Article by Luis Pinto
Dear football fans, for this month’s edition of NIL-NIL we have a very special guest. It’s with great pleasure that I introduce you my friend and colleague Coach João Pedro Pereira, who took the time to speak with me about his work in Xi’an.
LP: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
JPP: My name is João Pedro Pereira, 32 years old, graduated in Sports Science, with a post-graduation in Football training. I worked in Portugal as a PE teacher and a football coach from 2004 to 2014, which is when I came to China in Wiining League Luis Figo Football Academy in Xi’an.
LP: How long have you been working in China?
JPP: I arrived in China one year ago, after a brief passage in Chongqing and Chengdu, I began the work in Xi’an along with one other Portuguese colleague and naturally the essential help of all the Chinese staff from our partner, Devexplorer Football Club.
LP: What do you think about the Chinese football?
JPP: I believe it became obvious in the past few years that there was a lack of something in Chinese football so that it could achieve the best possible results in major competitions. In my opinion there is a huge potential either in people to work with, either in material and space. We just need to try to become a bit closer to a way of working, methodologically and pedagogically speaking, of other countries that have proven along the years to achieve results, even with less conditions than the ones we have here. We must take advantage of decades of experience of countries such as Portugal, that had to do a lot with so little, being the most efficient possible.
LP: How are the Chinese students you teach comparing to previous students abroad?
JPP: Most young kids everywhere are all the same, either in Asia or Europe, if they like to have fun, and they like sports, they will try their best to improve. The great difference comes from outside the training session’s time. Some kids spend the whole day playing with a football, some kids choose other kind of activities to spend their time.
LP: What problem do you usually face when coaching in China?
JPP: At the beginning there are some organizational issues, that are solved in due time. Everyone here is committed to improve football the best we can, so it is easy to change something, as long as it makes any sense. There is a greater issue to solve which is trying to change a couple of cultural habits, so that the kids may have the best possible sports education. For instance, it is very difficult to have kids coming to the training sessions during the week due to their established home-school-home schedule, or trying to get them to be out in the rain. The first problem is easily solved when we can make our point that having a bit of escape from school two times a week is actually beneficial for their results. Having a training session in the rain is no problem as long as there is a hot shower waiting for them in the locker room immediately after. Just to quote a few examples of what we are trying to change, slowly…
LP: What would improve your training sessions?
JPP: We cannot complain about the work conditions. Practically everything we ask for is made available for us.
LP: What do you think about the Chinese private and public investment on football?
JPP: From what I understand, there is a great bet on football right now, and I believe that the government has taken some every interesting measures towards the improvement of the sport. But I believe it is necessary to work with the private sector for it to work. There is increasingly more foreign football coaches working in China, due to private companies/academies and Chinese football must take advantage of it, we must combine what has been done right here, with the expertise of those who do things differently and whose methods have had results in the past.
LP: About the private schools, do you think if the expansion continues at this pace, that they will be able to easily recruit more foreign coaches like you?
JPP: First of all I believe the expansion will continue and that will become easier to recruit coaches in the long term. The first problem was to open a path. For instance when I arrived, there were 12 coaches in my company. Right now there are over 40 and I know of several other academies with Portuguese and Spanish coaches opening in larger populated areas, but if they work there, who knows if they won’t expand. And this only in around a year and a half, who knows what we can achieve in 5 or 10 years time.
LP: What advice can you give to the young kids that want to learn football?
JPP: First of all, know that sports are not an escape from school, they are only a separate part of education to complete the part they have in school. Especially because it is necessary to be smart and creative to be successful in football, only being able to run, dribble or shoot is not enough. Second of all, they must enjoy the game, to come to a training session or to a game for any other reason will not be enough to be successful. And last but absolutely not the least, to be better at something, we mustn’t just follow schedules. For school, we have classes and we have homework. In football we have training sessions and we have friendly games in school breaks, we have a football at home to play outside or in the garage anytime we want. To do just enough will never be enough.
LP: What can we, in your opinion, do to help the future development of the Chinese football?
JPP: We must first understand the reality in which we are inserted, assess all possibilities and combine the good things that are being done here already, to all the expertise and knowledge that we bring from a completely different culture. There is no magical formula for success but we will surely increase dramatically the possibility to achieve the goals of the country we now feel a bit part of.
And that wraps up this month’s column. If you have questions or comments for JPP or myself, please visit the Xianease website and post your comment there. See you next month!