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The former England striker has followed in the footsteps of ex-team mate David Beckham by becoming the brand ambassador of UK based SoccerWorld.

Michael Owen arrived in Beijing on Wednesday to begin his role as brand ambassador for SoccerWorld, a group with football training centers in the UK, Germany, Spain and four centers in China. 

Unlike Beckham, who is working directly with the Chinese Super League as an ambassador, Owen is the brand ambassador for a privately owned company to encourage youth to play football in urban areas.

Owen, who announced his retirement from football at the end of this season, identified the SoccerWorld partnership as an area he will concentrate on post-retirement.

“There are two main things I want to do in my retirement: one is commentary on Premier League football and the other is to represent and encourage young players and share advice on how to be a professional footballer," he stated.

The 33-year-old also shared more about his relationship with China when asked by Goal.

“There is a great relationship between Asia and the Premier League so who knows how many times I will be out here [China]," he said.

"Being the brand ambassador for SoccerWorld means I am going to be out here at least two or three more times."

SoccerWorld say they selected Owen as a global brand ambassador because he has the same love and passion for football and the same dreams to bring Chinese football forward. According to the company website, they aim to “provide professional coaching for kids and young people looking to develop their individual and team skills.” 

Owen, capped 89 times for England, highlighted the importance of his Chinese fans in his short visit to Beijing.

“I certainly value my [Chinese] fan base; I have just under three million followers on Sina Weibo, it’s very different [to western social media] and is a lot more friendly," he said.

Wednesday's event at SoccerWorld’s Chaoyang Sports Center venue contained a variety of football-related activities, including training with local kids and awarding winners of Beijing five-a-side leagues as well as signing autographs and posing for pictures at any opportunity. Owen also unveiled the new logo of the company on its Beijing pitch. 

Chelsea, Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan have all become involved with soccer schools in China in the last year. Owen’s link up with SoccerWorld seems another attempt to capitalize on growing interest in Chinese football, though the benefit of so many soccer schools in urban areas remains to be seen.

Founded in 1998, SoccerWorld started out with their first school in Blackpool, England. They opened China operations in 2007 and established an office in Shanghai. Following Shanghai, the company opened up schools in Beijing and Wuhan. 

As well as his SoccerWorld commitments, Owen will meet with various local media and the British Consulate in Beijing. The quick trip involves stops in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen before departing for London on June 16th.

Beijing-based Peter Davis watched Liaoning Whowin play Chengdu Blades in 2008 and has been hooked on Chinese football ever since. He is a regular contributor to Wild East Football and can be found on Twitter at @peteydavis

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