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Real Madrid Foundation funds soccer school in rural China

Xinhua | Updated: 2016-11-01 18:59

HEFEI -- Eleven-year-old Hu Yihan is the only girl in the soccer team of her school in the mountains of the eastern province of Anhui.

"I'm a left winger," the sixth-grader said proudly. She is a valuable member of her team thanks to a year-long soccer course run at Siyuan Experimental School in Jinzhai County.

In March 2015, her school was allocated funding from the Real Madrid Foundation, which aims to promote the sport among China's minors.

The project has given these rural children, most of whom are from poor backgrounds, a new avenue of expression and boosted their self-confidence.

Hu, a fast runner, soon stood out and was invited to join the school team.

She trains on campus almost every afternoon. This summer, she was invited to another training session, this time headed by a Premier League team, Arsenal, with children from all over the world. Last month, Hu and seven of her school fellows went to Beijing to be taught by a coach from the Real Madrid Foundation.

Soccer is an important subject at Siyuan Experimental School as more than 500 students have soccer sessions four times a week.

The school has a nine-member coach team consisting of PE teachers and soccer majors from Beijing Sport University (BSU) -- all trained by the Real Madrid Foundation.

"Our job is to introduce the children to the sport and teach them about being a team player," said Zhuang You, a senior from BSU who is coaching at the school for a semester. "These qualities are more important than soccer skills."

Soccer sessions are offered to all students starting from Grade Two, said Zhuang.

The school team recently won the city's soccer league among schools, an honor that makes the whole school proud, he said.

"Soccer is a good sport to improve the health of minors and improve their ability to be part of a team," said Sun Yexu, headmaster of Siyuan Experimental School.

Sun said some of the more quiet, timid boys and girls had gained confidence over the past year thanks to the game.

"To cooperate, share and use collective wisdom" -- these are some of the most important lessons soccer has taught the students, according to Hu and her teammates.

Wu Youwen, Real Madrid's Asia Pacific CEO, said he was happy that the rural children enjoyed soccer. Before the club funded the soccer school, Wu said Siyuan Experimental School had only three balls and very few children knew the rules of the game.

"It's amazing to see how much has changed in just a year," he said.

Wu said the foundation plans to sponsor more soccer schools in rural China and make the sport more popular among the younger generation.

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