On 29 September, 2009 a vision of the future was fulfilled with the launch of the Chengdu Blades Academy.
The state-of-the-art, 147,352 square meter academy is located in the Shuangliu area of Chengdu city in the Sichuan region of China.
Surrounded by parkland and close to the International Tennis Centre, the new academy features six full-size football pitches, gymnasium and steam rooms. There is accommodation on-site for 200 people with dining facilities, class rooms, internet and reading rooms, meeting and media facilities as well as a medical centre. The new centre will also serve as the main office for the Chengdu Blades and the principal coaching facility for the club’s first and reserve teams.
Future plans include additional five-a-side and beach football pitches as well as a children’s play area. With a focus on wider development of the game in China, the academy will provide a training and match facility for other professional and amateur clubs, as well as being available for public use.
The next generation of footballers will benefit from expert instruction with an emphasis put on providing an unparalleled professional environment for youngsters to develop both on and off the field.
The Chengdu Academy training programmes will incorporate the highly-advanced training techniques developed by Sheffield United’s vastly experienced team of Academy coaches. The opening of the Academy marks another milestone in Sheffield United’s innovative relationship with the Chengdu Blades.
The relationship has already seen the club gain, and cement, a position as a powerhouse in the Super League, the top-flight of Chinese football.
“We will provide an exciting opportunity for young and aspiring footballers from China to achieve their ambition of playing at the top level.
“The Academy will promote a positive lifestyle for young people, whilst helping develop future talent in China.
“The ultimate accolade for the Academy will be introducing a breed of new players through to the Chinese Super League and ultimately the Chinese national team. At the same time, we shall try to make sure that this facility is available as often as possible to many different people from different levels of the game. This is part of our, and Sheffield United’s, commitment to the ‘grass roots’ of the game."
The launch event, taking place two days before the 60th celebration of China’s National Day, saw a collection of dignitaries, VIPs and media enjoying a tour of the Academy.
A game between academy players and a local school was followed by a skills display before fireworks, a balloon release and a 12-gun salute marked the official opening of the facility.
The club representatives that attended the grand opening of the Academy included; Tony Xu (Chairman of Chengdu Blades), Scott McCabe (Director of Sheffield United), Terry Robinson (Sheffield United International Chairman and Football Executive), Mike Farnan (Sheffield United Executive Director) and Brian Deane (former Sheffield United / England striker).
The attending dignitaries included; Steven Smith (Deputy Consul-General, British Consulate-General, Chongqing), Hui Zhao Xu (Municipal Administrator, the Government of Sichuan Province), Zhou Xianyi (Deputy General Secretary of Shuangliu), Li Lipeng (Chinese Football Association), Gu Jianming (Chengdu Football Association), Xuan Liu (former Gymnastics World Champion) and Bora Milutinovic (former head coach of China's international team, who led them to World Cup 2002 qualification).
Speeches by both Tony Xu and Scott McCabe were warmly received. Scott McCabe, a Director of SUFC, said: “This facility opens up a direct pathway into Chengdu Blades first team and pathways to other corners of the football world in the Blades way.
“The potential is huge and this allows us to unearth further the emerging football talent we see coming out of China today.
“The Academy will bring huge benefits to the region and it would be great to see some of the graduates playing at Bramall Lane in the World Cup in 2018!"
Brian Deane is now an international ambassador for the Blades. He was one of United’s most prolific strikers of the modern era, scoring a grand total of 119 goals for the Blades, including the club’s first ever Premiership goal against Manchester United in 1992.
“For a young footballer to make the grade to a professional player, the hard work and dedication start early in life,” Deane commented at the launch of the new Academy.
“But to have the facilities, support and all-round educational opportunities on offer at the Chengdu Blades Academy will make a huge difference to these kids and help them to develop into the future stars of Chinese football.
“I am very impressed and look forward to returning here on many occasions in the future.”
“The ambition of both clubs is for the Academy to become a recognised football centre of excellence in China that will contribute to the future success not only of the Blades, but Chinese football in general."