Once again this summer will see Arsenal make a preseason stop in China, as the club have announced that they will face Manchester City in a friendly in the Bird's Nest stadium famous for hosting the 2008 Olympic Games. The match, billed as the inaugural "China Cup," will be played July 27, which is also the first day of the 2012 Olympics hosted in London.
Last year the club's Asian tour included a stop in Hangzhou, but this marks the club's first visit to the nation's capital since a 1-0 defeat to Beijing Guoan in 1995, shortly after China's national league professionalized. Further quotes from club Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis can be found on the dot-com (in the link provided above), but the main jist of the whole plan is this:
We enjoy huge support in Asia and by playing a match in Beijing, we will once again be bringing the Club close to our loyal fans in China...The match against Manchester City is sure to be an exciting spectacle, with many great players from both sides playing in front of thousands of supporters in the wonderful ‘Bird’s Nest’ Stadium.
This is something that Arsene Wenger's teams in recent years haven't done much of, and while I understand the reasons why he's preferred a quiet camp in Austria (I mean, who here would turn down a summer vacation in Austria?) I like the shift. Primarily I like the fact that the team is traveling to give foreign fans a chance to see the team, which for most of us is hard or impossible. I can't afford airfare, hotel, and match tickets in London, but if Arsenal were to play in Chicago (or New York, or Los Angeles) that would be a lot more reasonable. And I like the fact that the club makes an attempt to legitimize foreign fans in a landscape where often your postal code is considered more important than your ideas when it comes to analysis and opinions on a team.
To keep it real for a second, though, it's really about money, and I'm totally okay with that as well. Arsenal has a massive fanbase, but has lagged behind other similar clubs in commercial revenue for some time now. A lot of that has to do with our sponsorship deals, but while those remain in place for a little while still, the club should do what it can to make economic inroads in new places. China has an Arsenal fanbase already, and a visit from the team can only help that. I selfishly wish the club would diversify its travel a bit (SERIOUSLY ARSENE COME TO THE UNITED STATES), but the ideas are good.