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Zhang lends a helping hand

By Wu Shuguang and Spencer Musick | China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-13 15:25

Tianjin's veteran goalkeeper gives back to grassroots game

The future of Chinese soccer is in safe hands - thanks to one of the safest pair in the business.

Tianjin Quanjian captain Zhang Lu has never forgotten his roots, and now he's giving something back to the places that nurtured his goalkeeping talent.

In late 2016, Lu established a charity project dedicated to developing campus soccer. The 30-year-old has visited schools in Liaoning and Tianjin, providing them with professional equipment and, more importantly, teaching kids the art of shot-stopping.

"Liaoning has given me a lot, as I spent 12 years here and got married and have kids. I love Liaoning and want to do something for campus soccer here," said Tianjin-born Zhang.

"The project has a three-year plan. I will visit 20 schools in Liaoning and Tianjin to provide professional guidance."

Zhang played with Tianjin Locomotive as a kid before joining the Liaoning club at 16. He moved to his hometown team Tianjin Quanjian in 2016, when he conceded only 27 goals to help Quanjian earn promotion to the Chinese Super League. He also picked up China League One's Gold Glove Award for his exploits between the posts.

China's soccer reform plan, which was rolled out in 2015, stresses the importance of catching young talent as early as possible - a point not lost on Zhang.

"We can't overstate how important it is for primary school students to receive professional training," he said.

Physical education teacher and soccer coach Peng Jingyang, from Woniushi primary school in Faku county, Shenyang, said Zhang's input was invaluable.

"The students were all excited when Zhang came to our school. He is a first-choice goalkeeper for a CSL club, and schools in rural areas like us definitely need professional guidance from him.

"The lack of coaches is one of the biggest obstacles to soccer's growth at school level, and we especially lack goalkeeping coaches."

Sun Dongliang from Yangcun No 10 primary school in Tianjin is testament to Zhang's specialist coaching.

"Zhang taught me how to be a good goalkeeper, including how to stand and how to make a good save. I corrected my mistakes after his careful guidance. He also told me how to conquer my fear when saving a ball, and that is very important," said Sun.

Zhang is so dedicated to the project that he even gives his personal phone number to his pupils.

"Soccer has given me a lot, and I want to give back," explained Zhang. "Students like Sun Dongliang can contact me whenever they are in need of help.

"I want to be a role model for those young players.

"It is clear to me that a lot of work remains to be done, but I will carry on. I am supporting campus soccer for the good of the Chinese game more generally.

"The experience is also beneficial for me because I have to improve myself in order to give them the right guidance."

Xinhua

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