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William watches football workshop

The Duke of Cambridge has watched Chinese children taking part in a football masterclass staged by British coaches.

William, who is an avid Aston Villa fan and president of the Football Association, saw the youngsters being put through their paces when he visited Nanyang High School in Shanghai.

Soccer is about to become part of the national curriculum in China, and the British Council runs a scheme called Premier Skills which fosters a passion for the game.

The Duke was shown around by Paul Hughes, 33, a former coach at Reading, Millwall and Southampton football clubs, who now travels the world passing on his experience to local coaches under the British Council scheme.

He said: "The Duke told the children that if they keep on working hard hopefully one day they might play in the Premier League.

"He asked them if they knew who David Beckham was, and said that if they got involved in football then one day they might meet him.

"The Duke was interested in how football helps build confidence, self-esteem and promotes good health, and how the game is going to become a big focal point in schools here."

William, who wore a navy blue suit, had been expected to take part in a five-a-side kickabout, but only kicked one ball during the visit.

During his day in Shanghai, William, who is on a four-day tour of China, praised the thousands of Chinese men and women who enrol in Britain's universities when he met graduates who had studied in the UK.

He chatted to the group when he attended the British Council Global Alumni Awards at the historic Ruijin Hotel, an event to celebrate the academic achievements and success of Chinese students.

Before giving a short speech, the Duke met the nine Chinese finalists who told him being educated in the UK had made a huge difference to their lives.

They had studied in places as diverse as Oxford, Cardiff, Birmingham and the London School of Economics.

And William appeared delighted when one former student told him that her five years in the UK had "transformed my life".

Another, who studied in Birmingham, was quizzed by Aston Villa fan William about which football team he supported and the Duke said: "Well, you must follow Aston Villa now."

When another successful former graduate said he had studied law at a British university and was now a judge in Shanghai, William joked: "I'll make sure I'm on my best behaviour while I'm here."

Afterwards he told an assembled audience of British alumni about his meeting with the students: "I was struck by their self-confidence and enthusiasm for the UK and their outstanding accomplishments."

He said Britain "has some of the best universities in the world" and added of the 135,000 Chinese students who arrive each year to study in the UK: "I was privileged to study alongside some of them when I was at St Andrews University in Scotland."

The Duke concluded by telling them he hoped they would continue to benefit from their time in the UK, adding: "We are certainly benefiting from them."

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