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Finding the Next Messi from Asia

Sparta Rotterdam Football Club in the Netherlands has set up its regional arm in Hong Kong to nurture the next generation of stars on the pitch

Football is a loved sport in Hong Kong and fans make it their mission to show up in droves to support their favourite teams at matches. Youngsters and adults alike can be seen around town practising the art of scoring goals. Their fervour has caught the attention of legendary Sparta Rotterdam Football Club, founded in 1888 and based in the Netherlands.

Finding the Next Messi from Asia

To keep the sport growing, Sparta Rotterdam has established the Sparta Youth Academy to nurture promising football players from a young age, and its mission extends beyond the borders of its home country. At the end of 2016, the football club set up a presence in Hong Kong.

“After three years of cultivation, Sparta Rotterdam Asia, the official representative of Sparta Rotterdam Football Club, has launched the Sparta Rotterdam Junior Soccer Nurture programme in Mainland China,” Rob Westerhof, Chairman of Sparta Rotterdam Football Club in the Netherlands, said. “This soccer programme is carried out by the new Hong Kong associate SR Nurture Talent Ltd.”

The programme spans various Asian countries but Hong Kong has been designated as the command centre. “Hong Kong has been chosen as the regional hub of Sparta Rotterdam Football Club to expand its activities into Mainland China and Asia because all sorts of professional services can be found here, ranging from finance and marketing to medical service, event management and sports development.”

The programme’s first league competition will kick off in March 2017 and run through to June across five countries. Participating teams come from football academies and schools in 15 cities, including Hong Kong, Singapore and those in Guangdong, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Hunan, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. There will also be aspiring footballers from Changsha and Wuhan. More cities in Mainland China and the rest of Asia are expected to join the rank in the coming years.

Dutch coaches are sent to the region at least twice a year to train local coaches, who will in turn transfer the Dutch Total Football knowledge and skills to the local players. Sparta Rotterdam Football Club is the first foreign club in close cooperation with the Chinese Football Association and the Sports Bureau. It has opened a football training school in Dongguan and is in the process of setting up an office in Guangzhou.

Sparta Rotterdam sees many opportunities in Hong Kong. “The Hong Kong Government has invested a lot in sports facilities and there are very nice football pitches and football courts in Hong Kong. Also there are many world-class retired players coaching in the city. Sparta Rotterdam Asia and SR Nurture Talent will seek to work and cooperate with them,” Westerhof said.

Monday, February 6, 2017

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Fast Facts

  • Opened its regional headquarters in Hong Kong at the end of 2016
  • Launched the Sparta Rotterdam Junior Soccer Nurture programme in Mainland China in November 2016
  • Sends Dutch coaches to the region at least twice a year to train local coaches

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