Chinese soccer fans who play in an amateur five-a-side league gets the chance to play at a famous English Premier League stadium this week when they will take part in the annual AIA Championships. (Provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
A group of Chinese soccer fans who play in an amateur five-a-side league got the opportunity to play at a famous English Premier League stadium this week when they took part in the annual AIA Championships.
The Chinese players competed against teams from Australia, Indonesia and Thailand in the four-team finals of the competition, running out onto the hallowed pitch at White Hart Lane in London, which is home to the Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur.
AIA, which sponsors the competition, is a leading provider of life insurance,and operates extensively across Asia. It has a strong presence in China, and became official shirt partner of Tottenham Hotspur in 2013.
The AIA Championship features the best teams from regional soccer competitions. Teams are made up of people who have a connection to the company such as employees, customers, community partners, and families. Six Chinese players took part in the finals, with ages ranging from 26 to 47.
Zhang Chaohui, who plays for AIA Shanghai V, said: "The chance to play at White Hart Lane was a fantastic life experience because my dream as a grassroots player was to play at a Premier League ground."
AIA Shanghai V lost 5-4 to AIA Australia/New Zealand in the final, but Zhang said: "It encourages the team to continue to practice and participate in the AIA Championship next year. I'm already looking forward to the game next year, and we will definitely aim higher, to win the championship."
The competition took on extra significance this year because the stadium in which it was played is likely to close in the coming months to make way for a new 61,000-seat venue.
Tottenham Hotspur's spokesperson said: "It is a friendly football tournament, but it is special because White Hart Lane is likely to be demolished in May to make way for our new stadium, so this will be a unique opportunity for a group of normal, everyday Chinese football fans to play at such a historic venue for the last time."