A Chinese under-20 XI is set to play in Germany's regional fourth tier next season, according to German football association (DFB) plans. League boss Felix Wiedemann tells DW about the advantages for the clubs.
Plenty of pro clubs have toured China seeking exposure, but this plan would bring a Chinese team into an amateur German league
DW: Next season, the Chinese U20 national team is set to take part in the Regionalliga Südwest, the south-western branch of Germany's five regional divisions one tier below the three national divisions. How has this come about?
Felix Wiedermann: Germany's football association, the DFB, has a long-standing cooperation with China. The idea was put to us that China's 2022 Olympic team could play in the Regionalliga Südwest. We currently have 19 teams which means that one club always has a weekend off, so the Chinese suggested that their Olympic team play a friendly against whichever team doesn't have a match.
Results against the Chinese team won't actually contribute to the league standings. Does that mean that red cards won't count either?
Those are details which still need to ironed out but I would imagine that it would work the same as in normal friendly matches, where yellow and red cards don't carry a suspension and therefore don't count. However if a player is sent off for violent conduct, that could have an effect on upcoming competitive games. But of course that's already the case in friendlies.
What do you hope to gain from this cooperation?
We were absolutely clear from the start that this had to be something the clubs want. So the first step was to get in touch with the clubs to make sure that they were on board. All 19 clubs responded very positively and said: "This would be great. Let's make it happen." That was key for us.
Were no concerns raised at all?
No concerns, no. But of course there were a few questions as to how exactly it would work. But the clubs all saw lots of advantages. As it is, 90 percent of the clubs organize friendly matches on their two free weekends anyway to maintain their match fitness, but it's not always easy to find opposition because all the other leagues are playing! So the prospect of having a definite opponent is certainly attractive. Some of the clubs have also suggested making a sort of event of the matches against the Chinese XI which is bound to interest people.
How much do you know about the Chinese U20s?
Not a lot! But I do know that the Chinese are extremely ambitious. Chinese U20 teams have played friendly games in Germany in the past, but that as a while ago. Although it did produce a few players for the national team. So it's definitely an exciting opportunity.
The Chinese U20s won't have a home ground here in Germany. Where will they be based?
That's another issue which still needs to be decided. The whole idea isn't yet certain, so we'll see over the coming days. We've already received offers from towns and communities who would like to host the Chinese team.
Felix Wiedemann is the chief executive of the Regionalliga Südwest. The interview was conducted by Andreas Sten-Ziemons.