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 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 10:42 GMT
Chinese stars go head to head

Man City defender Sun Jihai
Sun Jihai: First Chinese player to score in the Premiership

Chinese interest in English football will reach another level on New Year's Day when China's two best-known players face each other in the Premiership.

Midfielder Li Tie will line up for Everton against Manchester City's central defender Sun Jihai at Goodison Park.

Football fever has spread through China since the national team reached the finals of last summer's World Cup.

An estimated television audience of 300m watched their first match against Brazil.

But it is the English game that has taken root in China because of the presence of two star players in the Premiership.

Everton have a major sponsorship deal with one of the biggest Chinese mobile phone companies and, with a large Chinese community in Liverpool, executive boxes at the ground have become popular with Chinese businessmen.

Interest in Everton has forced the club to employ a Liverpool University student to look after the Chinese enquiries.

Everton are now believed to be more popular in China than Manchester United.

Manchester City are also using their Chinese star Sun Jihai to promote their club.

As well as selling large quantities of his number 17 shirt, they have opened merchandising outlets in Beijing, Shanghai and Dalian.

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