The New York Times

Great Kick Forward


When the World Cup opens in Moscow on June 14, soccer fans may notice something out of the ordinary. Alongside the slick ad campaigns for famous global brands — Visa, Adidas, Coca-Cola — there will be a proliferation of pitches from obscure companies with names like Mengniu, Vivo and Wanda. These newly minted World Cup sponsors aren’t selling much that is related to soccer; these three, for example, trade in dairy products, electric scooters and movie theaters. They all come from a country, moreover, whose national team has never scored a single World Cup goal and is not among the 32 qualifying teams this year, but which still sees itself as the future of soccer: China.

Beijing has made no secret of its soccer ambitions. Over the past few years, President Xi Jinping has vowed to turn China into a “soccer superpower” that will host, qualify for and, by 2050,

This article originally appeared in .

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