China get going on largest football stadium



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Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium Image: Evergrande Group/Gensler

Evergrande Group – the Chinese real estate company – broke ground on April 16 on what it asserts will be the world’s largest professional football stadium, with the venue in Guangzhou (in China) to be followed by a further three to five stadia boasting capacities of between 80,000 and 100,000.

The new futuristic stadium – Guangzhou Evergrande Football Stadium – will be home to Evergrande Group’s Chinese Super League (CSL) club, Guangzhou Evergrande, with the company stating it will fit in up to 100,000 people. Evergrande will pump in a total of CNY12bn (£1.36bn/€1.57bn/$1.69bn) in the project, which will contain a sports complex, with the cost of the 750 acres of land on which it will be lodged said to amount to CNY6.8bn alone.

The Chinese Super League is the top-flight of football in China. It is run by the Chinese Football Association and is contested by 16 teams.

Guangzhou Evergrande will be the owner of the avant-garde venue, the capacity of which will surpass Camp Nou – the largest stadium in Spain and Europe and residence of FC Barcelona.

The stadium will sit next to the Guangzhou South Railway Station, and the development is planned to be completed by the end of 2022. With a floor area of around 150,000 square meters, the design has been inspired from a blooming lotus flower, and will kind of pay ode to Guangzhou’s status as China’s ‘Flower City’. The development is planned to be completed and go on stream by the end of 2022.

The announcement comes close on the heels of China set to initiate a major stadium development drive ahead of its staging the 2023 Asian Cup national team tournament. China was awarded hosting rights to the event in June 2019 and the Chinese Football Association in December named the 10 host cities as: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen and Suzhou.

While Guangzhou’s name did not figure amongst the host cities, Xia Haijun, President of Evergrande Group, said he hopes the new stadium can play a role in the tournament.

Xia told mediapersons, “We hope the stadium will host the opening ceremony of the Asian Championships in 2023. We will build another three or five top level professional football stadia with capacities of 80,000 to 100,000 in China.”

At the time of the hosting rights award, China said it intended to build new stadia in seven of the 12 planned host cities, with the country’s bid also including one back-up existing stadium in each host city.

China’s bid documents defined that minor redecoration work was planned for the National Stadium in Beijing, along with the Tianjin Olympic Centre Stadium, Hangzhou Olympic Sports Expo Centre Main Stadium, Changsha’s Helong Sports Centre Stadium and Guangzhou Tianhe Sports Centre Stadium.

The final of the sporting spectacle will be held at Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, which is currently under construction. The stadium is also set to play host to a semi-final match along with Beijing’s National Stadium.

At the time, the other stadia that were listed as under construction included Chongqing Liangjiang Football Match Centre Stadium, Dalian Professional Football Stadium, Wuhan Tazi Lake Football Stadium, Chengdu Fenghuangshan Sports Centre Professional Football Stadium, Shaanxi Province Stadium and Kunshan Sports Centre.

In October last year, FIFA committed that China would become the first host of an expanded Club World Cup in 2021. FIFA said the tournament would be played between June and July 2021, but last month chose to postpone the event following the rescheduling of UEFA Euro 2020 and the 2020 Copa America to 2021 due to the coronavirus curse.

Earlier, the groundbreaking ceremony was graced by the Guangzhou Mayor, Wen Guohui, Vice-Mayor Lin Daoping, Evergrande Group Chairman Xu Jiayin, President Xia Haijun, and Guangzhou Evergrande Club coaches and players.

Guangzhou Evergrande has won eight Chinese Super League titles in nine years from 2011 to 2019 and was also crowned AFC Champions League winners in 2013 and 2015.

China will host the 2021 FIFA Club World Cup™ and 2023 Asian championships. Hosting major football events formed a key part of the Chinese Government’s 2015 Plan for Football Reform and Development, and the Communist nation is aiming to develop the country into a major football destination by 2050 in the sense that all soccer spectacles will be hosted by China.

However, the lack of spiffy football facilities is proving to be a major hurdle in the way of China developing the game.

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