Why do Barcelona have Chinese names on the back of their shirts against Real Madrid?

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FC Barcelona
For the first time in their history, the Catalan club will have players' names written in another script to Latin to mark Chinese New Year

Barcelona players are to wear special kits for their Copa del Rey semi-final showdown against fierce rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday evening at Camp Nou.

For the first time ever, Barcelona's unique shirts feature each player's name written Chinese characters underneath their regular names in order to honour Chinese New Year which starts this week.

Chinese New Year officially began on Tuesday February 5 to initiate the Year of the Pig but is to be celebrated globally during the rest of this month. The Year of the Rat will arrive next on January 25, 2020.

Traditionally, Chinese New Year commemorates the start of the new year on the country's traditional calendar. Referred to as the Spring Festival in mainland China, it is observed as one of several Luna New Years in Asia.  

Though it is the first time that Barcelona have placed non-Latin characters on the back on their kits, they are not the first European side to do so.

Paris Saint-Germain honoured the start of the Year of the Dog on February 16, 2018 with Chinese lettering on their shirts as well, and without their names spelled regularly.

FC Barcelona CNY kits 2018-19

The honouring of the Lunar New Year with the addition of the Chinese characters on shirts is part of the club's ambitions to increase supporters in Asia, with friendlies planned in the Far East later this year.

“This year is also an important one for the strategy of establishment of Barcelona in China, which will experience its most important moment next summer when the first team will visit China and Japan on their pre-season tour," said the official statement.

The festival is one of the most important in the Chinese calendar and is associated with several myths and customs. The festival was traditionally a time to honour deities as well as ancestors, with various customs and celebrations differing between each region. 

Lighting firecrackers, large family gatherings and red-paper envelopes are popular Chinese New Year traditions along with red and gold decorations that signify good fortune or happiness, wealth, and longevity.

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The kits adorned with the Chinese letters will also be available with a limited release at the official Barcelona store.

Barcelona are currently top of La Liga and are aiming to win their fifth Copa del Rey title in a row, with the second leg against their arch-rivals Real Madrid taking place towards the end of the month.

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