A footballing tour by Sheffield United to the most landlocked city in the world could reap long term benefits.
The journey of a lifetime saw 22 players from the Club's Redtooth Academy, head east to China on a trip of thousands of miles via Amsterdam and Beijing to Urumqi, capital city of the Xinjiang province and at the heart of the country's plans to build a new Silk Road for international business and trade.
The trip - in part due to United's co-owner Kevin McCabe's strong business links with the Far East and China - led to the Club and its U18 squad participating in
- Signing a friendship and co-operation agreement with civic leaders in Urumqi
- Playing two representative games - including one before a crowd of 15,000
- Training programmes and visits to local schools and orphanages.
"The visit was an undoubted success," said Sheffield United director Simon McCabe, who travelled with the squad along with Kevin McCabe. "We were able to spread the word about the Blades in terms of our heritage, our facilities and the potential of the club on and off the pitch.
"We were very well received wherever we went and I believe there will be real long term benefits for all concerned. There is a strong chance that the Club will return to the region of China, including the possibility of the first team."
Sheffield United co-owner Kevin McCabe said: "The club enjoys a strong tradition of developing footballing and commercial relationships on an international basis.
"Through the connections with my business group, Scarborough Group International, this provides a further opportunity for the Club. I would personally like to thank Mr Mi from The Hualing Group and his colleagues who have made the tour possible. Hopefully this will be the first of many trips to the region and the Club will see commercial benefits."
For a full report on the U18s trip - see the Chesterfield match day programme.