14.11.2017 15:47 h

China juniors to play 16 German clubs

China's Under-20 team will on Saturday play the first of 16 planned friendlies against German fourth-division opposition in a controversial experiment aimed at advancing the Asian superpower's chances at the 2020 Olympics.

China's government, led by football fan President Xi Jinping, is investing in the sport in the hope of ending years of national underachievement.

Angela Merkel's German government signed a five-year football partnership agreement with China's vice-premier Liu Yandong last November.

As a result, China's under-20 men's national squad will play a series of friendly matches in Germany over the next six months to help develop them with an eye on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In a distinctive red strip, with alternate colours of yellow and white, China's under-20s will play clubs in Germany's fourth-tier Regionalliga Suedwest (south-west regional league), but will not be included in the league table.

Three teams have refused to face the Chinese, but the other 16 clubs in the 19-strong league will each be paid 15,000 euros ($17,634) for playing the under-20 team.

It is the first time a junior national team will play a series of games against clubs in the German league pyramid.

On Saturday, TSV Schott Mainz will become the first club to face the Chinese juniors, who will be housed in Teistungen, central Germany, and travel by bus to their matches, which run until May next year.

Koblenz, Stuttgarter Kickers and Waldhof Mannheim are the three teams who have refused to face the Chinese after their fans protested.

Offenbach, currently second in the league, will face the Chinese next May, but their coach is one of those against the experiment.

"We have to carry the can for something the politicians and the German FA parcelled up for us," Offenbach coach Oliver Reck told German daily Bild.

"I have nothing against the Chinese, but why do we have to do that?"