"Crystal palace" has long been a famous name in China, partly thanks to the grand steel and glass building that hosted the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, and partly due to that in Chinese mythology, "crystal palace" is where the Dragon King, or the God of Rain, lives.
But it was not until the late 1990s that Crystal Palace, a south London professional football club known as the Eagles, rose to fame in China when two Chinese footballers signed for the then First Division club, becoming the country's pioneers at the home of modern football.
"As a club we are very proud of our links with China. We were the first English club to sign Chinese internationals with the arrivals in 1998 of former club captain Fan Zhiyi and Sun Jihai," said Phil Alexander, the chief executive of Crystal Palace, in an email to China Daily.
Fan and Sun both spent a successful period in England: Fan played 88 league games for the club and captained the team in some matches during three seasons he spent there, and Sun also played regularly for the team during a one-year loan stint before he helped another First Division team, Manchester City get promoted to the Premier League.
Chinese footballers are not strangers to current Crystal Palace manager Alan Pardew. In 2007, whilst manager of London rivals Charlton Athletic, he signed midfielder Zheng Zhi from Chinese Super League (CSL) team Shandong Luneng.
"Zheng Zhi is fantastic player and fantastic person. It's an honor to work with him," said Pardew. "He is good enough to play for this team (Crystal Palace)."
Despite its huge population of football fans, China has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 2002, and it lags behind Asian neighbors such as Japan and Korea.
Speaking of how China should improve its football level, Pardew and captain Mile Jedinak pointed to the introduction of talented players from other countries.
"One way to improve a country's football level is to bring in talented players and best coaches from around the world, as we are doing in the Premier League," said Pardew.
Jedinak, who lifted the Asian Cup trophy as the captain of Australia's national team, the Socceroos, and an old opponent of China's side, echoed the opinion of his coach: "The introduction of quality players can help the matches (of a nation's domestic league) to another level, and that will improve China's national team."
In the highly competitive English Premier League, Crystal Palace finished at 10th in the 2014/2015 season, and it is the third consecutive year that the club competes in the top-flight of English football. With a stable lineup and new signings such as Yohan Cabaye, the club is expected to build on what it has achieved in the last seaon.
"We will try to finish higher than 10th this year. It is difficult as every team in the Premier League have improved. But we will try," said Pardew.
This year, the popularity of Crystal Palace is expected to further grow in China given that CCTV 5, the sports channel provided by the country's largest state-run TV broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), has started screening the 2015/2016 English Premier League (EPL), which marked the return of EPL to China's state-run channel after 12 years.
"With the return of Premier League football to CCTV 5, we're delighted that Eagles supporters and potential new fans in China will have more opportunities to watch our games," said Phil Alexander.
As part of Crystal Palace's plans to market to football fans in China, the club has also launched a new Fan Promotions Site in partnership with main sponsor Mansion Group. The new site is available in five languages, including Mandarin. Crystal Palace's international fans are invited to vote for their Player of the Month and receive exclusive content and competitions.
Taken from China Daily