Several Chinese soccer schools named after the Portuguese legend Luis Figo were reportedly closed without providing refunds to the students, and experts have called for enhanced monitoring and management of soccer training sites.
A branch of the Winning League Figo Football Academy, in Chengdu, capital of Southwest China's Sichuan Province, has halted its training for two months, with parents of the academy's young players saying they were unable to locate anyone to get a refund, the Chengdu Business Daily reported on Thursday.
Elsewhere, earlier this year, a Figo Academy branch in the Shijingshan district of Beijing closed suddenly, owing students refunds, Beijing's k618.cn news site reported in July. In the city's Chaoyang district, another branch closed, the Global Times reported on Thursday, after confirming it with a venue employee.
The Chengdu Business Daily report said that, in Chengdu, a parent surnamed Wang had found the gate of the training ground locked four days after registering her child and the academy's office was empty, and no employee could be reached and parents had not gotten any reply. She explained, "We registered with this academy because we saw some foreign coaches here and heard of Figo's reputation."
The Figo Academy was founded in March 2014, according to k618.cn. The Sina Weibo account of Winning League showed the Academy had 14 branches with 27 venues in 14 cities across China in November 2015, some of which Luis Figo had visited.
A half-year of training at one of the academies in Beijing cost 4,050 yuan (3), for two training sessions and one game per week.
"The soccer star [Figo] might not himself know the facts about the companies he's cooperated with and [how] his name and reputation were taken advantage of by fraudsters," Wang Dazhao, a Beijing-based soccer commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday.
"China should increase its monitoring and management of youth training sessions, which are growing now," Wang added, noting that "kids who were deceived by the companies might have lost the joy of soccer."
Luis Figo was the 2001 FIFA World Player of the Year and retired in 2009, but has been active in China in recent years. He participated in the 2017 Tmall 11.11 Shopping Festival, in Shanghai in November. In August he attended the founding ceremony of a soccer school in Kaili, Guizhou Province.