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Antwerp Stint Helped Me Mature-Dong
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Chinese forward Dong Fangzhou says his stint with Manchester United's Belgian feeder outfit Royal Antwerp has helped him mature as a player.

In a telephonic interview with www.the-afc.com, Dong said the improvement was all round and touched the technical, physical and mental aspects of his game.

"I feel I have really improved while playing for Antwerp. Now I am confident of playing against any team in the world," said Dong, who was snapped up by English Premier League giants Manchester United from Dalian Shide in January 2004 before being farmed out to Royal Antwerp.

"I have also completely adapted to my new style of living in Europe alongwith the football."

On China's chances in the AFC Asian Cup next year, Dong, who is likely to be a key member of coach Zhu Guanghu's squad, said: "I have never played against Iran, Uzbekistan or Malaysia (China's rivals in Group C) so I don't know much about them. But China as a team will try to win each game. That is certain."

"China played at home in the last edition and lost to Japan in the Final. This time we will take it match by match and aim to qualify for the knockout stage."

Dong, who turns 21 on January 23 next year, said he had already started training with Manchester United. "I am already training with them (Manchester United). My agent is working hard on it (to clear the formalities) and I am hoping to join them as soon as possible."

Road To Man Utd

Joined Dalian Yiteng FC in 2007, transferred to Dalian Shide Youth Team in 2000 and won National Youth Championship soon after his join.

Joined Dalian Saidelong FC (Division 2) and played for professional league at the age of 17.

With a sum of 800K RMB(US$102K) on loan back to Dalian Shide in 2003.

Being selected to Dalian Shide FC senior team and had his first debut in CFA Cup at February 2003

Played his first home game at Dalian in 2003 Asian Champions League Group Stage, and scored a world class goal against Thailand club Osotspa.

Transferred to Man Utd with 3.5M Pounds from Dalian at January 2004 when Dong was 19, he transferred to Belgium Club Antewerp on loan with 3 years contract.

Dong's performance was recognized in 2004-2005 seasons soon after Antewerp was relegated in 2003-2004 seasons.

(China Daily via AFC December 29, 2006)

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