Article by Luis Pinto
While living in China I have been asked many times why Chinese football is so “bad” (not my words) and I always answer the same way: it’s because Football is new to the Chinese.
The truth is that only recently has football really become a “thing” in China and there are still too many Chinese that don’t know anything about it. With the development of China these past decades, many new Western habits and products have entered Chinese society and some of them had an immediate successful acceptance. Others haven’t garnered much interest from the Chinese. I remember the huge success basketball had in the early years because there were Chinese players in the NBA. Nowadays, you can go to any school in China and you will see people of all ages playing basketball.
Coming back to football, there’s a growing popularity with many new football schools and government guidelines to improve football in China, and I am genuinely happy that such an effort is being made in order to develop football. But I still feel like there’s so much that needs to be done!
Now many Chinese recognize Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Figo, Ronaldo, and many others, and there are more private football schools opening all over China with the purpose of teaching children how to play football. It’s wonderful that everyone is investing so much in the Chinese market, but I have a big question about these schools: where do the coaches come from?
The truth is that there are not enough football coaches interested in moving to China to work and teach Chinese children. I am myself a football coach and I have been trying for several years to find and encourage several of my colleges from Portugal to come and teach football in China and, to be honest, the answer is almost 100% negative. Many people around the world still don’t know anything about China so they worry about the pollution, the food, the overcrowded cities, the income, the long flights, well…they worry about anything and everything and “I can’t be so far away from my family” usually ends the conversation. That’s a shame, as the reality of living in China is much different than most people expect, and these expectations stop a lot of people from taking the chance to come here.
In fact, even with this huge investment from the private sector, I really worry that, without foreign coaches to bring a little more prestige and knowledge to these efforts, it won’t be enough to really develop football in China. Not until the Chinese people take a bigger interest in football anyway, when the new generation of students starts choosing to go abroad to study football, until we start to teach football in the universities, teach students how to teach football and start teaching football to children in schools all over China. Then we will have real development.
The answer, in my opinion, is that we need to find coaches to work at Chinese universities and teach the Chinese physical education students how to teach football. Chinese universities have the power to recruit the best football coaches and scholars around the world and one could help to teach hundreds of Chinese football coaches. To be honest, I don’t know if this happening already or not. I have very limited access to information about China in China, but I can tell you from my own experience this is the way to go. I am now a football coach/teacher in Hunan University of Science and Technology and I am the first foreign coach to work in this university. My students have very limited football ability but they are willing to learn how to play football and to study about football so that they can have the opportunity to teach it when they graduate.
This month we had the Euro cup 2016 France qualifiers. This is the list of the National teams already qualified:
Austria, Albania, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales.
Teams that qualified for the Play-off:
Bosnia, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine.
In the Champions League we are in the group stages with the following results by group:
P = Played games
Pts = Points
|Real Madrid CF||2||6|
|FC Shakhtar Donetsk||2||0|
|Manchester United FC||2||3|
|PFC CSKA Moskva||2||3|
|Club Atlético de Madrid||2||3|
|Manchester City FC||2||3|
|VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach||2||0|
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||2||3|
|FC BATE Borisov||2||3|
|FC Bayern München||2||6|
|GNK Dinamo Zagreb||2||3|
|FC Dynamo Kyiv||2||4|
|Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC||2||0|
I have been in China on and off since 2007 and I have always told everyone that football is a huge market and that the Chinese education system could support a stable development of Chinese football with a model like the American model of competition between schools, divided by regions. Every school has the infrastructure to start local and national competitions. I believe it can be done, if we can all work together to learn about football and to teach it to the children then they will be the future of a new Chinese football!
By Luis Pinto