Nil-Nil is a column dedicated to football in China and around the world

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


Group A
Clubs P Pts
Real Madrid CF 2 6
Paris Saint-Germain 2 6
Malmö FF 2 0
FC Shakhtar Donetsk 2 0


Group B
Clubs P Pts
PSV Eindhoven 2 3
Manchester United FC 2 3
PFC CSKA Moskva 2 3
VfL Wolfsburg 2 3


Group C
Clubs P Pts
SL Benfica 2 6
Club Atlético de Madrid 2 3
Galatasaray AŞ 2 1
FC Astana 2 1




Group D
Clubs P Pts
Juventus 2 6
Sevilla FC 2 3
Manchester City FC 2 3
VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach 2 0


Group E
Clubs P Pts
FC Barcelona 2 4
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2 3
FC BATE Borisov 2 3
AS Roma 2 1


Group F
Clubs P Pts
FC Bayern München 2 6
Olympiacos FC 2 3
GNK Dinamo Zagreb 2 3
Arsenal FC 2 0




Group G
Clubs P Pts
FC Dynamo Kyiv 2 4
FC Porto 2 4
Chelsea FC 2 3
Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC 2 0


Group H
Clubs P Pts
FC Zenit 2 6
Valencia CF 2 3
KAA Gent 2 1
Olympique Lyonnais 2 1

Luis Byline

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

23 thoughts on “Nil-Nil is a column dedicated to football in China and around the world

  1. under China government great support,i think our country’s football level will be better.but i think the pressing matter of the moment is establish school football league system.we need to do our basic well of football than think about other think.judge the quality of football is basic football level of a country.

  2. A fascinating read. People like Scolari should be able to generate foreign interest, akin to beckham in the mls.

    1. Yes, but you also have to consider the huge investment they made at the formation. They have very good scientific bases that helped them to teach many good coaches. Good coaches always translate to good teaching and good players

  3. It’s a good idea. In my opinion we have to invite more good coaches from the world to China and they can help us and develop the football.

    1. Yes, Victor. I hope we can also get some good scholars to teach in the universities. We definitely need more Chinese coaches in the future

  4. whilst the overall standard is poor and the understanding of how to train and approach the game even worse, some of the most skillful footballers ive ever seen at grassroots level are here in china.

    1. I agree Peter, when we see this new kids playing it’s clear that they will definitely have an important role on Chinese Football in the coming years

  5. I think your words make sense,in contemporary China football seems to be a new thing,just bacause we are at a low level.But in recent years,a club names Guangzhou Evergrande made great progress ,whose effort inspires us to care more about Chinese frofessional football.
    Although it pushes Chinese football to a higher level,it still makes little contributions to our nation’s team.After looking through many articles i think youth training plays an important role.But as you can see there are few fields we play football,and we have fewer football classes to take part in.Unlike Japan,we have no football games when we are at a young age.Parents always oppose us to play football if we want to be a football master,but just an interest.If you have an talent or interest in football,ok ,you can enjoy it absolutely,but once you are in high school,you have to give it up and devote yourself into study.There are so many elements that determine the situation right now.But the youth training is the most important.

  6. Mr luis is a dedicated, patient professional teacher. He taught me Portuguese in 2011, and his teaching methods have impressed me a lot. It is my hope that football deems to gain more popularity in China through this useful article that makes sense.
    Portuguese input is not available with my phone. Anyway, hope your career a big success, and your team can come to Kunming, where more youths and schools are paying more attention to football game.

  7. As you said ,Chinese play football will think about many aspects,income, can see students play basketball in any school,our teacher taught us play basketball ,but our teacher never taught us play football.many school don’t have good football field…

  8. japanese soccer became stronger since foreign coach came. on the television he said almost same thing with you. he was so said because at that time there is no skype , email. asian country is so far from european country , i cannot imagine how sad and hard they are in china.

  9. Amazing read,I haven ever attended your football lessons when I went to playground one day afternoon .I like your lessons .Foreign couches is a good idea to improve Chinese ,but l think another important problem is that we need play games,I always complain in our college the HNUST that I wanna participate the school’s league with my teammates ,the school’s leader who was indifference the football.That’s all,please forgive my terrible English.Immediately,the Aisa’s Champion league ‘s finals will beginning ?

  10. You Are very kind to worry about the future of Chinese football and try to do something for that. Think with more football coaches like you, Chinese football will be promising.

  11. The key point is also attitude. A lot chinese thoughts toward soccor is self defeating. I always hear: “Chinese soccor will never succeed” or “Chinese soccor will fail.” The goal of soccor is not winning, but giving it your all. Go 100%. China always focuses on winning or losing. The spirit is most important. Corruption and laziness disappear when people give it their all. The key to success for China is the desire to be great. Not to show off greatness, but to strive for greatness.

  12. I like you lessons,foreign coachs is a good idea to improve Chinese football,and I think we need play more games,the leaders of our college the HNUST was indifference football,I expect the campus football league .

  13. Nice article and picture!
    l hope what we see in this pic could happen in every school even every kindergarten in China as a common thing: kids can learn how to play football well with the help of professional coaches. And yes, China education department should try to attract more coaches to China. And yes, we should help foreigners who worry learn more about China.

  14. Really good article. Totally agree.
    I think also is important the media impact to encourage Chinese people.

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