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The Barça Experience in Haikou is now a reality after the inauguration ceremony held today at the Mission Hills complex, and fans visiting the Chinese Island of Hainan, one of Asian's leading tourist destinations, will now be able to learn more about FC Barcelona, thanks to a complex that includes an interactive 4,000 m2 museum and a large megastore, as well as a Barça Academy Pro with six pitches.
The opening ceremony was held at Centerville in Haikou and was attended by several club representatives, including the director and head of the digital area, Didac Lee; executive director-CEO, Òscar Grau; technical secretary, Eric Abidal; and club ambassador, Juliano Belletti; together with Tenniel Chu, vice president of the Mission Hills Group, and various local authorities and executives from the Chinese Football Federation.
Dídac Lee announced that Barça are working with the intention of the first team visiting the facilities during their 2019 summer tour. The team have a preseason trip to China and Japan scheduled, as part of the globalisation and brand expansion strategy that forms part of the current mandate’s Strategic Plan.
The event took place at Centerville is a large shopping mall in Haikou where the Barça Experience can be found. The ceremony was attended by the Shanghai Barça Supporters Club, who offered plenty of cheering as each of the Barça representatives took to the microphone, and especially when Dídac Lee have part of his speech in Chinese, describing how pleased the club is that this project has become a reality in such a key strategic market.
This is the same place where, 18 months ago, President Josep Maria Bartomeu signed a 10-year agreement, extendable for a further 10, to create the first joint venture in the history of the club, at an event attended by former Barca player Ronaldinho. This agreement, which was endorsed by the Extraordinary Members Assembly, marks a new step in the internationalisation strategy for the Barça brand, included in the Strategic Plan for 2015-2021.
This has been the starting point for an historic project for FC Barcelona in Haikou. It has been driven by the Mission Hills Group, owned by the Chu family and a leading company in the sports and leisure sector, which has 100% private capital. The project includes a 4,000 m2 FC Barcelona Experience area, a 900 m2 Megastore, an area for future restaurants, and a Barça Academy Pro that has been operating since the summer of 2017.
Once the event finished, the authorities paid an institutional visit to the new Barça Experience center that can be enjoyed by Centerville visitors. The Barça Museum is a 4,000 m2 facility that is the largest museum space and experience for any football club outside of its own country.
It is conceived to be interactive and offer digital experiences to the fans that visit it, and has a trophy area, a virtual reality zone that transports the visitor to the Camp Nou, large screens where videos of historic sporting moments are projected, a leisure area with different activities including the chance to take penalties against Ter Stegen and a search for historic images, plus video games and fussball, and all with the ball as the main focus and always staying faithful to the style of play that has made Barça a world leader in football.
The trademark of being 'more than a club' is also present, with explanations about everything that Barça does differently to other clubs in the world.
Haikou's Barça Experience project is located in a strategic area, on Hainan Island, with great environmental sustainability. It is not industrialised, is a great sporting destination and a recognised tourist spot for the Chinese. It is known as the 'Asian Hawaii', and the island is located in the south of the country, so it benefits from a tropical climate and has miles of beaches.
Visit to Barça Academy Pro
After the opening ceremony and institutional visit to the museum, the Barça delegates made their way to the Barça Academy Pro, at facilities located around twenty minutes from Centerville. It has been a training centre since 2017. Once on the pitch, the Barça players were surprised by the children from the academy, and Éric Abidal gave them a talk about how they should enjoy playing football and make the most of the opportunity to learn to play football the Barça way and learn from the finest coaches they could hope for.
Since 2017 more than 1,200 children have participated in the different camps and programmes organised with the same methodology as Barça schools on facilities that include six training pitches with the capacity for a thousand athletes. In this period of time, more than 5,000 young people from Haikou city have also been trained by coaches from the Barça Academy in different campaigns to promote football in local schools.
Éric Abidal and Juliano Belletti then gave a football class to the boys and girls from the academy, including a '2 versus 60' activity in which the duo took on the whole of the school! They also organised typical 'rondo' exercises and similar drills with the kids from Barça Academy Pro.
Statement by Dídac Lee, FC Barcelona director:
“Today we're inaugurating a Barça Experience center and a store that will allow us to get closer to Barça fans in China. We know that the Chinese interest in football is growing day by day in the same way that their interest in Barça does. This centre will help football fans who come to the beautiful island of Hainan to spend some unforgettable moments in a unique place. We are sure that the more we get to know each other, the more we will love each other. All this can be seen in detail at this Barça Experience centre. We want all fans to feel part of the Barça family that consists of partners, supporters groups, fans, players and partners like Mission Hills”.
Statement by Tenniel Chu, vice-president of Mission Hills Group:
“Football is the biggest sport in the world and the most popular in China. The country has about 200 million followers and more than 10 million people actively play the sport. The Barça Experience, along with our Barça Academy Pro, will inspire a new generation of football fans in China and will allow Haikou to become the birthplace of future football stars in China”.
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