are successful in the professional field.”
Sauer is “very satisfied” with the Dallas cooperation that has existed since the beginning of 2018; two players who came from there have already made a lasting impression on FC Bayern. The defensive all-rounder Chris Richards (21) made it to several appearances for the Munich professional team and is currently playing on loan at TSG Hoffenheim. The only 18-year-old central defender Justin Che impressed in the last second half of the season for the Munich reserve team. He is currently playing for Dallas in the MLS, but in the long term he should return to Bayern.
FC Bayern Munich has had an office in Shanghai since 2016
In order to advance the development of the US market, FC Bayern installed an office in New York in 2014 as part of a preparatory trip for the professional team. The following summer the entourage traveled to China, and in 2016 the branch in Shanghai, now managed by Brosamer, was opened.
Since then, FC Bayern has gradually expanded its involvement in China. In the same year, a soccer school was set up in Qingdao, a little north of Shanghai, which is more aimed at promoting popular sport and promoting FC Bayern locally. Similar facilities are currently being built in Shenzhen and Shanxi, but their openings have been delayed due to the corona pandemic. A fourth is already being planned.
FC Bayern is not alone in pushing its way into the Chinese market; a number of other top European clubs are taking a similar approach. They all hope for the discovery of the first Chinese top star to trigger a football hype in the most populous country in the world with almost 1.4 billion inhabitants.
Aside from this dream, the clubs want a general presence on the ground, which is intended to increase merchandise sales and social media following. In any case, the FC Bayern website is already available in Chinese. The new keeper Liu Shaoziyang is currently smiling at you.