August 19, 2015 / 1:01 PM / 3 years ago

Adidas strikes soccer school deal with Chinese government

* Adidas to develop soccer training for 20,000 schools

* Training planned for 50,000 teachers

* China keen to promote soccer at grassroots

* Nike has an advantage in basketball-mad China

BERLIN, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Adidas has agreed a partnership with the Chinese education ministry to promote soccer in schools as part of a campaign to support the sport at the grassroots as it goes head to head with Nike in the basketball-obsessed nation.

The German sportswear maker said it had signed a three-year deal to develop a soccer programme for 20,000 primary and middle schools, train 50,000 teachers and also support a national summer camp for more than 400 students.

While Adidas’s sports-inspired fashion is popular in China, it is at a disadvantage to its larger rival in the country as soccer — the sport in which it has its roots — is far less popular there than basketball, which Nike dominates.

“The development of grassroots football is a key vehicle for Adidas in empowering rising athletes, nurturing a next generation of football players and inspiring a new generation of football fans in China,” said Adidas China head Colin Currie.

The popularity of soccer as a spectator sport in China is on the rise, particularly the European leagues seen on television.

However, China has only qualified for the World Cup finals once — back in 2002 — and is keen to raise the standard of play among youngsters.

Adidas launched a youth soccer tournament in four cities in China in January and it has supported a school grassroots programme since 2009, while also backing 40 amateur football leagues and training 500 Chinese professional coaches a year.

Adidas Chief Executive Herbert Hainer said this month that he did not expect an end to the firm’s growth in China despite the recent economic slowdown as more and more consumers there were getting interested in sport. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Keith Weir)

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