Article by Luis Pinto

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there’s one huge problem with Chinese football: the lack of organized competition for the grassroots level. In Xi’an, as far as I know, there aren’t any organized grassroots competitions. Over the last few months I have been discussing this topic with some of the coaches that work in both public and private schools and I am sorry to say that no solution has been found to this problem. From what I have been told, the main obstacle for an organized competition is the schools themselves. It seems they have no interest in cooperating with other schools, private or public, in order to create a local competition for the development of the children’s football abilities.

Meanwhile, one of my students from Keda University that had just started working for a new football school in Shenzhen contacted me; they were looking for certified coaches to work for them and they wanted to have a meeting. So I packed my bags and went to Shenzhen to check it out. When I arrived there I was blown away by the quantity of football schools and children learning football. It was really amazing to see so many coaches and children learning side by side in an amazing location at the city center. They had Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and English football schools running at the same location, simultaneously, on side-by-side pitches. I met coaches from all over the world there, everyone was kind and they really cared about the local football development. Among these coaches I met Bo (Hassan Bo), an American coach that was the one of the organizers of a local competition, the “Shenzhen Youth League” (SYL).

Bo, the head coach of the local Wolves team, told me this year they have 19 teams, led by 10 foreign coaches and nine Chinese coaches participating in the competition. The players are kids born between 2006 and 2009. This league started on March 5th and will go until the 30th of May.

The Shenzhen youth soccer league was established to facilitate the highest level of competitive youth soccer for girls and boys in Shenzhen and currently operates divisions in the under 8, under 10 and under 12 age groups.

For more information about this league follow their WeChat:

This is a great example for other cities around China, and the quality and enthusiasm of the players is a proof of concept that frequent competition can drastically improve the abilities of players and teams. I hope cities like Xi’an can create a similar system so that their children can grow into fine football players that can help to bring the Chinese football up to the highest level!

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!