4 September 2014 15:11

A former international footballer – regarded by many as the Chinese David Beckham due to his fame in the Far East – has visited Lancaster University’s Confucius Institute.

Fan Zhiyi visited Lancaster University on Thursday, September 4, along with coaches from Shanghai Clever Football Club, and billionaire businessman Yan Yanjie, ahead of a charity match to be played at Morecambe FC this Sunday. The historic occasion will see the first football team registered in China play at a Football League ground in England.

Mr Fan was voted Asian Footballer of the Year in 2001, appeared at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and was the first Chinese player to play in England when he joined Crystal Palace. He is now manager of Shanghai Clever.

A household name throughout China, Mr Fan was warmly greeted and asked for autographs by Chinese students studying at Lancaster.

Yan Fu, 27, a mathematics masters student from Shanghai, said: “He is from Shanghai like me and I am very proud of him. Everyone knows him back in China and it is exciting that he has visited and for me to be so close to him.”

Mr Fan and Yan Yanjie, who is looking to create links between Shanghai and Morecambe FC, were welcomed by Professor Steve Bradley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International).

“Mr Fan, a former captain of the China national team and Crystal Palace player, is obviously a major celebrity in China,” said Professor Bradley. “His visit, which is great for the Chinese students who have been able to meet him today, also sends out a powerful message that Lancaster University is keen to engage with China on many different levels – including research, teaching and helping to forge links between UK and Chinese businesses.

“The Confucius Institute has a role in building relationships with the Chinese community across the campus and locally and this visit is an extension of that work. We will continue to facilitate the links being forged between Shanghai and Morecambe FC.”

The visit to Lancaster University was also filmed by journalists from BT Sport who are recognising the historical significance of the first Chinese football team to play at an English stadium.

The charity football event takes place at Morecambe FC’s Globe Arena this Sunday from 1pm and includes a Morecambe FC legends side, a Big Sam’s Celebrity XI (Managed by West Ham boss Sam Allardyce), and ‘General’ Fan’s Shanghai XI. The event is raising money for Prostate Cancer UK.

More information about Lancaster University’s Confucius Centre is available by visiting http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/confuciusinstitute/

More information about the charity football event can be found here: http://www.morecambefc.com/news/article/men-united-vs-prostate-cancer-1879257.aspx