Youth soccer tournament kicks off
Updated: 2015-08-06

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Soccer is becoming increasingly popular with schools in Shanghai. Provided to China Daily

The 2015 China (Shanghai) International Youth Football Tournament kicks off on July 11, with an aim to connect young soccer teams from around the world and promote the development of youth soccer in China.

A total of 12 teams, with eight from abroad, will participate in the weeklong tournament. The foreign teams include a German youth soccer club from Frankfurt, Spain's Escola Esportiva Guineueta club, Cameroun's Yaounde 1-APEJES Academy and Australia's South Melbourne Football Club.

The four domestic teams are from Shanghai, Fujian province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The event was co-organized by the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, Shanghai Sports Bureau, Shanghai Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, China School Sports Federation and Shanghai Overseas Chinese Foundation.

Most of the soccer players taking part were born in 1997, with a few born after 2000. Many of the young soccer players have never visited China before.

The tournament opening ceremony is taking place at Weiyu High School in Shanghai and is expected to attract 2,000 guests, while the final competition, which is scheduled to be held in the Yuanshen Sports Center Stadium on July 17, is expected to draw an audience of more than 10,000.

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Sun Wen, former leader of the China women's national soccer team, is appointed the event's promotion ambassador. [Li Liji/ China Daily]

Sun Wen, former FIFA Female Player of the Century, was appointed promotion ambassador for the soccer tournament.

The organizers said teams from 18 countries were invited to join the tournament, with 12 showing initial willingness to participate and seven countries that finally confirmed their attendance.

The organizers revealed that they expected to have three foreign teams and three domestic teams participate in the 2015 tournament at the very beginning and the foreign teams' responses went "far beyond expectations".

"It shows that the event is very attractive to those foreign soccer teams," said Ding Li, director of the sports and arts department for SMEC.

"Those teams are top soccer teams in their countries and some are managed by the professional soccer clubs. Some soccer players will be shining soccer stars in the future," Ding said.

To train more qualified youth soccer referees, some university students will join the referee teams for the tournament. Ding said all the student referees have experience and related qualifications.

"It is a feature of the youth soccer game and will demonstrate Shanghai's achievement in youth soccer development," Ding said.

Organizers said the main purpose of the event is not purely to crown a champion.

"It is not only a platform for global youths to demonstrate their soccer skills but also to help them have a better understanding of Chinese culture. It will help to strengthen communication and interaction between Chinese youths and their foreign friends," Ding said.

During the tournament period, the foreign soccer players and coaches will have chances to visit local schools and tourist destinations in Shanghai to learn more about China.

They will visit the Shanghai Museum and Yuyuan Garden and watch a circus performance.

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Volunteers receive first aid training. Provided to China Daily

On the opening day of the tournament, a youth soccer development forum will also start. The forum participants include the first foreign coach to manage the Chinese national soccer team, Klaus Schlappner, and renowned Chinese soccer coach Xu Genbao.

The sports professionals will hold discussions about future development tendencies of China's youth soccer and offer possible growth plans.

The organizers plan to develop the tournament into an annual event with global influence in the next three to five years.

"Through this platform, we hope we can learn from foreign leading soccer teams and cultivate a soccer culture to promote this sports game in Shanghai and China," Ding said.

Local developments

The central government has focused on encouraging younger generations to get involved in soccer in recent years. A national soccer development plan was approved in February at a top-level meeting chaired by President Xi Jinping, who is an avid soccer fan himself.

According to the plan, the Ministry of Education aims to introduce special soccer training at 50,000 primary and secondary schools by 2025, up from the current 5,000, with the goal of generating more than 100,000 youth soccer players.

Shanghai has long been committed to encouraging the development of youth soccer training at schools. The city established the Shanghai School Football League in 2012 to increase the number of young soccer players and enhance soccer awareness among students.

Currently, the league has more than 10,000 soccer players from 17 universities, 39 high schools, 91 secondary schools and 133 primary schools. The league organizes nearly 2,000 soccer games annually to strengthen communication between soccer teams.

Earlier this year, Shanghai launched the School Football Instructor Training Program to provide five-day training sessions to 1,519 sports teachers from 17 districts, which helped trainees gain more soccer knowledge and qualified them to give soccer classes.

In the future, every primary and secondary school in Shanghai will have at least one soccer instructor who can organize soccer events.
 

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Klaus Schlappner, the first foreign coach to manage the Chinese national soccer team, is appointed a consultant at the Shanghai School Football Training Center. [Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

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