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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

Foreign Football Talent On Chinese Social Media

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Each year football continues to grow in China. In recent times, the sport has secured huge investment, with more and more foreign players opting to play in the Chinese Super League (CSL) making it the most popular sport in the country.  Social media is also on the rise, China now boasts the largest social networking community in the world. A range of sports stars have used social media to further their fan base with Chinese tennis sensation Li Na boasting over 23 million fans upon her retirement.  But the question beckons, can an active presence on social media make an impact on football becoming an even bigger phenomenon?

Among the current 481 signed players in the CSL, 86 hail from overseas, accounting for 18% of the player population. Of the 86, 4 are among the top 5 scorers in the league table, with Brazilian Aloisio Goncalves amassing 20 goals this season so far. Also among the list of international transfers is the CSL’s record signing, Ricardo Goulart Pereira, who set Guangzhou Evergrande back a cool $17.74 million.

In the most recent transfer window, teams in the CSL accumulated spending in the region of $144m, double that of the previous transfer window and second only to the English Premier League, dwarfing the Serie A, Bundesliga and La Liga. This amount of spending has signaled a rise in investment in a country where football amounts to 77% of overall money spent on sports sponsorships.

But can active interaction with fans on social media help propel the sport even further? Yes, it can. In a land where the player is bigger than the club, the impact social media can have will go a long way to reaching the masses. On the current social media landscape all 16 teams in the CSL have accounts on Weibo. However, it seems China’s footballing elite both native and foreign have failed to take advantage of the power of social media.

As social media and football continue to grow at a rapid pace, it’s no surprise that the sport has such a huge following across the social landscape. There are already millions of fans on Weibo interested in the CSL and participating teams. European clubs have used this knowledge to their advantage with a huge following surrounding certain clubs and in particular their star players. The biggest surprise comes from the fact that the stars of the CSL are failing to utilize these platforms, driving the sport even further, securing even larger investments, bigger talent and most of all, reaching a wider audience.

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