Elkeson eyes flying start with China
China's historic recruit Elkeson has targeted goals galore as he prepares to kick off his new international career.
The naturalized Brazil-born forward is set to become the first player without Chinese heritage to pull on the red jersey when Team China opens its World Cup qualification campaign in the Maldives on Sept 10.
"I know the Chinese fans have put so much hope in me, and I will repay them with goals," said the 30-year-old through an interpreter at China's training camp in Guangzhou earlier this week.
"My target is to score goals for China and help the team win. We will play our first match in the qualifiers next week and hopefully we can have a good start."
Elkeson, who received his first call-up to Marcello Lippi's squad last month after completing the naturalization process, will go by the Chinese name Ai Kesen.
In June, Li Ke, aka Nico Yennaris, who was born in London to a Chinese mother, became the first naturalized player to be capped by China in a 2-0 friendly win over the Philippines. Li has retained his place in the squad for the Maldives trip.
John Hou Saeter, a Norwegian of Chinese descent, was naturalized around the same time as Beijing Guo'an teammate Li, changing his name to Hou Yongyong.
However, unlike the Guo'an duo, Elkeson has no Chinese heritage and instead qualifies to play under FIFA's five-year residency rule.
"It is a very special day today, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning because I was feeling anxious," said Elkeson before training on Monday.
"My teammates were very happy to meet me in the national team, there is a very friendly atmosphere there."
Although he has lived in China for seven years, the language is still a challenge for Elkeson.
"I haven't learned too much Chinese given I spent a lot of time with Brazilian, Italian and Portuguese coaches," he said.
"Give me a bit more time, after all I cannot learn Chinese 24 hours a day. But I believe I will be able to use Chinese to answer your questions soon."
Elkeson's inclusion should greatly enhance Team China's firepower. He has scored over 100 goals in the Chinese Super League after arriving at Guangzhou Evergrande from Brazilian side Botafogo for 5.7 million euros ($6.4 million) in 2012. He finished as the CSL's top scorer the following season, with 24 goals.
Evergrande cashed in on Elkeson with a 18.5 million euro switch to Shanghai SIPG in 2016, with the forward helping his new team to its first CSL title last season. In July, Elkeson returned to Evergrande.
It's hoped he can form a fruitful partnership up front with his former SIPG teammate Wu Lei, now with Espanyol in Spain.
"I'm very close with Wu Lei. I played with him at SIPG and now we are playing together in the national team. Also, I know almost all the players in the national team. I played with them at SIPG and Evergrande," Elkeson said.
"All the players respect me and I have received many congratulations. I hope I can produce my best form and I just want to score as many as I can."
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