China

Beckham begins China football envoy role

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Media captionDavid Beckham on his new role as an ambassador for Chinese football

David Beckham is in Beijing to begin his new role as a special ambassador for Chinese football.

It will involve attending league matches in China and visiting clubs to help promote the game to children.

His appointment, announced earlier this month, comes as Chinese football works to recover from a match-fixing scandal that saw dozens of top officials, players and referees jailed or banned.

Beckham, 37, will combine the role with playing for Paris St-Germain.

"I am helping in the education for young kids and young aspiring footballers," he said in a press conference.

"It's as simple as that. I am not here to clear up anything. I am here to educate the children and give them a chance of becoming professional footballers."

But, says the BBC's John Sudworth, he has his work cut out. In a nation of 1.3 billion people some estimates suggest that fewer than 100,000 youths play any form of organised football.

In terms of television viewers China has plenty of fans, but many prefer to watch foreign games over the tarnished domestic league, our correspondent adds.

In February, China's football association banned 33 players and officials for life after a three-year probe into match-fixing.

Image caption Beckham, 37, will combine the role in China with playing for Paris St-Germain

Two ex-heads of the football league were also jailed in June 2012 for corruption, four months after the country's top referee, Lu Jun, was imprisoned for taking money to influence games.

The Chinese national team has also failed to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Beckham's four-day visit will include training sessions with primary schoolchildren and visits to football clubs in Beijing, Qingdao and Wuhan.

The former England captain, one of the most globally recognised names in football, has won a league championship at all three of the clubs he has played for on a permanent basis - Manchester United, Real Madrid and LA Galaxy.

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