The match was the first of what is planned to be a regular series between the teams – the Capital Cup, which was first mooted during last year’s Wellington delegation to China.
It was played at the Beijing Olympic Park in front of an estimated crowd of 20,000, a business and education delegation led by Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, and Beijing Vice Mayor Mr Zhang Jiandong. For the record, the score was 2-1 to the Phoenix but more importantly it signified the warm relations between the Capital cities, says the Mayor.
“The Chinese crowd welcomed the Phoenix and everyone appreciated the competitive game,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.
“Māori performers made a strong impression and the whole event highlighted the warm relationship between our capital cities. Trade, culture, education and sport opportunities abound.”
Jo Coughlan, who chairs Council’s Economic Growth and Arts committee and promoted the idea of a football match during last year’s Mayoral delegation, says the decade-long sister city relationship provides significant benefit to Wellington.
“This match elevates Wellington in front of a city of 21 million people,” she says. “Beijing's economy ranks among the most developed in China. Beijing’s GDP in 2015 topped CNY2.297 trillion (NZD$490 billion), and we want Wellington businesses to success in this huge market. Our sister city relationship is helping unlock this potential market.”
Rob Morrison, Chairman of Wellington Phoenix, says the ‘beautiful game’ is a great way to showcase each city.
“Cultural and sporting contacts are critical in building stronger ties between the capital cities,” he says. “Football is perfectly positioned to help New Zealand build its economic links with its most important trading partners.”
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown led a delegation to Beijing following the New Zealand China Mayoral Forum held in September 2015 and met Mayor Wang Anshan. It was discussed that Wellington and Beijing would hold annual football matches in alternating locations to strengthen ties between the capitals.
This initiative was confirmed on both sides, with the first of these matches held in 2016 to celebrate 10 years of sister city relations between Wellington and Beijing.
China’s president Xi Jinping is a known football enthusiast and has unveiled a strategy to become a "world football superpower" by 2050, with plans to get 50 million children and adults playing the game by 2020.