Gelsenkirchen – The arrival of Johannes Geis, Franco Di Santo and new head coach Andre Breitenreiter may have dominated headlines among the FC Schalke 04 faithful this summer, but it would be wrong to believe that is all the Royal Blues have been up to in the off season.

While the first-team squad were being put through their paces out on the training pitch last week, the club sent an eight-person delegation, led by Schalke’s academy head Marco Fladrich and including academy coaches Kai Brock, Sam Farokhi, Marc Gebler, Pascal Gunia, Tom Albrecht and Klaus Sommer, on a week-long trip to China.

Learning from the best

The group visited the Great Wall and other attractions, but sightseeing was not the primary purpose of the tour. Instead, they were laying the foundations for the club to expand into the world’s most populous country.

A key part of that was the staging of a training camp in Beijing. A total of 84 young players between the ages of five and 13 attended, where they were taught how to play the Schalke way. “If you want to be Schalke on the outside, you have to be Schalke on the inside,” marketing director Alexander Jobst told schalke04.de, going on to say that the locals were eager to “learn from the best.” Indeed, with the likes of Julian Draxler, Max Meyer and Manuel Neuer, among others, having come up through the ranks at the Royal Blues, the youngsters were undoubtedly receiving some of the finest coaching available.

Popular presence

The presence of the Schalke representatives in the Far East was extremely well received, with fans waiting to greet them when they arrived at the airport and “asking for photos every ten metres,” according to Fladrich. Furthermore, the visit was given plenty of coverage in the Chinese media, who accompanied the delegation each day.

A football tournament brought the training camp to a close, and the participants were given banners, footballs, certificates and medals for taking part. There was also a colourful closing ceremony in which the youngsters bid farewell to their coaches by singing the club song. Jobst said he was happy with the “first steps the Royal Blues have taken into this huge market,” and in light of Schalke’s growing popularity in the country, Chinese fans can rest assured that there will be many more visits in the future.

"The Schalke football academy at the Great Wall of China" reads the tweet below.