Stars and cheap seats for Barca China Tour 2007

Former FIFA World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, star striker Samuel Eto'o and teenage sensation Lionel Messi will lead Spain's Barcelona club against Chinese Super League club Beijing Guo'an on 5 August. The friendly, played after the conclusion of the Asian Football Confederation's prestigious Asian Cup 2007, is an important feature of the 2007 Spanish Culture Year in China and the one-year countdown celebrations to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Audi Barca China Tour will also include games in Japan and Macau.

"The club has promised to send their strongest team to China," Liu Hongwei, one of the tour promoters, told China Daily. "The club also promised that even if one of their superstars is sold, they will buy a new icon to join the tour. The deal has been made between the two sides and the club will have to take responsibility if the top players are not included in the tour."

Barcelona has been gaining in popularity in China but its previous trip was a calamity. They took on Shanghai United the day after the 2004 Asian Cup final, which China lost to Japan and very few fans turned up to watch. "In 2004, Barcelona's visit to Shanghai was a total flop and the club felt it damaged their image," Liu said. "So they want to repair it with a first-class squad and performance."

Organisers will put in an extra 6,000 seats to take the capacity up to 35,000. Liu added the limited number of seats will not lead to an increase in price. "We will keep the price at a lower level than Real Madrid's tour to Beijing two years ago. It is important to protect the sport's market so we will not increase the price and undermine the fans."

See also: Barcelona to support grassroots programs in China (18 May)

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