Nation works to rebuild its soccer ‘pyramid’
Updated: 2015-08-06

China must encourage more youths to engage in soccer training, experts said at the China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Tournament Summit earlier this month.

Held in coordination with the 2015 China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Tournament, the summit attracted soccer experts from around the globe to discuss possible ways to improve the development of China’s youth soccer.

"China’s soccer world is like a pyramid that consists of the bottom, middle and top. The top is our national team that needs support from the bottom," said Xu Genbao, a former coach for the Chinese men’s national team.

"In the last several years, Chinese youths have paid less attention to the sport, which leads to a shortage of talent at the top. That is why the soccer teams’ performance in the Chinese Super League did not meet expectations."

Xu, 72, has operated a youth soccer training base on Shanghai’s Chongming Island since 2000. Over the past decade, five national team members got their start training as children at Xu’s base.

Xu said developing an interest in soccer at schools will bring fundamental changes to China’s performance in competitions.


Klaus Schlappner, the first foreign soccer coach to manage China’s national soccer team

Klaus Schlappner, who in 1992 became the first foreign soccer coach to manage China’s national soccer team, said Chinese parents’ negative attitude toward the sport is a detriment to its development.

"Many Chinese parents do not encourage their children to play soccer because they believe it will have a negative impact on their academic performance," Schlappner said.

"I disagree with that opinion. A kid who actively participates in physical exercise will have good academic results because he or she will have a better understanding about responsibility. It is something that cannot be learned from digital games."

He added, “Every German family talks about soccer at home and that atmosphere is good for developing a kid’s interest in it."

Comparing China’s soccer training system with Germany’s, Schlappner said Germany has a strong foundation formed at the municipal level in which local associations frequently arrange games.

According to the German Football Association, the largest soccer network in the country, there are 6.8 million players around the country.

"China’s soccer foundation is weak. How can a tree grow up very well without roots?" Schlappner said.

To trigger people’s interest, Schlappner suggested Chinese administrative departments provide more public playgrounds.

"People in Germany could find training places very easily. The sport is a part of German life and helps people expand their social networks," he said.

Experts also urged governments to provide more training for physical educators so their passion and knowledge of the sport can bring more enjoyment to students.

"China’s youth soccer development needs more coaches. Where can we find coaches? Physical education teachers will play a key role," Schlappner said.

Earlier this year, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission launched the School Football Instructor Training Program to provide five-day training sessions to more than 1,500 physical education teachers from all 17 districts in the city.


Wang Dengfeng, director of the Physical Education, Health and Arts Department at the Ministry of Education

Wang Dengfeng, director of the Physical Education, Health and Arts Department at the Ministry of Education, said more than 5,000 physical education teachers across China will receive training
in soccer this summer and 1,000 coaches will provide onsite instruction on campuses.

"We are promoting youth soccer development in China. We hope our efforts can make it clear that physical education is the foundation of the entire education system and it is irreplaceable," Wang said.

"We do not want to train all kids to be professional athletes. We hope our children can enjoy soccer and grow up into professionals in their respective fields," he said.

"No matter what job they will take, I hope that they will know how to play soccer."

Copyright © 2014 Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. All rights reserved.