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Leo Messi with the special Chinese New Year shirt / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

This Saturday, for the league match between Barça and Valencia, the first team players will be wearing the letter symbolising the horse in Chinese tradition. That is the animal of the New Chinese Year, which begins on January 31.

This single-edition shirt will also be worn on a day when the 16.00 kick-off is especially convenient for Asian viewers. In fact, Beijing TV will be showing the game live at 23.00 for the whole of China. Fox Asia will be broadcasting the game in India and Indonesia, as will RS Sports in Thailand and WOWOW in Japan.

The symbol of the horse is FC Barcelona’s way of commemorating this important occasion in China. The first team players have also appeared in a special video in which they send their Chinese fans their best wishes for the New Year. Neymar, Piqué, Pedro and Sergi Roberto appear in the short film addressing supporters in Mandarin, for which they all specially learned how to say certain phrases in the language.

Last year, FC Barcelona also celebrated the coming of the Chinese New Year in the build-up to the game with Getafe on February 10. Both captains walked onto the pitch with children wearing commemorative T-shirts, and the team posed for a photo with a special message for their Chinese fans.

Half a million single users a week

Barça has its own Chinese language website at www.fcbarcelona.cn, the second most visited version of all with 500,000 single users a week. Only the English site gets more hits. On some days, and the day of the 16.00 start against Valencia is sure to be one of these, the Mandarin version of the site can even become the most visited of the day.

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