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Global prominence the goal for Chinese soccer

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

Updated: 2016-03-14 07:24:48


Global prominence the goal for Chinese soccer

Alex Teixeira of Jiangsu Suning in action during a match against Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors from South Korea in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on March 1. SHI RUI/CHINA DAILY

Sporting authorities are planning further development of the world's most popular game to drive economic growth and prepare the way for eventually hosting the FIFA World Cup. Sun Xiaochen reports.

Stepping onto the soccer pitch at Beijing No 4 High School, where he started playing the game about 50 years ago, Zhang Lu, vice-president of Chinese Super League club Beijing Guo'an, couldn't help recalling fond memories of dribbling a rubber ball on the then-worn-out turf every evening after school.

"This is right where my generation's passion for the game took root and blossomed. I am extremely happy to see how far it has developed," said Zhang, who enrolled at the school in 1967, during a recent visit.

Nearly half a century later, the school campus has been extended, the once-shabby pitch has been replaced by an evergreen, artificial pitch and a school league has just kicked off its eighth season, featuring more than 200 students.

The game's popularity at the school, which is renowned for high academic standards, has impressed Zhang, who played as goalkeeper for the Beijing municipal team in his youth.

"This is just a students' league, but it seems so professionally organized. It's a good move to highlight soccer as an educational tool. I am delighted to see the students enjoying the game on campus like we used to," he said.

Wu Hong, a physical education teacher at the school, said 170 male and 100 female students have signed up for an optional weekly soccer PE course.

Wu and his students are part of a network of 34 elementary and secondary schools in the capital that provides soccer-specialty courses as part of China's plan to raise the profile of the game from the grassroots up to the professional level.

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