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“If China’s soccer population increases to 700,000 or 800,000 in three years, then our cooperation will be successful,” the China Daily quoted him as saying.

Now that, not throwing money at must-have trophy players from overseas, sounds like a goal really worth having.

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John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at)ap.org or follow him at twitter.com/johnleicester