China / Society

Stars line up to help development of soccer

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2015-02-04 07:52

Stars line up to help development of soccer

Italian soccer star Alessandro Nesta practices with players from Beijing Bayi School in a training session on Tuesday. Shen Bohan / Xinhua

Never in his wildest dreams did Wang Yang think he would be able to learn soccer skills from Alessandro Nesta, a member of Italy's 2006 World Cup champions.

On Tuesday, almost 50 students from Beijing Bayi School, including Wang, took part in a training session guided by Nesta, his former Italian national teammate Marco Materazzi, and retired Spanish star Michel Salgado, kicking off cooperation between China's Ministry of Education and the Global Legends Series to promote soccer in Chinese schools.

"It doesn't happen often that such high-profile stars visit China, not to mention learning from them in person. I hope I can have more chances like this in the future," said Wang, who has practiced soccer for two years at the school's Aoxiang Soccer Club.

Wang's wish will be fulfilled soon through the ministry's program with GLS, a global organization that brings together active and retired soccer stars for charity and youth soccer events.

Thirty-five international soccer stars, including former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro and retired Portugal great Luis Figo, will visit China on a regular basis to hold clinics, exchange expertise with Chinese trainers and attend youth soccer promotions, according to James Davies Yandle, CEO and co-founder of GLS.

The stars will also form two glittering lineups to play a charity game at the Bird's Nest in late May to raise money for youth soccer development in China.

"The important aspect of GLS is leaving a legacy of youth development programs in the countries we play," said Yandle.

"Our experiences and influences in football, where we have Brazilian attacking, Dutchman field and Italian defending as well as Spanish passing, will be brought together in this unique program through cooperation with the Chinese government."

Wang Dengfeng, director of the ministry's physical education, health and art department, said the coaching expertise from GLS provided timely help for campus soccer promotion in China.

"The challenge we are facing is the lack of adequate soccer trainers at schools. We expect the program to help us train more students as well as local physical education teachers," Wang said.

Aiming to expand the talent pool at the grassroots level, the ministry, in cooperation with the Chinese Football Association, established a plan to develop soccer specialties at 20,000 primary and secondary schools in China by 2017, up from the current 5,000.

Wang said the ministry expects to introduce soccer training programs to at least 6,000 schools this year.

However, Salgado, a former Real Madrid and Spanish national right back, suggested that the Chinese ministry should be patient, citing the lack of soccer culture in China.

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