China to kick off 4-nation cup in January 2017
CHINA will host an annual national team football tournament starting from next year, entertainment and property conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group said yesterday as it seeks to build a sporting empire.
The announcement comes as Chinese companies snap up foreign players and clubs as the country increases its influence in the global game.
The Fifa-approved China Cup will kick off in January, with a four-game event featuring China and three teams from Europe and the Americas, Wanda said.
It did not identify the non-Chinese participants.
The company expects the cup, which Wanda says is a collaboration with the Chinese Football Association and the Asian Football Confederation, to eventually feature eight competitors from "among the world's top-ranking national A teams", the statement added.
China currently languishes in 81st place in the Fifa world rankings, just behind Zambia and Jordan.
Wanda said Chinese fans were "eager to see their national team rise to the top".
"As the host country, China will automatically qualify to enter its national team in the tournament, gaining the opportunity to climb up Fifa ranks," Wanda added.
The group, headed by China's richest man Wang Jianlin, already holds a key stake in Atletico Madrid and is a top-tier sponsor of football's scandal-hit governing body Fifa.
Mr Wang built a US$100 billion (S$135 billion) business empire founded on shopping malls, before setting his sights on building a global sports conglomerate.
Wanda Sports Holdings already claims to be the world's largest sports company, with a goal of reaching an annual turnover of US$10 billion.