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Soccer tournament featuring ex-stars opens in Guangzhou

Updated: 2012-11-26 21:14
By Qiu Quanlin in Guangzhou ( chinadaily.com.cn)

A soccer tournament featuring former stars of China's top professional league in the 1990s, or Jia-A, opened in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, on Sunday.

The tournament, sponsored by Guangdong Apollo Group, attracted more than 6,000 soccer fans to Yuexiushan Stadium, which is the former home of the Guangzhou Apollo Club.

"I don't care about the result. The most important thing is that we, as old soccer players, have come here and to play in a tournament that will help promote a better soccer environment," said Gao Hongbao, former Chinese national team coach.

Gao was also a former striker with Beijing Guo'an, which lost 1-0 to Shanghai in the opening game of the tournament on Sunday.

"We hope the game will inspire more young people to play soccer. It is our obligation to push up Chinese soccer development," Gao said.

The Shanghai team, led by Chinese star Fan Zhiyi, will play Shaanxi on Tuesday.

"All of the faces were so familiar at the game. Today, I felt like I was playing during the Jia-A time," said Xie Hui, a former striker for the Shanghai team.

At the home ground, Guangzhou Apollo beat Qingdao Hainiu 5-0 on Sunday.

"At Yuexiushan, I am more like a young boy. And I remember all the glory we achieved here," said Hu Zhijun, a former striker for the Guangzhou Apollo.

Hu, 42, who was named the best striker in Jia-A in 1994, scored one goal and created two penalties on Sunday.

The tournament final will be on Dec 1.

The event will be held annually beginning next year, said Peng Weiguo, one of the key players who helped launch the tournament,

"We hope more teams will join the tournament from next year. By organizing such a tournament, we believe that more young people will start playing soccer. Chinese soccer will have a bright future only when a growing number of children get involved in soccer in the near future," Peng said.

Six teams from cities of Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai and Qingdao, as well as Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, will compete in this year's tournament.

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